Category Archives: Transgender

An intimate portrait of Somalian trans-woman

 

From Inkanyiso.- An intimate portrait of Somalian trans-woman by Abdi Osman


Labeeb is an intimate portrait of Sumaya, a Somali trans-woman.
The project consists of large-scale colour photographs, and a double-projection video. Some of the photographs are studio portraits where Sumaya sat for the artist; others depict Sumaya in her daily life. One video also documents aspects of her daily life, while the other portrays Sumaya performing a Somali ritual usually reserved for women. This practice is one that Somali women undertake when preparing for a special occasion or ceremony. The practice itself is a hybrid: traditional and religious. The double projection is meant to add texture and complexity to Osman’s attempt to engage with questions of gender, sexuality, and culture. The videos speak to the hybrid cultural expressions of Sumaya and other persons like her.
These images place African-born trans-people directly within the traditions of their African/black cultural heritage.

While posing questions concerning gender, culture, and religion, the videos examine how the body can move into new states of being. They are themselves “trans-ing” practices, crossing the traditional with the new all-in-one body. This work pushes back against claims made by some African leaders that there are no African queers in their countries.

Osman’s work puts African/black trans-people on record. It questions how we understand the various roles bodies play or perform, and which bodies or genders are understood to perform them—in particular, assumptions we make about female, black, queer, and trans bodies.

 

 

 

About the photographer, Abdi

Abdi Osman is a Somali-Canadian multidisplinary artist whose work focuses on questions of black masculinity as it intersects with Muslim and queer identities.

Osman’s video and photography work has been shown in Canada and internationally in both group and solo exhibitions. He holds an MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University, and B.A. in African Studies from the University of Toronto.

Previous work has been supported by a grant from the Ontario Arts Council. His photographs are also in private collections and the Art Bank of the Canada Council for the Arts. Some of his work was in the year-long group show DiaporaArt: Strategy and Seduction by Canadian Artists from Culturally Diverse Communities at Rideau Hall.

Abdi was a 2010 artist-in-resident at the McColl Centre for Visual Arts in Charlotte North Carolina. Most recently in 2012, he was a fellow at The Interdisciplinary Center for Culture and Creativity (ICCC) at the University of Saskatchewan.

 

 

 

Call Me Kuchu, Victor Mukasa Speaking Out Against Misrepresentation of African Activists

Victor Juliet Mukasa

Victor Thick Skin Mukasa speaking at Dartmouth College,US, criticises western activists and organisations for misrepresenting and disrespecting African activists.

African LGBTI Human Rights Defenders – Public statement of warning!

Isiphiwo Sami – An exploration of Black Queers in SA [Video]

Isiphiwo Sami a short film by Zanele Muholi – an exploration  of Black Queers in SA (Beauties)… Queerizing Public Spaces.  Produced in Durban in 2013, an exchange between black trans/ femme gay identifying persons from Durban and Johannesburg.

Neocolo Chop Chop {A Poem to Goody Jonatenn & 9Ja Kaki Lovers} {Poems of Resistance}

Neocolo Chop Chop

As A look u so u be gay
Dis na my chance to chop &
Chop & chop sotay dem no
Go  say A no work, A no put
Food for table, A no put roof
Over ma family head, dem.
U see say a be gay wetin be
Conductor’s palava for driver?

As A look u so u lesbian
Goodoulucku don give us the
Starting point the rest dey una
Hands if u see dem make
U show dem say kaki no be
Leather; leather self no be
Kaki, no be so? Na so oh…
A be lesbian wetin na kaki
Palava for latest leather?

As A see u so u be bi
Na so na. Wetin do dem dey
Hala dem gay dem lezzy dem?
Na waa oh. Make we do some
Ting now. Sabi u dey play
Me a dey play u? Ern now.
Wetin be una lezzy gay? Na waa.
Na so oh. Na bi a be a no be
Bai, bai. “Ewo n’ti ‘e l’oro mi”?

As A see u so u be “Aparinda” (?)
Wait ma a laugh first… sey una
Na man or woman or na hala
Be dis oh make una com see
Pancake for face nna una eye-
Liner take u na bag Miss World
Na only u dey? A beg, a beg
U see say a be trans who you dey
Call “aparinda (sex change)”?
Na wetin be colomental palava for ma tori?

As A see u so u be intersex
Water do pass gaari for dis obon
Oyinbo. No bi Naija we dey?
Wetin u say u be both, oloun
Walai Chineke gaari don pass water
Mae a go come a go show una pepper
Way u dey go wait na. u dey fear?
Me a no dey oh a no sabi five prison
Chineke poku! A be intersex, so?
A send u? Make u na cool temper.

As u dey so u be queer
See me see trouble oh  una too get
Mouth. If no be dis na dat how
Person go sabi pikin for dis colo?
See me see trouble wetin god do una?
E put u for dis una life no bi so?
Ah beg oh ah no fi shout. Giv me chop
U know say a dey queer wetin na
Una own for anyting goes; amebo?

Wetin dey chop u na for ma palava?
Ah no say ah be a minority of one
Tell me how dat wan take kill u?
Na so so “a see say, a see say” u dey
Peddle; wetin dey bite u for body?
Wake up chop, wake up chop, wake up
Wetin tell u say sacrifice wey u na
Cook no go nuke u sooner or later?
A beg bo lef tori wey no be una palava.

Mia Nikasimo (c) March 2014

Statement from the Wits University on Anti-Homosexuality Legislation in Africa

MESSAGE FROM THE OFFICE OF THE VICE-CHANCELLOR AND PRINCIPAL

DATE: MONDAY, 3 MARCH 2014

STATEMENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND PERTAINING TO ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY LEGISLATION IN AFRICA

The University of the Witwatersrand notes with dismay and concern recent legislation in Nigeria and Uganda that criminalises women and men who express themselves through relationships other than those defined as heterosexual. It also decries the targeted violence that has accompanied this legislation in these and other countries.

While academic debates may focus on the extent to which human sexuality is a result of nature or nurture, or whether it is inherent to Western or African culture, the reality is that diversity in terms of sexual orientation is part of the recorded history of virtually all societies.

Tolerance and acceptance of such diversity has not been easily secured, but those nations that have afforded equal rights to sexual minorities alongside a multitude of other diverse identities can justifiably claim the benefits of an equitable and just environment for their citizens who live in, and actively contribute to an inclusive and productive state.

The University of the Witwatersrand values diversity and believes that its student and staff body should reflect a multiplicity of race, gender, socio-economic background, urban and rural geographic origin, culture, ethnicity, disability, religion, national origin and sexual orientation. Indeed it believes that everyone has a role to play in furthering human development and that diversity can only enhance learning and the generation human knowledge. Such principles are the foundation of university policies and are underpinned by values enshrined within the constitution of South Africa.

It is the University’s view that recent legislation in Africa and elsewhere that seeks to criminalise sexual minorities, runs counter to these values and in addition contravenes key articles contained within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is apparent that these legislations are driven, not by a desire to address true criminality but rather are projected by an incomplete understanding of human sexuality compounded by an orchestrated campaign of hate towards vulnerable groups. South Africans understand only too well the damaging legacy that hate founded on institutionalised prejudice can deliver and that while the seeds of hate are easy to sow, they can take generations to uproot once they have spread and taken hold.

Leadership carries with it a huge responsibility, not least of which is protection of minority rights from the ebb and flow of opinion amongst the “moral majority”. The University (that counts amongst its staff and students, thinkers from across the continent of Africa), stands with other academic institutions in urging leaders to reflect carefully on what they have allowed to pass and points out that history will judge harshly those who are responsible for imprisoning others as a result of whom they love. We strongly urge that these laws be rescinded and encourage others who value the sanctity of Universal Human Rights to call for the same.

Storm [Poem by Mia Nikasimo]

Storm

The tremors vibrate through
This isn’t a storm. No wind.
Nothing just the door slam
Six door slams and I wonder

Why, why, why this thunder?
“You are not a woman,” as if
Your mess was all there was.
Why is my heart in my throat?

