Tag Archives: Queer Politics

Against Discrimination: An Open Letter to African Leaders

H. E. Joaquim Chissano is the former President of Mozambique and current co-chair of the High-Level Task Force for the ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development)
H. E. Joaquim Chissano is the former President of Mozambique and current co-chair of the High-Level Task Force for the ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development)

Originally posted in the Africa Report, January 14, 2014








This is a transformative moment for Africa – and indeed, for the world.
Decision-makers from across the continent, under the able leadership of Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, are finalising a crucial document outlining a common position for Africa on the development agenda that will replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015.

To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others – Nelson Mandela

Since the 1990s, Africa has gained considerable strength in international negotiations by sticking together and forging consensus on important issues.

It is a strategy that has empowered us in many ways. And it means that our voices will be heard when the framework that will guide governments, donors and development partners for years to come is negotiated. So we need to be careful what we ask for.

I urge our leaders to draw from the lessons of the past, but also to heed current realities. And to look ahead to what the future is calling forth – because this new development agenda will affect the lives of millions of our people at a very critical time for Africa.

I encourage leaders to take a strong stand for fundamental human rights, and advance the trajectory for basic freedoms.

This means pushing for three priorities that lie at the heart of sustainable development: the empowerment of women and gender equality; the rights and empowerment of adolescents and youth; and the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people.

These interlinked priorities and their policy implications have been carefully analysed by the High-Level Task Force for the ICPD that I co-chair.

We have found that they represent not only human rights imperatives, but smart, cost-effective investments to foster more equitable, healthy, productive, prosperous and inclusive societies, and a more sustainable world.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights, in particular, are a prerequisite for empowering women and the generations of young people on whom our future depends.

This simply means granting every one the freedom – and the means — to make informed decisions about very basic aspects of one’s life – one’s sexuality, health, and if, when and with whom to have relationships, marry or have children – without any form of discrimination, coercion or violence.

This also implies convenient, affordable access to quality information and services and to comprehensive sexuality education.

We can no longer afford to discriminate against people on the basis of age, sex, ethnicity, migrant status, sexual orientation and gender identity, or any other basis – we need to unleash the full potential of everyone.

As an African who has been around a long time, I understand the resistance to these ideas.

But I can also step back and see that the larger course of human history, especially of the past century or so, is one of expanding human rights and freedoms.

African leaders should be at the helm of this, and not hold back. Not at this critical moment.

The international agenda that we will help forge is not just for us here and now, but for the next generations and for the world.

As I think about these issues, I am reminded of the words of our recently departed leader, who gained so much wisdom over the course of his long walk to freedom.

“To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains,” Nelson Mandela reminded us, “but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Let us live up to his immortal words.

• H. E. Joaquim Chissano is the former President of Mozambique and current co-chair of the High-Level Task Force for the ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development)

Who said it was simple? Exhibition in Dakar,Senegal

The ‘Who said it was simple’ exhibition runs from 28 January- 29 March 2014 at the Raw Material Company Gallery in Dakar, Senegal. Through a series of exhibits,  workshops and talks the exhibition explores sexualities, the treatment of minorities and marginalised people, and what it means to create societies where people can fully express their identities including around sexuality.


L’exposition Qui a dit que c’était simple* ouvre un programme d’un an dédié aux libertés individuelles, à leur perception et à leur restriction. Le programme offrira expositions, ateliers, projections, laboratoires de réflexion et une publication finale. Qui a dit que c’était simple, le premier acte de la série d’activités, s’attache à l’univers des médias pour interroger la situation actuelle au Sénégal et en Afrique du traitement des minorités ou des marginalités.

Qui a dit que c’était simple est un programme critique ouvert commissarié par Eva Barois De Caevel. À travers un travail de mise en perspective et de mise en espace d’une abondante documentation — y compris des coupures de presse, du matériel audiovisuel et des cartes — cette exposition cherche à poser, sur la base de la production médiatique, la question du traitement des marginalités, mais aussi à poser une question plus fondamentale : comment défendre les droits humains et retrouver une structuration à laquelle la société puisse adhérer quand les conceptions des libertés individuelles, notamment en matière de sexualité, sont déterminées par un héritage complexe ainsi que par des formes contemporaines de conditionnement social?

