All posts tagged academic

S.H.E Feminist Internship, 1st quarter 2015

Published December 11, 2014 by transfeminists

Friends, colleagues and supporters

It has been a while! We are writing with exciting news for 2015. S.H.E is offering a feminist internship during 2015. Please click on the words (link) below to access the call and remember to get your application in on time.

Call for 2015 feminist internship

Till next time!


Boys do cry……………….!

Published February 5, 2013 by transfeminists

Dear friends, colleagues and supporters. It has been a while since you have read something from my pen (well… computer really..) and so I thought I might share with you an issue on which I have been pondering for a really long while.

First, let me welcome you all to 2013…….I have baptised this year as the year of infinite possibilities. I have a very positive feeling about this year and I do believe it will be a revolutionary year for trans feminist activism.

The year got off to a really positive start. We formalised ourselves a bit more at S.H.E and launched our website on the 17th of January 2013. This will be our mouthpiece in our communication with all our stakeholders. Please see our work at and feel free to sign up for our quarterly e-newsletter, The Transfeminista!

In this piece I am writing about a very ironic issue, given my herstory as a transgender woman. Yes, you guessed right, I am addressing the issue of masculinity.

This is an issue on which I have pondered for a long while now. It is really ironic for me to write about masculinity, given that I have rejected the notion of masculinity with my transition from male to female. Not really so ironic looked at from a feminist perspective. The key word here is feminism…….that is my political identity.

OK, so back to the issue of masculinity. Why did I choose to write about masculinity and the construction thereof? Simple, I feel if we were to tackle patriarchy, the proverbial plucking of the root lies in examining masculinity and the construction thereof. There has to be an inquiry into the concept of masculinity and influencing change at that level. I feel our activism has been much centred upon women, females, femininity, proving to the world our strength as women…..tada tada tada. Fighting these inequalities, one has to be strategic, study those inequalities, dissect it, and construct an alternative ideology. It is on this premise that I base my argument. We have to examine masculinity as a concept, see how it is constructed and find ways of deconstructing it in order to shape “the man of tomorrow”.

So why am I rambling on about this topic of masculinity when all our resources (physical and mental energy included) should be focussed on improving the lives of women and sexual & gender minorities?(and all those pushed to the margins) Again, very simple, all the inequalities that we experience are very deeply rooted in patriarchy. There must also be an analysis of the link between patriarchy and masculinity, in other words,” my entitlement (patriarchy) because I am a man (masculinity)” conversation. The hate of transgender and intersex women has its roots in patriarchy. The idea that persons born with male genitalia (in the case of trans women) could reject masculinity is engendered from a very cultural, patriarchal, misogynistic view of the world and all in it. This is so accurately captured in the words of Ian McEwan:

“Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short and wear shirts and boots because it’s okay to be a boy; for girls it’s like promotion. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, according to you, because secretly you believe that being a girl is degrading.”
― Ian McEwan

A lot of the time you will find a mother advocating for her son, regardless of his flaws. Many mothers acknowledge their sons are no angels and yet you will find the same mother defending her son’s position in whatever goes wrong in his life (OK, so sue of us for being inherently nurturing, compassionate beings!). I am pointing this out to highlight the collective responsibility that we have as women, and mothers, and sisters, and daughters to advocate for the construction of an alternative masculinity. One in which we say to men that it is OK to be equal with women, it will in no way affect you masculinity. A masculinity that is not so highly challenged that men feel they have to rape lesbians in order to “correct” them. A masculinity that will stop the war on women’s bodies. A masculinity where men don’t have the need to sit around talking about women as if they are only a collection of body parts. How many times have you heard: “ That girls has a fine ass” or “I’m turned on by big titties?”. These are not the only features to women’s bodies – it is just an objectification of women, one that is dripping with testosterone.

This is the one thing that all men have in common: trans men, cis-men, black men, white men, short men, tall men. Misogyny is not a reinforcement of your own masculinity, its simply adds to the inequalities that women (like your mother and sisters and daughters) have had to fight, and will still fight for years and years.