Six door slammed one after the
Other… Slam, slam, slam. And
More… slam, slam, slam like a
Bloody oversized metronom

Even the walls trembles each
Time the door is slammed then
A sudden pause followed by a
Slam, slam, slam. A headache

Emerges. my heart pounds mad
That’s what hatred causes aloud?
Then I remembered your words
“Get noise blocking headphones.

No one can handle such abuse…
The most foolhardy collapse…
You are no different. We all hurt.
You are no different, gorgeous… ”

Mia Nikasimo (c) December 2013

Queercide: Campaign Against Violence Against Women – Why We Must Document

victim-circled_8433

In 2012 there were 10 murders of black lesbians, gays and transgender people in South Africa. In Uganda, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which includes the death penalty and makes LGBTI people and anyone or organisation that supports or helps them, into illegal citizens, has once again been tabled in Parliament and once again delayed – all in the space of a month. There is no guarantee that it will not resurface in 2013. In Nigeria, the “Prohibition of Same Sex Marriage Bill” has been passed unchallenged by both Houses and is awaiting a final reading in the House Chamber.

In South Africa, Queercide, like other social phenomena is being driven by a set of social conditions in this case, homophobia, religious fundamentalism, government inaction and community silence. In Uganda and Nigeria, religious fundamentalism and a weak and disinterested civil society are the driving and enabling forces respectfully. These expressions of the logic of domination are the punishment for daring to digress from arbitrary norms.

It is in this context that Zanele Muholi’s Faces and Phases exhibition opened at the Goethe Institute in Johannesburg on 27th November, 2012. Faces and Phases is an ongoing body of work which began in 2007 with the intention of creating an archive of Black lesbian lives and ensuring black queer visibilities. Faces expresses the person and Phases signifies the stages of those expressions. It is a personal experience and journey for Muholi as a visual activist and the people she photographs.

What I love about Zanele’s work is the strength of performance, the way the faces breathe. The portraits are in different poses. One can hear the voices of those who look directly into the camera. But still, there remains an untold story behind each portrait. Visible yet partially invisible. Invisible yet partially visible. I like that. Photographs capture a moment in history. W.J.T. Mitchell wrote a book “What Do Pictures Want?” I think we should ask this question when we look at the photos in Faces and Phases. People and places are layered and I would prefer it, if we could take the time to unpack the layers instead of diving in and ripping everything apart. Read my story and create your own through your imagination. The same goes for Zanele’s photographs.

From the beginning the impetus for Muholi’s work has been on the one hand, to disrupt sexual and gender norms whilst also highlighting the intersectionality of gender, sexual orientation, race and class both in homophobic acts of violence and the response to these acts of violence. Faces and Phases III consists of 60 black and white portraits and as Muholi points out there is a reason ‘there are no smiling faces here’ – their visibility has become a dangerous one. One that has lead to rape, torture and murder including some of Muholi’s collaborators. The constitutional right to be who you are and choose visibility over the closet, becomes a symptom of vulnerability. Homophobia, hate and inertia become the destructive powers that ridicule the protection of the constitution.

In her exhibition Isilumo Siyaluma* Zanele uses her own menstrual blood as a way to begin to articulate and bridge the pain and lost felt as a witness to the pain of ‘curative rapes’ suffered by many young black lesbians in Zanele’s own community. The first piece is a thumb print thereby establishing her truth and her presence as part of her community. Other photo montages are a ‘mothers cry’, ‘the judge’, and the ‘defendants in the dock’. We are all witnesses and we must make our own judgements on how to respond
Zanele’s work has been exhibited outside South Africa and the continent and this too has implications of meaning in terms of black bodies and bodies which may have been violated being exposed in white colonial spaces. Queer black bodies under the gaze of closeted racism loaded with notions of black sexuality and desire -always we return to Zanele’s question “What do you see when you look at me? ……?????????

Campaign against violence against women highlighted by Zanele in this video

Garlands

Garlands

What response befits a company of douche-bags?
This is not about us. No, it so isn’t about us.
The uninvited attention from wayward wands.

Fighting voices fly upwards from the street nags
Below. What makes everyone think they know?
What makes you think you know these lands?

Those questions were mine these bands these flags
All mine. Every feisty voice rang out unburying me
A corpse hard to forget. Expectations & demands!

All hours of the day. Swishing swashing windbags?
No, just people. People like me. People like us.
Not female, not male, everyone else. No reprimands.

If being autistic, black and trans are only tags…
All it took was a diagnosis of FOP & com nonplus.
Often you bang on the wall fussing garlands…

African ebony black, Demur lacklutred no free shags.
I don’t do porno stretches sucking up to the fee
Egocentric humans what do you expect -the badlands?

No longer all this maddening fuss of pitted flags
And then all the labels hover stripped of pedigree
How many times do we need to take the bandstands?

Attachment issues assail us all. That’s the fuss…
Such disorder masking as order yet we decree
Suffering and smiling; all is just dreamy garlands.

Garlands? Yes, garlands. This body isn’t a demo-fag.
Trans bodies must exist bodies too no matter the goal
This isn’t elective female, male dom not of badlands

This landscape of garlands consolidates all culture tags
Murmurs warm their way in on me. What is this cree?
Trans bodies too must exist bodies too. Tlk 2 th hands!

Mia Nikasimo (c) September 2013

A transgender suicide

From inkanyiso by by Lerato Dumse

On the 1st of August 2013, a 17 year old self identifying transgender (youth) was one of the approximately 23 suicides reported daily in South Africa with 230 serious attempts. He hanged himself.  According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (sadag), “hanging is the most employed method of suicide.”

This was not his first attempt. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) estimates that 20-50 percent of those who succeed are not first timers. Diagnosed with having depression, he was part of the 60 percent of people with depression who commit suicide in South Africa.

His biggest angst was being born with a female body. He had expressed his need to feel comfortable with his body. Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital was to provide his life changing surgery, but they had turned him away repeatedly appointment after appointment since May 2013. With only his blood being drawn for tests, he died with the process having not started.

On Friday, 9th Aug. 2013 I attended his funeral in KwaThema township, Ekurhuleni.  While many celebrated National Woman’s Day in South Africa, a mother was burying her child.
However, unlike most LGBTI funerals which are often crowded and loud, his was small, intimate and full of tears. Described as someone who was always smiling as well making others smile, enjoyed building his muscles and lover of fashion.

Part of the Mother’s letter read was a message to the community at large.
“Let’s stay strong in the Lord and his mighty power, love our children and raise them in a way that will add value to their lives. Parents, don’t move from your places no matter the circumstances, you will wear the heavenly crown for a job well done.”

Suicide among lgbti youth, states that researchers have found that suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) youth is comparatively higher than among the general population.

The are lesbian and gay organizations in his township, however 88 kilometers separate him from an organization that deals with transgender issues Transgender and Intersex Africa.

Clinical social worker Caitlin Ryan from Family Acceptance Project (California State University, San Francisco) conducted the first of its kind study of the effects of family acceptance and rejection on health, mental health and well being of lgbt youth, including suicide, HIV and homelessness. Part of their findings was that, “parental acceptance, and even neutrality, with regard to a child’s sexual orientation can bring down the attempted suicide rate.”

Some advocates support Intervention implemented at the stage when a person is already suicidal (such as crisis hotlines). While others say Programs should be directed at increasing LGBT youth’s access to factors found to be “protective” against suicide (such as social support networks or mentors).

Attempted and Suicide have large numbers, claiming so many victims. We always hear about it, yet it is such a silent and taboo issue. As communities we have very little understanding, knowledge and education on the subject.

NB:  *Please note that the exact names of the late person are reserved for privacy but most of all to respect the family and relatives at this time of sadness.