* Le titre est emprunté à un poème d’Audre Lorde (1934-1992), auteure et activiste africaine-américaine. Le travail de cette figure importante traite de la discrimination, de la marginalisation et de la sexualité.

Anti-Gay Laws and the Unification of Nigeria

From The Feminist Wire, an excellent article by Adejoke Tugbiyele “Sexual Identity and Nigerian Culture”   which examines the challenges presented by  the recently signed Same Sex Marriage Bill and the resulting explosion of homophobic violence across the country.

“I spent the latter part of 2013 living and working in Nigeria under a Fulbright Scholarship.  My research dealt with the cross-section of spirituality and sexuality among LGBTQ communities living in that country and how they navigate a largely conservative, religious society.  My first three months in Lagos were very productive.  I attended gay parties with my friend and activist Williams Rashidi, with whom I had many engaging debates about how to bring about change in the minds of others towards queer communities.  I also filmed a panel discussion organized by The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERS) at their screening of the new documentary Veil of Silence.  I visited the Shrine of Osun, based in Oshogbo, and interviewed a Yoruba Priest and Priestess about homosexuality within traditional Yoruba culture. I engaged LGBTQ communities in Lagos, as well as Nigerians abroad, about what it meant for them to be queer and Nigerian. The responses I got mirrored many of the issues one would find in mainstream society.  Just like straight people, queer people also need access to good health care, clean drinking water, a better educational system, and so on.  In other words, LGBTQ people are people, and their sexuality does not necessarily make their daily experiences remarkably different from the average Nigerian, African or global citizen.

My research and my self became threatened when President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMP) earlier this year. It is essentially an anti-gay law, as it includes the banning of all gay parties and organizations. It also states that any public and private display of affection is punishable with 10 years imprisonment. Practically overnight, LGBTQ people, who are worried about things like getting to work on-time just like everyone else, now fear leaving their homes altogether.  Their beloved country had just labeled them criminals. I, as an out-lesbian artist living in Nigeria at the time, had also been criminalized.  Police have essentially enacted a “witch-hunt” for gays, and these were just the stories we could access in the papers. Apparently, other evils have emerged within the past two weeks that have not been covered in Nigerian news outlets. For instance, I just learned that a “gay convert” just stabbed his gay friend to death in Lagos last weekend.  The fear this new law has raised in LGBTQ communities has led people to turn on each other.

The fundamental problem with Nigeria’s anti-gay law is that it unites supposed enemies within Muslim and Christian sects, and it validates and empowers their extremist, conservative views on how we ought to live.  The empowerment of hate groups is not only happening in Nigeria.  With the events unfolding in Russia regarding the Sochi Olympics, the world is beginning to wake up to LGBTQ rights.  Along those lines, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently argued that LGBTQ rights are one of “the civil rights challenges of our time.”

I am concerned, however, that the West would not be pressing this hard on global LGBTQ rights had the events of the Sochi Olympic Games not unfolded. After all, the “corrective rape” of lesbians has been rampant in places like South Africa for decades now. And it was just over three years ago when LGBTQ activist David Kato was brutally murdered in Uganda.  Further, the extortion and bribery of LGBTQ people has become common place in Nigeria, as depicted in a handful of homophobic Nollywood films, such as Hideous Affair (2010). “The Video Closet” by Lindsey Green-Simms and Unoma Azuah thoughfully examines how mainstream homophobic views are reflected in within the regulated Nollywood film industry. Regarding sexual identity, we can argue that this historically dominant view still holds—the African/Black body as “less important” than that of the Western/White body. The sexual revolution that begun in the West must not fall prey to the mistakes of the feminist revolution in the U.S. in order to be considered truly global. We must remember that the emergence of writers like Angela Y. Davis, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Audre Lorde was a response to racist feminisms that excluded Black women. Similarly, African female writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have emerged to continue the feminist wave across the Atlantic. In short, with all the work that still needs to be done globally to combat discrimination, the additional fight for sexual rights in Africa and throughout the diaspora makes the work even more difficult. The sexual revolution must be global and inclusive of all peoples for it to have lasting impact both socially and politically.