So what I propose: an alternative masculinity. The re-socialization of boys. Tell your boy its ok……….

to treat girls and women well

to express emotion

its ok to love

to work on self-development and self-improvement; and most of all……..


Boys do cry……………..


“We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”
― Gloria Steinem

As usual dear friends, let us know what you think. Please engage with us on this blog, our website at or drop me a line at

Until next time

au revoir

Leigh Ann

Girls like us

Published October 30, 2012 by transfeminists

Good day friends and supporters of S.H.E

I am overjoyed at announcing the success of our strategic planning meeting in East London. I am working on the blog post for that meeting and you will have to wait and see. In the meantime, I am making the announcement that our executive have been put together in our board meeting before the strategic planning and is as follows:

Chairperson: Barbra Muruga, Nairobi, Kenya

Deputy Chair: Marion Stevens: Cape Town, South Africa

Treasurer: Busi Deyi, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Secretary: Revelation Xakoshe, Pretoria, South Africa

Congratulations to all and I am hoping for a long fruitful working relationship with you all. Our new chairperson, Barbra, has written a good analysis of what it means to be a transgender woman in Africa. For all who read our blog and would like to feature as a guest writer, please drop me a line at and I will upload it onto our blog provided it is in line with our feminist agenda. Enjoy this read and do send us your comments.

Girls Like Us


I am a beautiful woman. I know that. People tell me that all the time. Men swoon over me numerous times. Women too. I’m getting used to it.


But its not easy being me. Girls like us have body issues. Its what they call gender dysphoria. You know, when you’re born with a brain that’s a different gender than your body. We know that changing the brain has been tried countless times with drastic results. But changing the body has bore many a good fruit.


African girls like us are not so lucky to get this though. They sail through life not even knowing what is wrong with them. They live miserable lives of mere existence. They just exist. Nothing more. The ones who are lucky enough to know what they are dealing with and get the courage to live their lives face constant hatred, backlash and sometimes violence. We struggle to be ourselves.


The one thing that is constant for all of us is; we don’t like our bodies. Especially if we are older. Everything just seems out of place. Like a broken mirror. No one looks at that and says, “wow, I like the reflection”. They simply give it a smirk and leave.


The ones who are lucky enough to live out as they are supposed to and actually ‘succeed’ (yes, we live in a patriarchal world that tells us how black and white must look like) have their own struggles. Yes, they are pretty, and smart, and get hit on a lot. But its not all rosy. We may look pretty on the outside, but we definitely still have issues with our bodies.


Dating for girls like us is a nightmare. You find someone you like and obviously the ‘sex’ question pops up at some point. The question we all dread. Most of us date straight men. Straight men have particular, usually simple, expectations. Simply put, they want ‘pussy’. We don’t have pussy to give. We have ‘other stuff’ ‘down there’. We hate that ‘stuff’. It completely kills the mood. All the time. Its even worse for those of us who don’t enjoy or have anal sex!


So whenever we are with a nice man, our minds are constantly wondering whether we look okay. Whether he can tell. Whether he can see our tiny bump on our necks. Whether they can notice our voices are a few decibels lower than most other girls. Whether they will ask for sex. Whether we can trust them enough to tell them. Whether they will tell others about us once we tell them. Whether they will do something to us if we tell them. So many questions. So many thoughts. Very little enjoyment of the moments.


Its our lives. Its who we are. And until we can afford those expensive surgeries that can only be got in a few places and require a whole deal of paperwork that we’d rather not endure, we will survive somehow. We slowly learn to love ourselves. We slowly get to like what we see in the mirror. Every compliment is a boost to our self esteem. Every smile we get for ours is a reminder that someone else likes us. And we can live.


We will survive.

Until next time




So what is it with the make-up?

Published August 7, 2012 by transfeminists

The application of make-up to the face and a shield to the sould

Greetings dear friends of S.H.E, social, health and empowerment feminist collective of transgender and intersex women in Africa.