CatchAFyah – Caribbean Feminist Network Call to Action

CatchAFyah has a Call to Action directed at CARICOM across the Caribbean  including organisations in Haiti  [Kouraj, SeroVie] Jamaica, [CVC COIN, Jamaican’s For Justice, Quality of Citizenship Jamaica,]  and Pan Caribbean – [CARIFLAGS,  Caribbean DAWN] denouncing recent transphobic and homophobic acts of violence in the region.  In Haiti two gay men were murdered following a religious anti-gay demonstration and a further 47 gay men were beaten in the past two weeks.

CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network is a collective of young, passionate Caribbean activists and organisations. We span the Caribbean, representing such nations as Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We are farmers, social workers, artists, social entrepreneurs, counsellors, researchers, teachers and students. We believe in everyone’s right to a good life and everyone’s right to be.

CatchAFyah calls on African feminists on the continent and in the African Diaspora to join their Caribbean sisters and brothers to take a position on homophobic and transphobic violence by blogging tweeting sharing whatever  – you can  Sign on to the Call to Action here

Haiti: KOURAJ: “Be True to Yourself”

The evangelical churches responsible for driving homophobia in Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and the USA have begun a campaign of violence and hate in Haiti. On Friday, an all faith coalition of homophobic haters called [The Haitian Coalition of Religious and Moral Organizations ] held an anti-gay protest in downtown Port-au-Prince.

Homosexuality is not criminalized in Haiti and although ostracized socially within Christian faith communities , LGBTI people are very much a part of the Voudou practicing community, who themselves are facing increased hostility from these same moral crusaders many who receive huge financial support from churches in the USA.

LGBT activists from Kouraj and Facsdis explained that whilst homophobia is rampant, it is not murderous and many activists are out to their families. Kouraj is working with lawyers from the Defenders if the Oppressed to draft anti-homophobia and anti-discrimination law and also to,push for an open dialogue on sexuality and fixed notions of gender.

With the rise of the religious haters what progress has been made is likely to be compromised and the possibility of murderous acts increased as two men were beaten to death during Fridays protest.

In response to ‘Anti-Gay” protests

Haiti: ‘Des Hommes et Dieux’ [Of Men and Gods] Film

‘Des Hommes et Dieux’ [Of Men and Gods"] A documentary on the struggles of Haitian trans women by Anne Lescot and Laurence Magloire

Haiti: Interview with LGBT organization, KOURAJ

I recently met with Ernest Gaubert of KOURAJ Ayiti  which is a grassroots organization with members in Cap Haitian, Gonaïves,  St Marc, Port-au-Prince and Jacmel.    It began as a social organisation Ami – Ami [friend to friend] in 2010 but the group soon realized they needed to expand to include advocacy around rights, access to healthcare, a response to homophobic and transphobic violence and general support particularly of young people who make up the majority of membership.  The name was changed to KOURAJ to reflect a more activist and politicization of the group.

Although there are  no laws against  LGBT  / ‘homosexuality  in Haiti, there are few legal protections and homophobia and transphobia are widespread and often result in verbal and physical attacks as well as discrimination in the workplace and educational institutions.   Ernest Gaubert, who is one of the founders of KOURAJ is also a Houngan and he explained that  Haitian Voudou is inclusive of  ‘all gender expressions and sexual orientation’.  Voudou in general is far more inclusive of  sexual minorities and those considered outside the normative heterosexual conformist spaces in whatever ways this might be.

 

The following interview [in French] was made by Cases Rebelles with Charlot JEUDYet Ernest Junior GAUBERT, the founders  of Haitian LGBT organization - KOURAJ.

Dans l’émission n°31, Cases Rebelles a eu le plaisir d’accueillir l’organisation KOURAJ Pou Pwoteje Dwa Moun an Ayiti, basée à Port au Prince (Haiti), mais avec des cellules ailleurs dans le pays. Le groupe plus communément appelé KOURAJ existe depuis 2011 et rassemble des activistes LGBT ou plutot des activistes M, puisque KOURAJ a fait le choix fort de s’autodéfinir avec les mots du peuple haitien. Kouraj c’est donc la communauté M, debout, fière et combattante. Communauté M pour Masisi, Madivin, Makomè et Miks. Charlot JEUDYet Ernest Junior GAUBERT (respectivement président et vice-président de Kouraj)répondent à nos questions et nous en disent plus sur leur histoire, leurs luttes, et leurs espoirs.

 

Cases Rebelles : Comment en êtes-vous venus à créer KOURAJ ?

Kouraj : L’une des raisons qui nous a poussé-e-s à créer KOURAJ c’est que nous étions un groupe d’ami-e-s, masisi et madivin et makomè. Quand on a constaté que nous n’avions dans le pays aucun espace qui nous était destiné, quand on a vu qu’il y avait un ensemble de caractéristiques qui nous avaient poussé-e-s à nous rassembler, nous nous sommes dit « pourquoi ne pas créer une association? ». Elle s’est appelée d’abord Ami Amiet fut créée en 2009.
Nous avons estimé à partir de Décembre 2011 qu’il y avait une nécessité de transformer cette association en organisation pour défendre les droits de la communauté M, communauté M qui est la façon dont on se définit dans la communauté haïtienne. Nous parlons decommunauté M, masisi, madivin, makomè, miks -nous ne parlons pas de LGBT- même si ce n’est pas le même langage qu’au niveau international. Nous nous sommes donc dits « Hé bien nous allons nous organiser pour faire ça. » Mais c’était souvent parce que nous avions besoin de faire des activités entre nous, sans que les gens ne nous regardent de travers,  sans que les gens ne nous jugent.
Et c’est comme ça, nous étions rassemblé-e-s chez un ami Jean-André qui fêtait son anniversaire, on s’est dit « Bon, on a le potentiel pour faire plus ». On était nombreux chez lui, à manger à boire et nous nous sommes dit : « On va faire plus ensemble ». Nous avons décidé de transformer Ami Ami en KOURAJ Pour la Défense les Droits Humains en Haïti, parce que nous croyons qu’au niveau des discriminations sur l’orientation sexuelle des individu-e-s, sur l’identité de genre, c’est une question qui concerne toute la société, c’est un problème d’importance, un sujet controversé. Et donc nous avons créé KOURAJ pour lutter contre toutes formes de stigmatisations, de discriminations que nos ami-e-s, notre entourage et nous-mêmes aussi nous subissons.

Alors quand on a commencé on était un groupe d’ami-e-s, on était environ douze. Ensuite, quand il y a eu la fête, on a dit «Bon, nous allons faire KOURAJ ensemble». Et parmi ces 12 amis il faut dire qu’il y avait toujours un noyau de 5 personnes actives et en première ligne dans ce groupe : Nicolas, Pouchy, Herold, Pierson et moi-même.
Mais avec le temps, avec le développement des activités, on a invité d’autres personnes à nous rejoindre dans l’équipe. Aujourd’hui, nous sommes à 70 membres et quand on se déplace, quand on va dans des villes province comme St Marc, Gonaïves, Jacmel, Léogâne, ils commencent à comprendre qu’il faut qu’ils s’impliquent parce que ça les concerne eux aussi et donc ils viennent de partout dans le combat à nos côtés.
Et donc nous continuons le pèlerinage et on continue la lutte pour trouver d’autres camarades concerné-e-s par ces questions dans tout le pays parce que nous estimons que l’homophobie et la transphobie sont partout dans notre société.

CR : Vous avez choisi de vous définir comme Communauté M ; vous n’avez pas choisi le terme LGBT et le langage qui va avec. C’est quelque chose qu’on trouve très intéressant. On aimerait savoir comment vous en êtes venu-e-s à cette auto-définition , dans quelle mesure ça aide le combat et dans quelle mesure ça peut aussi le compliquer ?