Internal problems certainly don’t help. In the case of Nigeria, there are still too many parents that won’t allow their Yoruba daughters to marry Igbo sons. Many Igbo people are calling on the federal government to apologize for the genocide of Biafra. A lot of Hausa people in the North believe that Nigeria belongs to them, since it was handed to them one hundred years ago by the British during the Amalgamation of 1914. Therefore, national unity and identity is not as defined in Nigeria as it is in the United States. To a large extent, believing that the masses will “do nothing” is partly what empowers the federal government to sign such hateful and demeaning laws in the first place.   Continue reading on the Feminist Wire.





In the Heart of the Afro-Caribbean LGBTQI Communities, Call for Contributions by Cases Rebelles and Q-Zine

Focused primarily on the African continent and experiences until now, Q-Zine, the first pan-African, bilingual art and culture LGBTI magazine, in collaboration with Cases Rebelles, is expanding its pan-African horizons! In the next issue of the magazine we are turning our inquiries to the rich and complex issues of the LGBTQI Afro-Caribbean community (taken in its widest definition!). From the Bahamas to Guyana, and from Haiti to Guadeloupe to Cuba, we want to hear from you in Creole, English, French, Spanish and all the other voices of the region. We are seeking to portray the many aspects of Caribbean LGBTQIs in this edition whether living in the region or in the Diaspora.


Colonial history, tourism and the global misappropriation of culture often reduce the Caribbean to an exotic, clichéd image. The same goes for understanding queer issues. In this co-edition by Cases Rebelles/Q-Zine, we are looking to widen our perspectives of LGBTQI identities and expressions in the Caribbean- how is it defined, called and expressed? What are the unique traditions, inventions and inspirations of queer Caribbean communities? Are there privileged spaces, moments and cultural contexts used by LGBTQI communities?  What are uniquely Caribbean characteristics of the LGBTQI identities and what influence has the global LGBTQI movement had on the ability to exist, express, define, fight and love in the Caribbean? What is the influence of migration? Of tourism and the perception it imposes on the region?

We invite you to share by writing, your opinions, essays, critiques, literature, short-stories, photo-essay, paintings, poems, music, dance, fashion, art, news or other contributions on the theme “Afro-Caribbean LGBTQI cultures” in this edition of Cases Rebelles/Q-Zine that aims to paint the queer Caribbean panorama as diverse as the Caribbean region itself- both locally and throughout its Diaspora. We also welcome your audiovisual contributions.

Cases Rebelles is a collective of Black, African and Caribbean women and men. Since 2010, Cases Rebelles seeks to challenge and shake-up thinking and perspectives about and from Afro-Caribbean through it monthly web-radio programming and publication of the same name.

Since 2011, Q-zine, the only Pan-African LGBTI art and culture digital magazine aims to create and to be a forum for any type of expression, any topic or idea, and all shades of opinion relevant to LGBTI lives.

Cases Rebelles and QAYN invite to send your contributions to the co-editors at contact AT qayn-center.org and contact AT cases-rebelles.org.

Deadline : 10 February 2014

Jaywalking the Freeway from Fear

From Center for Women’s Global Leadership by Bernedette Muthien, South Africa

In 1993, the year of the germinal UN conference in Vienna, the first President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, affirmed that all freedoms (and hence oppressions) are interdependent. This speaks critically to intersectionality, the study of the interactions of multiple systems of oppression, and its intersections with privilege. Intersectionality influenced South Africa’s groundbreaking Constitutional equality clause, which guarantees the rights of all peoples.

Vienna was a groundbreaking intersectional moment too, affirming human rights as a universal standard and emphasising the indivisible, interdependent nature of human rights, specifically in response to the historic divide between civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other hand.

Intersectionality shows how categories such as gender, race, class, ability, sexuality and other forms of identity interact in myriad ways, contributing to systematic societal inequity. Classic conceptions of oppression in society, such as racism, sexism and homophobia interrelate, creating a web of subjugation.