Wow, that’s a mouthful, isn’t it? Following a very hectic last week of training, we kick off this week with another morsel straight from the coordinators pen. In this piece of writing, I want to unpack the issue of make-up. Yes, make-up!!! As unusual a topic it would seem, this plays a big role in the lives of most transgender women I know and believe it or not………..the simple topic of make-up has gained sharp criticism for transgender women.

I’ve always got a little irritated with all the layers and layers of make-up transgender women tend to apply everyday. I apply make-up everyday, so i find it a little hypocritical when I get so annoyed at other trans women applying make-up and making themselves presentable to the world. For me, this presentation centers on one belief, the more the make-up, the bigger the affirmation of their female chosen gender. And this brings me to a burning question. Who decided that make-up and femininity are co-requisites? Well, I know women are programmed from a very young age to apply the foundation, add some colour to the eyes and top off with a nice colourful lipstick. Like most women, transgender women follow this almost religious regimen every morning. And so, when I applied my make-up one morning over the weekend, I thought of unpacking this issue of the context of womenhood, femininity and gender affirmation.

Acceptance of their gender is a top priority for most transgender women. But we tend to associate womenhood with red lipstick, hair extensions and high heels! This also speaks to the sexualization of transgender women. The higher the heel, the longer the extension and the brighter the lipstick, the bigger the sexual fetish around it. I meet gentlemen who question whether I am really trans because, apart from the little eyeliner and vanishing cream, I dont do red lipstick, bright nailpolish and I am particularly put off by weaves and hair extensions. All these things are not unique issues to trans women only. These are stereotypes perpetuated by everyday women, especially sex workers who “create” a “beautiful” concept and we play right into the hands of patriarchy becoming the visual, sexual stimulation sought by men. Without making the conversation too academic, basically we play into the vision men create for us!!!!

Taking men out of the spotlight and not blaming them for all we experience, my reflection on the single issue of make-up points me back to self confidence and security. As a set rule, I would never leave the house without make up, even to buy bread and milk at the corner cafe. For me, it comes back to the way that it makes me feel about myself because social programming has kicked in a long time ago to believe that a woman is no more than her red lips and blossy cheeks. Yes, even my brain is wrapped around that kind of thinking!

During this woman’s month of 2012, I want to encourage transgender and intersex women to explore the issue of make-up, hair and high heels in the context of social femininity. I want all the beautiful trans and intersex sister to realise that we be not defined by all this superficial stuff. No! I’m not saying take it all off. I just want you’ll to be cognisant that you are more than your hair. To the haters out there.

Transgender woman from Pretoria, South Africa

The next time you walk past a sister who slapped her mask on that morning, please stop going: “Girl, what happened to you, that is way too much”. Understand this comes from a place deep within, needing love, security and acceptance. It is an expression of individual identity. We all have that little something something that makes us unique and sets us apart from the rest. Eminem, the American rapper is known for his fowl lyrics, demeaning women in his songs and yet, his music is selling like hotcakes! Whitney Houston was killed by her drug habit and yet she was revered as a international musician. Now a sister wants to express her femininity and she gets sharp criticism from all corners, kinda hypocritical, isn’t it? In the same breath, I want to encourage fellow trans and intersex sisters with the words of India Arie from her song I am not my hair:

Good hair means curls and waves
Bad hair means you look like a slave
At the turn of the century
Its time for us to redefine who we be
You can shave it off
Like a South African beauty
Or get in on lock
Like Bob Marley
You can rock it straight
Like Oprah Winfrey
If its not what’s on your head

Its what’s underneath and say HEY…

I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I ma not this skin
I am a soul that lives within

Happy Women’s Month to all the transgender and intersex women around the globe.