Kouraj : Disons que si tu es quelqu’un qui connait le pays tu sais que «masisi» c’est la pire insulte que l’on puisse faire à quelqu’un. Les personnes qui ont du succès en politique, si on veut leur barrer la route on va dire d’eux qu’ils sont masisis. C’est comme ça que l’on attaque toute personne qui monte. C’est une insulte terrible. Mais nous-mêmes nous avons estimé qu’il serait intéressant que nous récupérions ce concept, ce mot, cette insulte et que nous le transformions en symbole de notre fierté. Pour qu’éventuellement les gens prennent courage, qu’ils ne se sentent plus blessés quand on leur dira qu’ils sont masisis ; que les gens ne se sentent plus humiliés, de même qu’avec le mot «madivin».
Et puis nous croyons aussi qu’il y a des différences sociologiques. Parce que chez nous quand on dit de toi que tu es masisi, la société te voit comment ? La société te voit comme un garçon qui a des rapports avec un garçon mais qui joue un rôle « féminin » dans ce rapport là ; c’est comme ça que la société nous perçoit et c’est pour ça que nous pensons que sociologiquement il y a des concepts qui ne correspondent pas. Parce que si on dit «gay» au niveau international c’est peut-être un homme qui couche avec un homme, c’est un homme qui a un homme, c’est tout. Mais chez nous quand on dit masisi ça a un sens spécifique.

Et puis l’autre chose c’est que nous croyons aussi qu’Haïti n’a pas pris part jusqu’à présent à la bataille que la communauté LGBT du monde entier, ou du moins celle du continent nord-américain, a mené.
C’est vrai qu’on a observé, observé les stratégies mais nous n’y avons pas participé. Nous ne pouvons donc pas dire que nous sommes les grands bénéficiaires de cette lutte. Nous pensons que c’est un combat que nous menons aujourd’hui, qui n’a jamais été mené dans le pays, pour la société haïtienne. Nous disons un grand bravo pour les personnes qui se sont battu-e-s pour la communauté LGBT dans d’autres pays comme la France et qui se battent encore jusqu’aujourd’hui.

Nous nous autodéfinissons parce que chez nous on parle de miks pas de bisexuels parce que le bisexuel de chez nous serait une personne hétérosexuelle qui a des rapports homosexuels. Ce serait ça. Parce que c’est une personne qui a deux formes de rapports : un rapport officiel qui est l’hétérosexualité et un rapport officieux qui est l’homosexualité.
Toutes ces définitions nous font comprendre qu’il nous faut arriver avec des concepts que le peuple haïtien puisse comprendre, que les personnes des quartiers populaires puissent comprendre, qu’on puisse comprendre partout.

Dans quel sens ça peut poser problème aujourd’hui ? C’est peut-être qu’il y a des gens qui n’ont pas encore compris ; il y a des gens dans la communauté M qui refusent qu’on les traite de masisis parce qu’ils ne comprennent pas notre logique, la stratégie que nous développons. Il y a des gens dans la communauté qui ne savent pas encore ou qui ne se sont pas encore approprié de ce mot. Parce que si hier c’était une insulte, aujourd’hui c’est un symbole de fierté. Autrefois on le fuyait ce mot, on nous injuriait, nous en avions peur mais aujourd’hui on dit justement : « Oui on est des masisis. On est des masisis haïtiens. Y a pas un problème d’être maisisi « . Et c’est ça que nous voulons faire comme travail mais jusqu’à maintenant nous n’avons pas encore eu les moyens de faire comprendre à toute la population pourquoi nous utilisons ce concept-là, de cette façon.

CR: Au niveau de la création de KOURAJ, il semble qu’il était surtout question d’hommes.  Quelle est de la place des femmes dans KOURAJ ?

Kouraj : Il faut que nous disions que nous pensons que les femmes ont une place fondamentale. Et c’est ça qui nous a fait comprendre que nous ne pouvions pas mener le combat en tant que masisis sans s’unir aux madivin, d’une manière générale, mais aussi avec les femmes tout simplement. Et il faut qu’on s’unisse avec elles. Mais étant donné que lorsque nous nous sommes créés c’était surtout des masisis… Il y avait aussi d’autres gens, comme Rachel, qui étaient proches de quelques membres fondateurs de KOURAJ . Il y avait aussi Sabine.
Mais nous faisons un constat qui est que, jusqu’à maintenant, les femmes lesbiennes sont réticentes à se montrer. Or notre bataille est celle de la visibilité, pour dire « nous sommes là, nous sommes masisis, nous sommes haïtiens, c’est notre pays et personne ne pourra nous faire le quitter ou en avoir peur ».

Elles sont là, elles ont un place fondamentale dans toutes nos activités mais nous ne pouvons pas demander à des personnes de s’exposer si elles ne sentent pas encore en mesure de le faire ; on ne peut pas demander ça. On ne peut pas leur demander de s’exposer quand on sait les conséquences qui vont en découler pour elles. Parce qu’il s’agit pour la plupart de jeunes, vivant avec leurs familles qui sont capables de les jeter à la rue, de cesser de leur payer l’école, tu vois ? Il y a une tonne de difficultés réelles auxquelles il faut faire face. On a une amie, qui a toujours supporté nos activités, qui est madivin.  Mais aujourd’hui elle a de grosses difficultés avec sa famille, avec son mari parce qu’il a appris qu’elle soutenait le mouvement KOURAJ, qu’elle était toujours dans les activités de KOURAJ. Alors il s’agit de gros risques auxquels nous-mêmes avons choisi malgré tout de nous exposer pour pouvoir apporter des solutions une fois pour toutes à ces problèmes dans le pays. Mais les femmes sont là ; elles sont toujours présentes dans toutes nos activités.

CR: Et quelles sont vos relations avec les groupes de femmes, les groupes féministes en Haïti ?

Kouraj : Il y a un problème sérieux depuis 1982 au pays. Depuis les années 80 même, les femmes ont commencé à mener des luttes pour réclamer leur place dans la société mais la stratégie de leurs détracteurs a toujours été d’insinuer que c’était des madivin ; bien avant que Kouraj existe. Et en 1996, il y a eu la création du Ministère à la Condition Féminine et aux Droits de la Femme. Ces femmes ont étaient stigmatisées énormément parce qu’elles étaient considérées comme lesbiennes, du fait qu’elles réclamaient l’égalité, l’égalité des droits, de chance, participation à la vie politique, tout ça. Et ça a fini par créer une phobie chez elles.
Quand nous sommes arrivés en 2009 nous avons commencé à regarder comment nous allions poser les problèmes. En 2011 véritablement, elles ont été réticentes au fait de travailler avec nous. C’est ce qui s’est passé quand nous avons essayé d’entrer en contact avec elles. Elles sont réticentes… On les invite systématiquement mais elles sont réticentes jusqu’à présent.

Leurs détracteurs ont fini par créer une phobie chez elle car déjà elles avaient l’étiquette de madivin pour avoir réclamé l’égalité, pour avoir lutté contre la violence qui touche les femmes, contre les viols qui touchent les filles. Mais voilà où ça en est arrivé, du fait d’avoir été pointées du doigt elles sont devenues comme réfractaires.
Mais nous persistons pour en arriver à créer des rapports avec elles. Il y a KOFAVIV par exemple, avec qui nous sommes en pourparlers sérieux, avec qui nous avons déjà organisés deux activités. Le Ministère à la Condition Féminine, nous leur avons écrit et nous attendons leur réponse jusqu’à aujourd’hui, pour savoir ce qu’on peut faire ensemble. Il y a un groupe qui est surtout dirigé par des lesbiennes qui est FACSDIS et nous travaillons en partenariat avec elles. Mais c’est vrai que pour une bonne partie des groupes il y a une peur d’être encore indexées comme des lesbiennes, alors que déjà la société les considèrent comme telles  parce qu’elles réclament des droits qu’elles ont besoin d’être égales aux hommes, donc c’est des lesbiennes ».

CR: Quelle genre de personnes y a-t-il en terme de classe sociale dans Kouraj ?