While we are familiar with victims suffering violence, we often forget that witnesses suffer vicarious trauma, and that most perpetrators are themselves survivors of violence, including gender-based violence, that violence and discrimination often stems from insecurity and fear, rather than a lustful nature, no mirth intended.

Of less concern are the labels or issues we are still forced to deal with, like widespread gender-based violence that has not diminished over decades of feminist activisms and progressive legislation and policies. Of greater import are the approaches taken, the imperialist or colonial gaze, how we conceptualise issues, how these lenses shape/d activisms.

This includes the narrow LGBTQQI discourse, European letters completely ignorant of and sidestepping ancient same sex practices on all continents, including woman to woman marriage across Africa. Ifi Amadiume and the late Audre Lorde famously argued whether these women had romantic-sexual relations, Audre’s argument, or whether it was entirely about property relations and ensuring succession, Ifi’s contention. This ancient practice was almost entirely eradicated by colonial Christianity, yet it still persists, especially in rural areas, across East, Central and West Africa.

Of equal concern is the classification, led by the global North, of the rape of lesbians, ostensibly due to their sexuality, as a “hate crime”. This divorces so-called “curative” or “corrective” rape from its rootedness in gender-based violence and an analysis and challenge of Patriarchy, effectively deradicalising a revolutionary moment.

The presumption by feminist scholars and activists, especially those entrenched and aptly rewarded in euro-formed discourses, of the primordialism of patriarchy is another point of vexation to those of us from ancient indigenous societies that still remain matrilineal and women-centred, despite centuries of colonial and capitalist depredations. Matrilineal societies, still existing across the continents of the world, tend to be socially and gender egalitarian, with deep-rooted conflict resolution practices and hence less violent. The matriarchal Iroquois of North America’s precolonial Great Peace of the Haudenosee are said to have gifted the United States with the foundations of their Constitution. What can we learn from these nonviolent egalitarian peoples, their complex histories and ways of being? In as much as we study the League of Nations and the social welfarism of Scandinavia. Even as we smartly don the business suits, modern offspring of military uniforms, so necessary for our advocacy and scholarly endeavours, do we hear Audre Lorde’s admonishment of the complexities of employing the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house?

The silofication of our discourse and struggle speaks to a weakness of the global imagination. We need to indigenise our struggles. We need to use language that is familiar to local peoples the world over, so that tyrannical patriarchal leaders cannot say our practices are un-African or un-Russian, because they are indeed indigenous and we have been doing it since time began. With indigenous knowledge we can more effectively resist the flood of fundamentalist Christians from North America and Europe recolonizing our continents, aided by despots more interested in scapegoating marginalised communities than in addressing issues of socio-economic justice.

We need to note that violences are structural-cultural, and due to Patriarchy, women are at the centre of this war on our bodies and minds. While we focus on choice, autonomy, desire and pleasure, we need to remember that we need socio-economic-cultural rights to be truly free.

As the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa, brutally slain by Apartheid securocrats during the 1970s said in a speech in my Mother City of Cape Town: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” And we all know Bob Marley’s song, “none but ourselves can free our minds…”

Bernedette Muthien, scholar, a poet, and an activist. She co-founded and directs Engender, an NGO which works in the intersectional areas of genders, human rights, justice and peace. Over 20 years, on all six continents, she produced 170 publications and conference presentations, some of which have been translated from English into other languages, including Dutch, Flemish, French, German, and Italian. Follow her @BerneMuthien

Butch & Menstruation is Art

From inkanyiso  photo documentary on a radical response to violence against Black lesbians by Zanele Muholi

As we continue to live and survive in troubled times as black lesbians in South Africa and within the continent, where rampant hate crimes and brutal killings of same gender loving women is rife. This ongoing project is an activist/artist’s radical response to that violence.

