All posts for the month May, 2012

IDAHOT South African tripartite transgender and intersex organisational press release 17 May 2012

Published May 17, 2012 by transfeminists

 For immediate release

Despite progressive legislation, transgender people continue to endure intolerable levels of violence. This manifests in both physical, as well as emotional forms of violence. The Constitution Act 108 of 1996 offers constitutional protection to all its citizens. The Bill of Rights in Chapter two of the Constitution forms the cornerstone of our democracy.

 It makes particular reference to gender: “The Constitution shall prohibit racial, gender and all other forms of discrimination and shall promote racial and gender equality and national unity”. Sadly, the implementation of the Constitution as a broad legal framework in the protection of citizens as a country is a failed belief. This is no more evident in the lives of minority groups like transgender and intersex people in South Africa. The ever continuing rise in hate crimes against transgender and intersex people, especially in rural areas and townships, should be an indicator to our government about the serious and urgent nature of the problem. Transphobia is rampant in our societies and has to be tackled at the roots.

The evidence captured by civil society organisations seems insufficient for a government response. Neo Sobuza is a young transgender woman who was attacked while commuting on a train from her home to the University campus in Boksburg, Johannesburg. She was attacked by security officers on the train, the very people who are supposed to protect us. Needless to say, she suffered physical and emotional trauma following the incident. The Pretoria News on 24 October 2011 wrote: “Neo suffered greatly after the attack. In addition to physical pain, she had trouble sleeping, got headaches and found it difficult to concentrate. The traumatic incident led to hair loss, increased stress, depression and panic attacks. It affected her entire life”. The security officers on the train responded in this manner about Neo’s gender expression:

“These are the kinds of people who needs to be beaten up. There is no woman who shaves”.

 Corrective rape is used as a “curative measure” for male-identified transgender persons. In an incident, May 2011, a transgender male individual had been raped in Pretoria. Transgender and Intersex Africa had been instrumental in providing necessary support and assistance to this individual.

 In a 2011 report on witnessing the challenges for transgender people, compiled for the Legal Resource Centre, van der Merwe observes:

“Transmen (female to male) are often seen as a threat to the male ego. As it is in South Africa, the male child is raised to be territorial and competitive. Non transgendered men in society find it hard to contend with one another concerning financial, social, romantic, religious, and economic situations – thus a transgender man who is perceived as a woman – despite a gender transition- is yet another threat to an already highly challenged masculinity”.

 Civil society organisations mandated with transgender issues continue to record human rights violations against this minority group. Surprisingly, this does not only manifest on an organisational level, but they are also affected by bureaucratic processes within government departments like the Department of Home Affairs who is the implementing body of the provisions of The Sex Description Alteration Act 49 of 2003. This is the legislation that facilitates the alteration of gender markers in the identity documents of transgender and intersex people. The greatest challenge is getting the department to correctly interpret and implement the provisions of the Act. Transgender and intersex people face harsh consequences as a result of the incorrect implementation of the Act and delays in issuing identity documents. Individuals in this minority group cannot claim citizenship in their country and cannot enjoy the benefits of this citizenship. High unemployment statistics is reported as a result of these delays. Similarly, constituencies of these organisations cannot access other basic rights such as government grants and other development opportunities like bursaries, housing, etc.

 On this International Day Against Homo and Transphobia, the signatories of this press release, carrying the voices of their respective constituencies call on all stakeholders, including the government, to guarantee transgender and intersex people their basic human rights as enshrined by the Constitution of the Republic. We would like to remind government about its commitment as a signatory to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, CEDAW, the SADC Gender Protocol and numerous other human rights instruments articulating the full enjoyment of universal human rights of all people in South Africa. We appeal to the South African government as the central authority in the country to recognise the human rights violations of transgender and people as hate crimes and deal with them accordingly.

 Civil society response

 Gender Dynamix is a registered non-profit organisation advocating for the human rights of transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming individuals. The organisation, established in 2005, adopted the mandate of working specifically on issues affecting transgender people. It was the first organisation on the African continent to address the unique issues of transgender people.

Transgender and Intersex Africa was established to address the needs of transgender and intersex individuals from black townships and rural areas.