Kouraj : Il faut dire que les gens qui sont dans KOURAJ sont surtout des gens issus des quartiers populaires, de classe pauvre. Nous n’avons pas du tout de membres riches. C’est des jeunes qui ont tous pratiquement grandi dans des quartiers populaires et qui justement ont l’éducation comme seule richesse.
Mais nous n’avons pas de personnes riches dans KOURAJ d’une manière générale. Et puis nous avons beaucoup de jeunes aussi dans KOURAJ. Les plus jeunes ont 16 ans, jusqu’à 40 ans. Donc il y a beaucoup de jeunes dans KOURAJ.

CR: Comment les gens intègrent-ils KOURAJ, où et comment vous rencontrent-ils ?

Charlot JEUDY

Kouraj : Nous, c’est un enchaînement ; c’est un groupe d’ami-e-s qui a formé KOURAJ et ces ami-e-s ramènent d’autres ami-e-s. Cela fait un enchaînement. Et puis comme il y a des cellules que nous créons dans les villes de province, nous nous déplaçons et nous allons dans les villes de province. Nous allons chercher notre famille, car nous sommes une famille, toute une famille.

CR: Une autre question :  on a parlé des difficultés rencontrées pour vivre en général quand on est  masisi ; comment ça se passe pour ce qui est de la question du travail ?

Il faut tout d’abord dire qu’il n’y a pas énormément de personnes parmi nous qui sont sorties du placard. Et la plupart des membres de KOURAJ,  s’ils ne sont pas dans des activités scolaires ou estudiantines, ce sont des gens qui vivent du commerce informel. Ce ne sont pas des individus qui travaillent dans des institutions publiques ou privées. Nous n’avons pas ce genre de membres. Et les gens que l’on connaît qui travaillent dans ces cadres-là ce sont aussi des gens qui ne s’affichent pas ou qui n’assument pas leur homosexualité ou leur transsexualité.

CR: Quelles sont les violences que subit aujourd’hui la communauté M ?

Kouraj : D’abord nous faisons face à une violence verbale qui est déjà, en soi, un fléau. Tous les gens quels qu’ils soient, autorités, simples citoyens, membres de la famille, tous les gens tiennent des propos blessants à l’égard des membres de la communauté M, qu’ils les connaissent ou pas.
L’autre chose tient de la violence physique dans certains quartiers. Les jeunes qui sont souvent efféminés et donc remarquables, qui souvent assument leur homosexualité ou leur transsexualité, sont victimes de ces gens-là. Ils les frappent, les battent. Aussi, au moment du Carnaval, quand nous sommes dans le carnaval il y a des groupes carrément qui nous attaquent pour nous frapper.
On est aussi frappé-e-s par des violences institutionnelles. Il y a des institutions où juste parce que tu as l’air efféminé ils ne te reçoivent pas. On ne te reçoit pas tout simplement ; ils disent qu’ils ne veulent pas recevoir « ce genre de personnes », à l’hôpital ou dans d’autres endroits.
Et puis il y a une autre violence : celles de groupes musicaux qui utilisent le message qu’ils véhiculent à travers leurs textes. Ils lancent des messages de haine à travers ces textes-là et il n’y a personne dans cette société qui réagisse ; ni l’État, ni Ministère de la Culture, ni Ministère de la Justice, ni Ministère des Droit de l’homme, personne ne dit jamais rien en notre faveur. Même le gouvernement finance des groupes carnavalesques homophobes pour qu’ils puissent continuer à diffuser leurs messages de haine contre notre communauté.
Ça signifie qu’en cas de problème tu ne vois pas à qui t’adresser. Et quand nous avons affaire à des jeunes qui sont victimes de violence et qu’on va au commissariat, le policier dit carrément que c’est nous qui nous nous comportons mal et que c’est ça qui pousse les gens à nous faire violence. Ils n’enregistrent pas la plainte ; ils nous disent que c’est à nous de nous conformer, de «marcher comme des hommes ».
Tu vois. C’est ça la situation.
Et il y a aussi des familles qui, quand elles découvrent que tu es homo, transsexuel, lesbienne, te mettent carrément à la rue. Ils cessent carrément de te payer l’école. Tout simplement. Tu ne peux plus rester à la maison. Même si la maman est d’accord mais le frère qui paye la scolarité ne veut pas. Ou bien la famille qui est à l’étranger elle ne veut plus payer parce qu’elle sait que tu es dans la maison…C’est le genre de problèmes auxquels nous faisons face.

CR: Est-ce que vous avez des avocats dans votre réseau ?

Kouraj : Aujourd’hui dans les partenariats qu’on essaie de développer avec la société civile nous avons deux cabinets d’avocats avec qui nous sommes en pourparlers ; des cabinets qui veulent volontairement nous accompagner mais la question c’est toujours celle des frais. Même s’ils ne nous réclament rien, il y a des frais d’administration, des frais destinés à la DGI (Direction Générale des Impôts). Et  nous n’avons pas de fonds.
D’abord il y a BAI, Bureau International des Avocats, et il y a DOP, Défenseur des Opprimés, qui sont déjà prêts pour nous supporter quand il y a une affaire. Déjà, on a un cas de violence homophobe au niveau de Jacmel,de jeunes qui ont été attaqués et donc on a le cabinet BAI qui suit le dossier pour nous.

CR: Tu as déjà en partie répondu à la question mais aujourd’hui quelle est l’attitude de la justice à l’égard de la communauté ?

Kouraj : Mon cher, il y a une incompréhension énorme, un gros problème d’ignorance. Et c’est ça qui fait que nous, dans notre plaidoyer, nous demandons que les officiers judiciaires soient formés, que les officiers dans tous leurs commissariats bénéficient d’une formation. Et nous-même avons recommandé qu’à l’intérieur des académies de police il y ait des séances de formation sur les questions d’homosexualité et de transsexualité. Parce que nous avons fait face à un cas dernièrement : il s’agissait d’une femme lesbienne, son mari l’a su et l’a assassinée. Le mari l’a tuée et quand il s’est retrouvé face au juge d’instruction… On a arrêté le mari qui s’est justifié en disant que sa femme était une lesbienne. Le juge a alors conclu que, si c’était une lesbienne alors c’était une femme pas respectable, une moins que rien. Nous avons été obligé-e-s de demander que le juge soit dessaisi du dossier. C’est pour te montrer comment il y a une ignorance énorme dans ces questions, et une grosse incompréhension.

CR : Quels sont les projets sur lesquels vous travaillez actuellement?
Aujourd’hui nous sommes toujours dans le développement de KOURAJ parce que, comme nous le disions, homophobie et transphobie sont partout dans notre société et c’est pour ça que nous avons des caravanes qui se déplacent dans les villes de province. Nous allons continuer à nous développer pour rallier plus de personnes la cause, qui soient en mesure d’intégrer le groupe. C’est ça : développer KOURAJ.

Également voir comment préparer deux propositions de lois au parlement. L’une qui condamne la violence homophobe et toutes les violences liées au genre ; et une proposition de loi pour que les associations soient en mesure de porter plainte en lieu et place des personnes physiques, des individus. Parce que les victimes de violence refusent de porter plainte quand ils/elles sont victimes parce qu’elles ont peur qu’on sache, qu’on connaisse leur orientation sexuelle, leur identité de genre. Et donc nous aimerions que les associations puissent le faire à leur place.
Et l’autre chose que nous aimerions aussi c’est faire un grand débat avec toute la société civile sur les questions d’homosexualité et de transsexualité  et que l’État haïtien ratifie la convention internationale sur la dépénalisation de l’homosexualité.
Nous aimerions aussi qu’il y ait un nouveau code pénal, qui soit réformé. Il y a une proposition de nouveau code pénal sur lequel nous avons travaillé avec d’autres membres de la société civile. Nous aimerions que cette proposition soit adoptée.
Qu’il y ait aussi une politique de l’État, de ce gouvernement qui se veut un État de droit ; que cet État inscrive nos préoccupations dans ses priorités. Parce que le gouvernement dit que l’une de ses priorités c’est l’état de droit. Et nous croyons que dans la constitution de 87 il est clairement dit dans l’article 19 que l’État doit protéger toute personne sans aucune distinction.