The passage in which we bleed
The passage where we are/ were born
The passage through which we become (wo)men?
The erotic passage meant to be aroused, is raped
The passage we love is hated and called names
The sacred passage is ever persecuted

I continue to bleed each time I read about rampant ‘curative rapes’ in my ‘democratic’ South Africa.
I bleed every time queer bodies are violated and refused citizenship due gender expression and sexual orientation within the African continent.
I constantly bleed when I hear about brutal murders of black lesbians in our townships and
surrounding areas.
I’m scarred and scared as I don’t know whose body will be next to be buried.
I bleed because our human rights are ripped.
I cry and bleed as mothers, lovers, friends, relatives lose their beloved ones,
let alone the children that become orphans because of trans/queerphobic violence.
We bleed, our life cycles invaded, we bleed against the will of our bodies and beings.

Each patterned piece in this series represents a ‘curative rape’ survivor or a victim of hate crime,
the physical and spiritual blood that is shed from our bodies.


2013 June 27:   Menstruation is Art

10h10 am

period 1 @ 06h00 DSCN5067


period @ 12h46 DSCN5041

period 4 @ 14h21 DSCN5046


period 4 @ 14h57 DSCN5049


period 6 @ 14h59 DSCN5052


period 7 @ 4h25 pm DSCN5054


period 8 @ 11h59 DSCN5057


period 9 @ DSCN5060


period 11 @ 4h30 DSCN5062


period 12 @ 4h32 pm DSCN5068


period 13 @ 4h36 pm DSCN5080


period 14 @ 4h37 DSCN5083


period 14 @ 4h42 DSCN5098


period 14 DSCN5088

@ 17h01

period 16 @ 5h24 DSCN5027

@ 17h54

Date:  3rd Feb. 2013
Location: Michel Bizot, Paris. FRANCE
Camera used: Nikon. COOLPIX S100
Exposure time: 1/25
Medium: Menstrual blood on A4 paper and serviette
Titled:  Each photo is time titled when the photo was captured.

These photos of my menstruation were in Feb. 2013 when I was in Paris.
It was a very cold day, snowing outside and I woke up bleeding with bad period pains. I decided to remain indoors for the whole day and visualized my menstruation.
Like I did before when I started photographing my menstrual blood.
I thought to myself how can I explain this to someone who might have different notions about being “butch” bleeding and suffering from menstrual pains. I turned the pain into a project. Later archived the pain.

Always torn (2005) by Zanele Muholi

Always torn (2005)
by Zanele Muholi

Ok. On a good day I use Always with wings.
Sometimes I use white serviette to produce better menstrual paintings with.
I go for 5 days straight with heavy flow on day 4.
I started my menstruation when I was eleven (11), which means that I’d have graduated with 4 degrees if one was praised for bleeding.
I’ve been bleeding and suffering from menstrual pains for more than 25 years. I left out some years because I just block it out of my head.

a friend said to me, "Phola ndod' uzoqina" English translation - Just Be Strong man. (2005)

a friend said to me, “Phola ndod’ uzoqina”
English translation – Just Be Strong man.

In 1994 a gynecologist prescribed NovaSure contraceptive pills to stabilize the pains and also to help with my hormonal imbalance. Later on they got better and then I stopped taking them.
Early this year a butch friend recommended Mybulin coz she use it. It worked for 2 months and now it does not anymore.

This is project is not about that… but what it became

Read previous and see motifs exhibited at Blank projects in 2011 titled Isilumo Siyaluma (2006 – 2011)

Ummeli, 2011. Digital print on cotton rag of a digital collage of Menstrual blood stains.

Ummeli, 2011. Digital print on cotton rag of a digital collage of Menstrual blood stains.

What I said later… At the height of hate crimes and queercide in South Africa.


Click here to read statement

Mandela’s Queer Legacy

From the Mail & Guardian, Phumi Mtetwa discusses Nelson Mandela’s role in facilitating LGBTI rights in South Africa through encouraging dialogue. However his contribution fell short as failed upset the social and economic structures at the  core of inequality.

“Oliver Tambo thetha noBotha akhulul’ Mandela / u Mandela azobusa… [Oliver Tambo speak to Botha to release Mandela to rule!"]

Many anti-apartheid activists of my generation sang this song, along with others. I can still feel the yearning for freedom, which we believed Nelson Mandela’s ascent to the presidency would bring.