“We as TIA felt that we need an organisation that will be serving for black trans and intersex community in particular because we realised that the language and applicable terminologies are not easily translated in our mother tongue”. Tebogo Nkoana in an article published by Behind the Mask,  14 June 2011

S.H.E, the social, health and empowerment coalition of transgender women in Africa was established from a need to contextualise the lives of transgender women within a feminist framework. For more information, assistance and support, the following organisations can be contacted:

Gender Dynamix

 021 6335287



Transgender and Intersex Africa




Being a transgender woman and feminist in the context of the South African Eastern Cape and in the face of the proposed Traditional Courts Bill

Published May 4, 2012 by transfeminists

Greetings friends, family and colleagues


It has been a while and today is a good day to give an update of what is happening at SHE. Organisationally speaking, things are going really well but more and more, I am realising what I am contending with as a transgender feminist.


Let me start off by saying it is a challenging space for transgender women who, unlike transgender men, often don’t blend into society. Their visibility make them vulnerable to abuse and violence. I am afraid today’s blog is a bit of a personal narration for me. Friends, I am trying to find a way of dealing with the issues of being a transgender woman in a province where people have little knowledge about this issue. Further, I am trying to balance being a transgender woman and being a feminist.


I was born and raised in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, a province well known for its under-development, poor education and lack of information. I had transitioned into womanhood and the idea behind my transition was just to get on with life. Coming into this transition, I became painfully aware of the problems women had contended with for so many generations. Here comes the sticky part, how can I call myself a feminist in a space that does not even recognise my femininity? This is challenging. It’s really hard


Even further, this province is governed by traditional structures such as the house of traditional leaders. Very recently, a woman was punished in her village for her developmental efforts, training women on their rights. I am inserting the link for you folks. All of this is so relevant in the context of the Traditional Courts Bill on which public hearings are now conducted in the Eastern Cape.


This writing is the product of a conversation I just had with a colleague at one of the organisations I volunteer at from time to time. I expressed my view of female independence and as per the usual response to opinionated, independent women, he says:


  • You are hurt;
  • Need intervention;
  • Someone in life disappointed me;
  • Had a bad relationship with my father;
  • Ta Da, ta da tad a
  • And the list goes on


Colleagues, if nothing else, this is patriarchy in its purest form. This is social programming at work. Almost telling women what to think, how to feel, etc.  Men in the Eastern Cape are shaken by strong independent women because it’s challenging to them. For me, personally, the central operational tenet to patriarchy is power! It would be far too challenging to men in this province if women are given the power to decide not to gather firewood, or not to get water from the river because it will pluck men out of their comfort zones. The idea of having a woman in their presence, deliberating on issues affecting women as well, instils a paralysing fear in men of this province.

Somewhere between the number of issues addressed here, there is a vulnerable group of women called ‘transgender women’. This brings with it another confusing dimension to the house of traditional leaders. According to these leaders, we now have something of which we have no knowledge about “men” wanting to be women. How to go about dealing with that??? A good friend of mine, a transgender woman got married and had a beautiful wedding ceremony. I somehow don’t think my friend knew what she let herself in for. Apart from the sex work she does, she is also saddled with the responsibility of caring for her husband’s child from a previous relationship. Her husband is unemployed which means, in conjunction with performing sex work, she must look for other small projects like selling vegetables in order to sustain her family. On top of all this, she comes home to cook and clean before ‘hitting the streets’. In all of this, there is no time to complain and no remedial avenues at exploring her human rights in all this. And when you stand up for your rights, you are hurt, bitter and disappointed. Just because you are not willing to do all the feminine things that should be a way of affirming your acceptance within your chosen gender!!!!! Absolute nonsense. Just because I have chosen to be a woman, it should not mean I should go the extra mile in performing duties in order to be accepted.


I played that role for a while. I was the dedicated sister and family member who also doubled-up as the cash cow funding funerals and a whole lot of other traditional events because it gave me some form of acceptance. Sadly, people milked that situation to the point where you could milk it no more.


This clearly illustrates the hierarchy of power and privilege in traditional communities and many of my transgender sisters would agree with me on the point of raising people’s children, doing their hair and cleaning their houses because we want to be accepted, especially in African custom. If you are anything or anyone differently and outside of this norm, this is when you are seen as disrespectful. Even more, when you claim empowerment, this is when you become hurt, bitter and disappointed, according to the wise cracks in our society. I always laugh at the wisdom of all these men who sit outside next to house absorbing the rays of the sun all day long, grouping at these little gathering talking about how best to govern these villages. Now all of a sudden, everybody has the insight and wisdom on women’s bodies and lives. They chase sexual and gender minorities out of these villages because they ‘bring evil’ to these villages. Those transgender women who are seen as ‘normal’ are let into their spaces at what price; I am asking you my friends????

Any thoughts??? Let us know by engaging with us on this blog and always feel free to get in contact with us at: 

Mobile number: 0738110789

Until next time dear friends, let these words be food for thought.


Leigh Ann