A Mother’s Story

Ricki Kgositau interviews Diana, a mother on coming to terms with her transgender son

A Mother’s Story* – “I started opening up to him and my child becoming relaxed no longer afraid of me, just like the old times. He always reminds me of the day I walked up to him and asked if he wanted a gender reassignment as I knew good Doctors who can help out. He says that question just swept him off his feet…”



Via Gender Dynamix

Not trans enough? “I’m trans because its the inner sense of who I am!

From LGBTSr an interview with Ugandan LGBTI activist and human rights defender Victor Mukasa

 

Victor has pursued the cause of human rights with tremendous dedication in Africa and globally. He is a founding member of several Ugandan and regional human rights groups, including Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRDN) (2005), Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) (2002), Trans Support Initiative, Uganda (TSI-Ug) and the Pan African e-networks; African Solidarity (2006) and Trans Africa (2008).

Victor has also served as a board member of many African and international LGBT groups, including Gender DynamiX (South Africa), Behind the Mask (South Africa), Coalition of African Lesbians (Pan African), and theInternational Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA).

He has previously worked as Advocacy Adviser for East Africa and Project Coordinator for the Human Rights Defenders Project at the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL), and at the Africa Regional Program of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).

Victor was the initiator of the Nairobi Trans* Declaration 2007 and the first Pan African Transgender workshop supported by IGLHRC, from which the project Proudly Transgender and African, as well as several transgender organizations in Africa, emerged.

Victor is currently an Independent Consultant working with capacity building in support of human rights defenders, movement building and documentation of human rights violations.

MM: How closely connected are you now with what’s going on in Uganda?

VM: Even though in the diaspora, I am still Ugandan, I love and miss Uganda, I am a human rights defender and definitely still committed to the LGBTI struggle in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa. On a daily basis, I am in touch with activists and victims of human rights abuses and violations. I am still mentoring activists and playing an advisory role to several organizations on the continent. Every now and then, I am also called upon by U.S. institutions to talk about the human rights situation in Uganda. I am very closely connected.

MM:  Have you returned, do you want to, and what are/would the dangers be?

I have just fled Uganda in search of safety and security in the U.S. Even though I would love to return home, I would not at this point. I fear for what could happen to me if I returned at this point. My life has been at threat since I sued the government in 2005, a case that I won in 2008. I hope to return some day. I believe that things will get better as our efforts are not going to be in vain.

MM:  Are you still involved with SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda), and how important do you think the organization is to striving for improvement in the lives of Uganda’s sexual minorities?

VM: Yes I am still very involved in SMUG. SMUG is like a child to me. Being a founder member and the first leader of the network, I cannot keep away from SMUG. It happens naturally. The leaders are great and I have played a supportive role to their wonderful work. The organization’s main goal is legal and policy reform which it is doing well. Without reform in those two aspects, there is no space for LGBTI people in Uganda.

MM: What are some of the biggest differences you’ve experienced being transgender and LGBTQ outside Uganda, from the experiences of people living there?

VM: According to many here in the US, I am not trans enough! According to many I have interacted with, I will be once I have hormonal therapy. It is different in Uganda. I am trans because it is the inner sense of who I am and many around me respect that when I come out to them.
MM:  Do you think progress is being made in Uganda, and what progress do you think is reasonable to hope for in the short term?

VM: There has been a lot of progress. When I started activism in 2002, things were different. Homosexuality was not a topic in spaces. There were no faces of homosexuality. Homosexuals hardly knew of their human rights. No perpetrator of violations was brought to book. Mainstream human rights organizations had nothing to do with the human rights of homosexuals and transgender people. Over the years, we have progressed; many LGBTI people are out, activism has grown, debate has been sparked off, attitudes have improved, court cases by LGBTI people have been won, inclusion of Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) in some HIV interventions has been achieved, civil society has taken on the issue of human rights for LGBTI people, and most recently, gay pride. That is progress, step by step. More is coming. I foresee some legal and policy reform in the next 4-6 years. I am positive.

MM:  What’s next in the life of  Victor Mukasa?

VM:  Well, on the human rights front, I am still defending the basic human rights of everyone both here in the U.S. and back at home. On a personal front, I see family, higher education; growth in every aspect.

Christina Mavuma

 

Christina Mavuma

 

Christina Mavuma: Why she kicks ass

  • She is a trans activist from Botswana who is apart of the Rainbow Identity Association (RIA),  and works with Health Lens; a program that provides services to primary care practices and gives independent physicians an opportunity to engage in meaningful change. It has been described as a movement of change, helping to reshape the role of primary care, and to sustain the cognitive art of medicine.
  • Her project is looking into transgender women and health care system. She was motivated by the fact that most trans women here cannot get formal jobs and therefore cannot afford private health care.
  • “So many trans women find it difficult to access health care from the state clinics or hospitals, as the doctors and nurses there are discriminatory and very judgemental, most painful thing is there are not knowledgeable to trans issues. Even though the services are available they are not user-friendly to the LGBTI community and matters worse for the transgender community as the medical cards are genderised blue card for boys and pink card for girls and this card is given to you after you produce identity card.”
  • The intended outcome of this project is to have doctors and nurses to treat all people with respect including trans or intersex people. It is meant to start dialogues between the doctors and the trans community.
  • She is also involved with The Exchange Program, which is a partnership between Gender DynamiX in South Africa and SIPD in Uganda. This program is aimed at capacitating emerging transgender activists in South Africa and the East African region. Participants get together twice annually to discuss relevant, burning issues on the agenda for the region.

From Crunk Feminist Collective 

#16Days: I am a Genderqueer Peculiarite.

500 years ago a formidable army descended on the university city of Sankore in Timbucktu. When they left the Peculiarites emerged from the spoils. The inhabitants viewed by the Spanish as a strange   skin colour,  their strange language (if it could be called that thought the Spanish conquistador), and their ways earned their land mass the place name , Peculium and it stuck.  Everything about Peculium, as far as the militaristic guests were concerned, had more than a hint of the peculiar, so they named the land mass.

In the time before I underwent a procedure,  I was prescribed natural estrogen by the famous Dr. Aramanda who made it his duty to protect me from the herd of insane soldiers who had come to town. Most trans were rounded up to be used as game like foxes during the hunt or paraded as a marker of wealth. The times were truly vile. They still are.

London felt delicious after dry dry frigging Bath. As soon as it got off the coach It felt like feeding. Most genderqueer peculiarites couldn’t help the urge to feed. That night was the ten thousandth birthday of a distant relative so “It” hadn’t a choice. Genderqueer peculiarites were a close knit folk like that. Although I came from Bath (at least that’s what we told ourselves to keep our real stories safe from the wanderings glances from our human food chain) the furtherest I ventured from the roman architectured city of my birth the closer I felt to the university of Sankore in Timbucktu some 500 years ago in the heart of deepest Africa.

My name is Tantoloun-Yin Misaki of the one million year old clan of the Misakis of Peculium. Most of the family lineage were lost to famine, war, pillage and plunder over the centuries that it was a wonder the name survived to this day.

“I am 5,000 years old this day and I know the ways of the world,” said Tantoloun as if “It” had cracked a joke in the vein of a seasoned standup comedian’s mould. “Imagine that,” mused Tantoloun as “It” pondered the food on display. It didn’t matter the strength of the gang thought Tantoloun as “It” took the Pasha boy in particular in. The boy’s struggle made Tantoloun’s hunt that more interesting.

Suddenly “It” is over come by a convulsive spasms that reminded “It” of the capitulation into the bloodlust that imprisoned peculiarites till this day. However that night was like most nights to the people of that area of London. “It,” the youth thought, “doesn’t deserve the privilege of walking the streets!” commanded a bevy of youths amusement starved and eager for a laugh or something to fill the empty time on their hands. Their raucous was such that Tantoloun’s Peculiarites form threatened to surface; to show itself for what it was but it held back somehow. Scaring the food off wasn’t an option. Tantoloun’s thirst was overpowering to the point that ordinarily nerves might have snapped but “it” was only a matter of time, decorum and a healthy degree of discretion.