Until next time

Leigh Ann and all the folks at S.H.E

S.H.E highlights from the People’s Health Assembly, hosted by the University of the Western Cape 6 to 12 July 2012

Published July 18, 2012 by transfeminists

It was such an honour meeting Zackie Achmat at the People’s Health Assembly in Cape Town 6 to 11

It was so nice to return to my alma mater UWC where the People’s Health Assembly took place 6 to 11 July 2012


This was just about the most interesting session at the People’s Health Assembly with a medical professional demonstrating the use of the Ipas, a tool used in surgical abortion


Unpacking transgender feminism

Published March 5, 2012 by transfeminists

Dear friends, colleagues, donors, loved ones, allies……..

It has been a while and we are so happy to add another post to our informative blog. So when I was approached by a trans-friendly feminist offering to write a piece for our blog, I jumped at the opportunity. Our guest writer is Busi Deyi, a feminist, writer, humanitarian, great trans support and just an amazing woman and person. These are Busi’s reflections on the rise of the transgender feminist movement in Africa

There is a mistaken belief that feminism is targeted at men, that these creatures that walk with a phallus dangling between their legs is the enemy and that our efforts, endeavours and war cries must be directed at them. When we see these male specimens we ‘cock’ –pun intended-our mouths and we are ready to fire accurately aimed words and stand up for our ideals as feminists. Patriarchy has come to be symbolised by masculinity- more accurately, the male body, and feminism by femininity. And in between this dichotomy, the transgender community has become a none neutral, neutral ground.  The male body and indeed the male penis has come to represent the patriarchal society that feminists have dedicated their entire existence to fighting but-this is where shit hits the fan- I think their wrong.

Let’s backtrack shall we? Feminism arose from the realization that our destinies were not necessarily connected to the form of our bodies. That one’s identity and indeed ones destiny as to who they were and how they externalised and expressed their identities could be based purely on their own sense of agency, their own sense of who they felt they were internally, beyond societal constraints and assumed roles based on the biological arrangement of their XY-XX chromosomes. Come  back to the rise of transfeminism, the idea of a transgender feminist is oxymoronic and unsettling to a lot of cis-gendered feminists, this is because we have come to associate the male form with patriarchy and literally have come to regard those that are in a male form as part and parcel of the system that has demarcated womyn to the margins of society and stripped them of their ‘subject-hood’ and sense of self-determination and yet we do not see this development in feminist thinking as dangerous-think about it.

To accord a certain symbolic status to the male form we are reverting back to the very status quo our feminist ancestors sought to over throw- that body determines destiny, that somehow who we are is intricately linked to ‘what’ we are biologically . We are inadvertently saying that yes, your body does determine your destiny. That womyn born in males bodies, M-T-F’s, cannot possibly be feminists and understand the feminist struggle. This is perhaps not surprising. The body is the one thing through which we interact with the world. We use the body to express ourselves, to give meaning and identity to our internal ideologies and crisis’s. The body is the one thing that we utilize in love, in protest and identification and an ambiguous body is dangerous, or viewed as dangerous because it does not lend itself to our discriminations and does not fit into our dichotomy of male and female and the assigned patriarchy v feminist to the respective forms.


So, where to from here? Cis-gender feminists cannot legitimately close the doors to transfeminism and transgender womyn cannot legitimately stay away from claiming the title of feminist, why??? Because I believe that the transfeminist movement holds the key that could empower feminists in understanding truly what we have been advocating for when we said our bodies do not determine our destiny. In my own personal view transgender individuals hold the key to a more tolerant and accepting society, if we can break the gender binary that exists currently, if we can show society that we are humans regardless of what is between our legs, who we love and how we love them than we have an opportunity to create a society in which your gender and how we express it is not determined by our biological form.

Someone really smart said something along these lines, “every battle championed by minorities is my battle” and that has been my motto, I have realized that by standing for the rights of other minorities I am in fact indirectly pursuing my own. Transgender feminists represent the polycentric nature of being human.  When the voices of minorities manage to bring about change, the collective consciousness of society is penetrated and this presents an opportunity for us as minority groups to further establish ourselves and loosen the societal constraints that have stifled individual self determination.