Meanwhile every time Tantoloun spoke in the Avon and Somerset accent the gang of young adults vent berserk hooting and hurling insulting abuse:

“Foreigner, go back where you come from. Nobody speaks foreign here,” shouted a six three hulk of a boy from within the gang. Tantoloun’s sensitive eyesight was on him immediately. In spite of the boy’s height he couldn’t be more than 18 years on the face of the earth. The boy thought he knew all there was to know in life. Tantoloun smiled despite the growing rage brewing in “its” entire essence. “It” saw as much as sensed the boy’s fear long before the boy spoke those vile words. Cowardly, vain and insecure the boy joined a gang in order to seem less conspicuous but his build plotted against him. Apart from that there was also his high pitched voice that had an ultra femme ring to it making for an incongruity the boy himself was deeply ashamed of. To mask this the boy started smoking cigars to deepen his voice. An unhealthy habit for one so young. How he came by them was anyone’s guess but Tantoloun saw him steal them from the newsagent’s across the 17 storey high rise council building where the boy lived. Tantoloun laughed so heartily “it” inadvertently drew attention in spite of “itself.”

“Once I was male I became female with the help of Dr. Aramanda now because of your conquistador forebear I’m here,” said Tantoloun without seeming to say a word. Nobody in the gang heard “It” except the Pasha boy. “I was the young girl beaten they said for daring to suggest my kind existed long before the binary conflation that has enslaved all mankind in production line procreation since the beginning of time. “You have a choice,” said Pasha’s army, “become one of our whores and you won’t want for anything. Turn down this offer and we condemn you to a very slow and painful death.” I wouldn’t so I was sent down for something called, ‘corrective rape. I was beaten, raped and beaten again then tossed in a cell for the night. That night a mob of soldiers came. They took turns again. That night I felt the fangs sink in and I went into a coma. They were going to throw me into one of their mass graves when I flew away forever. After that I couldn’t be female or male I became a genderqueer Peculiarite and I have not looked back since.

Meanwhile some members of the gang were girls, one of whom walked with a bragadosio left-right tilt of her shoulders as she walked. She seemed intent on making sure that everyone in the world knew Tantoloun was a genderqueer Peculiarite. She walked fast pass Tantoloun and said out loud, “I’m not like that there. That there is a man!” but her swagger drew more attention than what could have been the sting of words. Other gang members around cackled, jeered and made merry at Tantolorun’s expense shouting, “you are a fucking foreigner. Go back where you came from,” at Tantolorun but “it” kept “its” head up. They were all so engrossed in the terror they assumed they were that they missed the Peculiarites’ peculiarities.

At that point something odd happened. A sudden chill descended. Tantoloun seemed swift as a flash of light as “It” swooped right up towards the juiciest of the gang members and Tantoloun’s eyes were as fearsome as that of the oldest Peculiarite in myth out for a snack. The buff boy’s realisation took the form of a fang bearing, blood sucking fiend bent on eliciting maximum fear while still keeping his prey oblivious. The boy-prey barely moved let alone understood what stood before him nor did he realise the act of wetting himself until it was too late to conceal. As Tantoloun came close the boy tried to scream but no voice came from him. He could have been dreaming but he could have sworn he hadn’t fallen asleep. Fearing imminent death -his- he put up what looked like a struggle to no avail. He found himself rooted to the spot as if by some magnetic force. Just then as he had glimpsed the futility of his efforts he gave up to the inevitable.

“I don’t blame any of you. Five thousand years ago, I became a genderqueer Peculiarite.

“In your language, that is, Peculiarites are synonymous with what you call, vampires. You had better watch out or I’d have you for a snack. Five thousand years ago I became a Peculiarite at the hands of one of Judas Pasha’s army the day Sankore fell. Did you know you are the last known descendant of the Spanish general? The news of the day had the news if you know where to look. That day Dr. Aramanda was shot and the world hadn’t known light since.

When I woke up everything was different. What I noticed was the deep craving to feed…

Mia Nikasimo (c) November 2012

Frisked by Frisker : A Transphobia Story

Dear Frisker,

So why the frisking, my darling frisker?
You size me up as I approach your citadel;
Your mind cannot withstand my masculine;
You frisk me as rough as I have ever experienced
How could you then question racist next door?

So why the frisking, my darling frisker?
Did you enjoy yourself while you were at it?
You were no better nor worse than the door hand
At G.A.Y that frisked me and then; “So sorry!”
I’m reminded, “birds of a feather flock together”.

So why the frisking, my darling frisker?
I didn’t see your tongue hanging out or anything.
You were not exactly feminine yourself; frisker?
Your eyes clouded over at the burn of intolerance
Your colleague’s bombastic banter unsettled you.

So why the frisking, my darling frisker?
Why me? Why on the day we sought to shine?
Black Pride was never supposed to be about death,
Was it? Think again, you could do better.
Or was it the influence of the master’s language?

Yours truly,

Frisked.

Fighting Oppression 1

Dear Nfifi,

Although I was deeply grateful to be part of the Height’s Collective albeit for such a short time during which I became aware of the good work the organisation does in terms of general activism: immigration, prostitution and other areas where the oppression of women persists. One question I really needed to ask you was, “given how you feel now, if I as a transwoman of African origin approached you for your advice, would you fling me to the dogs? It wouldn’t have been a first, according to Leslie Feinberg who likened transphobia to colonialism and illustrated the murders of “two spirited” people while Balboa & co (European colonialists) watched as depicted in a 1594 engraving by Theodor de Bry1.

 

To think most African’s in the Diaspora, some literate others illiterate, who think we no longer suffer the consequences of colonialism? Racism, transphobia (or what some call gender-phobia2) and sexism (both hetero and homo) to be sure. Decolonialism, which one would be sensible to view as your line of work still leaves a lot of unanswered questions around gender identity and sexual orientation which needs specific attention —the transgender perspective, to be precise which on the whole seem relegated to oblivion post-the-Stonewall- march against a heavy handed police force. Perhaps you are not aware of these pitfalls in your activism but I can’t escape their impacts. Black neo-colonialists pepper the entire black community where gender and sexual intolerance with the consequent gender colonialism is rife. I face them daily through acknowledging their subtle presences but this is not enough.

I was interested to see how the Height’s Collective at Tishken Town might be an outlet for transwomen of African origin which is important from where I stood. Little did I know that the ravings of a transphobe’s held such sway in and around the above mentioned collective until it hit me in the face in the person of Eulij? So traumatic was my experience of this open infraction that I felt a need for the first time to face up to the continuing gender colonialism that certain lesbian activists faced with transsexual women that choose atypical gender expressions harbour. The question that comes to mind is, “can one be assured that no more such eventualities will arise in the future of this ongoing hub of joint activism against the oppression of women?” I cannot confidently say no given your own unquestioning response to Eulij’s transphobic stance. Should it matter that after transition I choose to adopt a sexuality of choice? Why do ‘gender terrorists’3 think that they are well suited to the decolonisation of gender and sexuality by the same token while to all intent and purpose they purported to be fighting the good fight for ALL WOMEN?

As we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century, I cannot pretend that I am confident about the seduction of the old guard’s allies by proxy of activists so rooted in their ways that they miss the part they play in the perpetuation of oppressive ideologies around race, gender identity and sexualities perhaps unknowingly or deliberately. The example of a militant at work can be glimpsed in “Better Than Chocolate,”4 which depicted an angry butch who took it upon herself to gender terrorise a femme pre-op transwoman after a set in which she sang a song about being transgendered and insisted that she would not let the world forget her status as a “transgender person”. After her set, she was in the Ladies with Frances, her “genetic girl” girlfriend who left to pay the bills hot under the collar.