Here’s the deal, the feminist movement exists within a larger social movement and each sub-movement is part of a larger system of interdependent pieces defined by their relationship to all other pieces. To think of the feminist movement as independent from other social movements is a fallacy and highly misguided. We need to see feminism as a transformational movement, as feminists we seek to transform society and make it possible for all persons to exercise self determination in determining their destinies. Every victory loosens ever so slightly the societal chains that have prevented change and real reform through social conscientization.

Transgender feminists are not agents of patriarchy or a mockery to feminism, they are a celebration of the central principles that feminists have long sought to have recognized. They are a celebration of the idea that self determination is a principle worth fighting for, that we as feminists in all body forms have become a social movement that can create spaces that enable those that are differently gendered to express their true selves.

Feminists and feminism must always seek to transform not only society and the prejudices and boundaries that have been placed but they must at all times be self critical about how we relate to other minority movements. We must always seek to transform ourselves and be constantly critical of ourselves and our associations with other marginalized groups.

This is a very good piece Busi wrote for us and we thank her for this contribution. Later in the week we will publish our report and reflections of attending the Amanitare Coalition meeting which took place in Cape Town 28 and 29 February. Until then friends………….

Leigh Ann


Hello 2012

Published January 4, 2012 by transfeminists

Dear bloggers, friends, allies, colleagues, donors, constituents, friends and family


It is with a certain degree of sadness that we kissed 2011 goodbye and welcomed 2012. Last year had so many wonderful memories and we witnessed the best thing of all: we formalised the administration of S.H.E, the social, health and empowerment coalition for transgender women in Africa! Yes, it was the birth of this great coalition and we do a lot for an organisation without funding.

A lot of the work we do comes from being passionate about these issues. So we stand at the beginning of this year looking to develop strategic plans and put into action plans on how we will approach this year. It is all very exciting!!!!

One of the great memories of 2011 for me personally was attending the WGNRR conference at Mosaic in Cape Town, followed by the Gender Dynamix health and advocacy conference at the Upper East Side Hotel in Woodstock, Cape Town. Who could forget the presentation on transgender feminism and the interest it sparked in the transgender community?

And who can forget the experience of a lifetime attending a conference aimed at advancing transgender health hosted by OSI, the Austrian American Foundation as well as The Centre for Excellence from the University of San Francisco, California. I was so honoured to have met JoAnne Keatley, Maddy Deutsch, Nancy Warren, Jae Sevellius and many other individuals who make the world a better place for transgender people.

Let’s not forget when I met a group of Latin American transgender women. I will never forget Janah, Laylah and Mariciello who inspired me to become a stronger feminist and a glamorous woman.

During November I attended the UNDP transgender consultation in Geneva Switzerland and was whisked to my destination flying business class. Oh what an Amazing experience. Thank you so much to the Global Fund for that. Activists do hard work and we need to be pampered from time to time.


October was the birth of the coalition but really the idea was sparked when attending the transgender and intersex exchange program during May in Uganda. That week was one of the darkest times in my life and I realised how much we need to apply a feminist framework to the problems experienced by transgender women in Africa. I have said it before and I will say it again. Transgender women never has and never will have any male privilege, so I am not even going to say that they lay down their male privilege when they transition. Transgender men, on the other hand, transition right into male privilege and patriarchy that have dominated Africa for so many years! This is why we see more transgender men steering the African transgender movement and it is for this reason that I found S.H.E.


So about 2012? We will have to wait and see! As an organisation, we are currently in the process of formulating our strategic plan for the year. One of the things we can anticipate for the year is Girl Talk, an initiative aimed at more dialogue amongst and for transgender women on this continent, discussing vital issues pertaining to trans women in African. As always, the coalition is always looking to make partnerships with organisations with a transgender and/or feminist mandate.


Please be in touch with us through our organisational email at: and remember to follow our activities on Alternatively, we can be reached at +27 738110789.


Until next time.


Leigh Ann