The Butch militant entered shortly afterwards, insults Judith Squires (the transgender woman) by calling her attention as if she were addressing a disgusting pet pig, and then goes on to address her in the following terms: “Sir… Shouldn’t you be in the men’s?” Although Judith tried to defend herself to no avail, at least she tried. The Militant, however, was insufferable. She attacks Judith passive victim with a bag of rubbish which she wielded like a baseball bat deliberately and accurately. As luck would have it, Judith is saved by Margie and her partner, Kim, who forced the Militant to see the error of her ways under Kim’s expert and effectively applied arm lock forcing the militant to retract her insults. In reality this response might only solve a fraction of the problem if it managed to scratch the surface at all since Judith Squires only represents the white, talented, and supported and “passing” side of transsexuality. What about the many transsexual women that did not have all those networks to secure their place in the world? Where do they go?

As a black or African transwoman, I was once asked to carry the mantle for other transwomen or those less willing to be seen to ‘rock the boat’ due to a lack of confidence by a member of my then local Victim Support. I was cautious with good reason. Even there and then before leaving my local housing office with which I was in dispute I saw it all over again. Although my complaint was about a clerical officer I wasn’t expecting both housing manager and an LGBT liaison officer to become just as hostile as the person I’d reported for less. On their way to the toilet they engaged in the usual transphobic banter outside the view of their co-participants with impunity. It didn’t even bother them that the victim support representative was still there in the building. Was I then expected to be overjoyed at such abusive treatment? I wondered when ‘equal opportunities’ became ‘only equal on transphobic terms’ as some public officials tend to deploy the policy depending on each other’s complicity to keep inequality for certain individuals alive!

Seeing similar attitudes on full display with non judgemental activists at the Height’s Collective was not entirely unexpected since human beings of all races, gender identities and sexualities have a common humanness with smidgens of prejudice which seemed to persist but that does not mean it should be allowed to do so unchallenged, does it? In other words, I’m saying that you Nfifi are only human but I do not think a person in your shoes should allow ‘dangerous activism’ as in a transphobe’s view to contaminate the good work you do? I thought I had better tell you this the way I’m doing because it is important that you know my opinion this way if no other avenue of getting it to you is available at present, I feel this will have to do.

A dependence on certain neurotic habits such as hatred oriented gossip, rumour mongering and outright abuse that certain African/black people still use to police themselves are dangerous tools for an activist to employ in the course of their duties. They may even hold extreme views concerning gender and sexuality as credible ways of socialising and freely sharing these with activists in subtle transphobic tittle-tattle which activist’s then reproduce in their work while unknowingly undermining their own effectiveness as social actors. This can be dangerous for ongoing or yet to be acknowledged types of engagement. Perhaps that’s the idea? The question is, how does such intolerance help us in our attempts to at stamping out oppression altogether? It will be sad if we turn out to be saying, if it does not concern us personally, it is alright to flaunt laws put in place to protect every one of us without exclusion.

Personally I am taken by Audre Lorde’s position on most of the questions I have raised here. ‘… Outside of rhetoric and proclamations of solidarity, there is no help, except ourselves’ 5 Asking someone else to do our activism for us is often problematic. These words leave me in no doubt that it is time the African LGB and especially “T” fought its own battle as of old? I’m grateful that the collective upholds the course of women but transgenderism (by which I mean transsexuals, intersexuals and genderqueer women) cannot be effectively supported without a genuine understanding of who we are. Being an activist by itself is not a prerequisite for understanding the transgender community and this more than anything else is the unique expertise I hoped I might have been able to share with other sisters with respect rather than firing off shots about who said what and when. It is a shame that this is all the Collective’s rigidity thinks activism amounts to in their adversarial mindset but it doesn’t have to be. What’s wrong with us working together?

Mia Nikasimo © February 2009

Call For Papers TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 1:2 Decolonizing the Transgender Imaginary

What would it mean to “decolonize the transgender imaginary?” 

Popular narratives about transgender communities, identities, and practices outside North America and Europe often imagine non-Western locales as either idyllic havens of traditional acceptance towards gender diversity, or else as backward places in which trans people, like gays and lesbians (both Euro-American constructs) are universally shunned and hated. In both schemes, the non-West forms a premodern backdrop for the civilizing, tolerant liberalism of a homonationalist or trans-normative modernity. All the while, trans people and nonbinary gender systems find ways to survive, live and thrive. In these existences, we find important challenges and negotiations to localized discourses of modernity. A transnational transgender rights movement, at times sited in the global south, has taken shape over the last decade, enabled by new media technologies that are as symbolic of late capitalist industrial modernity as are the body technologies of changing sex. Together, these contradictory flows form a transnational transgender imaginary. Who are the players in this transnational transgender imaginary? What is at stake in such representational struggles? How does imagining globally networked communities of trans people interact with already-existing global flows: post- and neo-colonialism; global capital; immigration; diaspora; refuge and asylum seeking; global labor flows such as sex work or care work, and leisure travel?

Trans and queer of color scholarship has already begun to critique the homonationalism within emergent forms of “trans-normative” citizenship in many locations. And yet the very terms “trans of color” and “queer of color” signify, for some, a concern with the racial economies of the U.S. How do these optics and critiques work in a transnational context? How might such critique inform international NGO funding or human rights activism? How do “trans of color” and “queer of color” signify differently in different continents, regions, and locales? How are issues of linguistic diversity and translation to be addressed from a decolonizing perspective?

Multiple perspectives within and without queer studies about the “queer globe” have addressed similar questions for some time. Transnational queer scholarship comments on, and often participates in, a transnational LGBT justice movement. Much of the existing scholarship on transnational gender-variant social practices has appeared in the context of queer anthropology. While this cross-cultural work has made critical contributions to theories of how sexual and gender non-normativities emerge in relation to local, regional, and global flows, it also often assumes “homosexuality” as the default category of analysis within which gender-variance is subsumed. This raises important questions about the epistemological investments that contemporary Anglophone queer and transgender studies have in the categorical (dis)articulations of gender, identity, and sexuality. 

We seek to call attention to the assumptions operating in much of this cross-cultural work that both biological sex and the categories “man” and “woman” are stable and self-evident across time, space, and culture, resulting in homosexuality being privileged as the essential framework in which to categorize sex and gender. These conceptual operations impose an Anglophone, modern, and western interpretive schema on historically colonized parts of the world. How might a transgender focus alter, sharpen, critique or inform such scholarship? Conversely, when scholars, activists, and funding bodies use the term “transgender” as an umbrella for local or regional categories indexing sex and gender diversity, we risk making a similar imperialist move. How might emphasizing a transgender studies perspective do more than simply offer  “trans” as a better alternative to “homo,” and instead find new ways to encounter the global diversity of embodied subjectivities? How might transgender studies contribute to the decolonization of the sex and gendered imaginaries through which we grasp a world of difference?

Framed within the context of a transgender studies journal based in North America, this special issue itself is implicated in the colonialism of the North American academy. How do we decolonize our own ways of thinking transgender? How do we decolonize transgender studies itself?

We invite proposals for scholarly essays that address these and similar issues. Potential topics might include transgender studies in relation to: 

  • multiple, geographically disparate modernities
  • trans as a site of racial, class, anticolonial struggle
  • indigenous studies and settler colonialism
  • decolonizing transgender studies
  • trans of color critique
  • critiques of cross-cultural analysis
  • whiteness
  • anthropology
  • transgender necropolitics
  • transnationality
  • the “third gender” debate
  • transnational violence, transphobia, and responses to “hate crimes”
  • ethnographic methods
  • global trans movements
  • the uses of “transgender” in NGO’s and the academy
  • trans studies from the global south
  • south-south dialogues
  • global trafficking and sex work
  • citizenship and national belonging
  • global migration
  • trans inclusion within queer anthropology
  • the innocence of difference and trans studies globally
  • challenges in circulation/use of transposing theories and methodologies
  • local categories and vocabularies of trans survival and existence

To be considered for publication, please submit an article by February 1, 2013 to tsqjournal AT Gmail DOT com. Include a brief bio, your name, postal address, email, and any institutional affiliation. Final revisions will be due by May 2013.