And so, on the eve of his release, we marched and danced in the streets of KwaThema; the next day we watched on big screens as he walked out of prison, raising his fist. For many of us that was the first taste of how freedom felt — and our struggles seemed closer to an end.

On April 27 1994 we voted for the ANC and for Mandela as South Africa’s first democratically elected president. In May that year, on the occasion of the opening of Parliament, Mandela said: “We must construct that people-centred society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political liberties and the human rights of all our citizens.”

Encouraged by many calls to build a new South Africa, about 70 lesbian, gay and human rights organisations launched the South African National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality (NCGLE) in Johannesburg in December 1994. This new formation had the objective of guaranteeing equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation, in the country’s new Constitution and legislation. The coalition’s strategy was informed by the diversity of its constituency and in recognition of all forms of oppression. It thus campaigned for equality for all.

This significant moment in the history of gay and lesbian organising in South Africa had its roots in the anti-apartheid struggles, in which many openly gay and lesbian people were active. It was also a moment for the majority in South Africa collectively to define the nature of the way  we relate to each other as a people, informed by a past filled with exclusion, oppression, discrimination and violence.

Discriminatory conditions
The wider ANC movement, at home and abroad, had been challenged to discuss homosexuality openly and explicitly, and to adopt policies that protected lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

The 1993 interim constitution had the equality clause, which recognised a range of discriminatory conditions and identities by means of which South Africans were excluded. Sexual orientation was one of them.

The coalition saw the significance of the ANC’s commitments to human rights, and of what Mandela implied in his presidential address in 1994: that the Bill of Rights, as endorsed by the ANC in 1990, encodes principles that “speak of a [an] … order in which, regardless of colour, gender, religion, political opinion or sexual orientation, the law will provide for the equal protection of all citizens.”

A coalition delegation (Simon Nkoli, British actor Sir Ian McKellen and myself) met President Mandela in February 1995, at the ANC’s then headquarters, to acknowledge the organisation’s commitment to equality, and to reiterate the importance of ensuring that it lived up to that commitment and presented the aspirations of many lesbian and gay people, organised as the NCGLE.

Mandela’s presidency was one of constitutional and legal reform. In 1996, when the final Constitution was adopted, we could continue to celebrate the equality clause and the Bill of Rights.

The NCGLE, until it was disbanded in 1999, then the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, and then the LGBTI Joint Working Group and their member organisations, worked on legal reforms such as the recognition of same-sex partnerships and marriage. This latter campaign was successful in 2006, when Parliament passed the Civil Union Bill. That is one instance of widely celebrated processes and results attributable to Mandela’s vision of South Africa as the “rainbow nation”.

Basis of sexual orientation
At the ANC’s 50th congress, in 1997, the party adopted a resolution opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This resolution drew on the party’s 1993 “Ready to Govern” document, which had included support for equality for LGBTI South Africans, committing the ANC to public representation of LGBTI people, and calling for ­programmes to counter anti-gay prejudice and to promote equality in the organisation.

The importance of these victories was huge. Many people came out. The oldest Pride march in Africa (Johannesburg’s) no longer included faces hooded with brown paper bags!

The legal gains helped to reverse discriminatory practices. Mandela became an important icon of the movement, in contrast to homophobic leaders such as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Namibia’s Sam Nujoma and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni.

Mandela came from a political tradition that encouraged debate, and provided leadership of a kind seldom seen now in Africa. He lived up to his name, Dalibhunga — “convenor of the dialogue”. He courageously listened and positioned his views according to the principles he stood for, even if they were unpopular.

He knew there were threats to freedom and equality. He knew legislative changes would not eliminate social and economic oppression and exclusion. He did not, however, upset the political and economic structure at the core of inequality and, in turn, of rising homophobic and other violence, misogyny and other forms of scapegoating of the impoverished by the impoverished.

These are issues the ANC should address urgently to rectify the contradiction of advancing a sociopolitical vision such as Mandela’s without reconstructing the political-economic structure.

As a queer activist I will remember uTatu Dalibhunga for the dreams of freedom he symbolised. This, for me, offers renewed inspiration to continue to challenge neocolonialism and capitalism. I will defend South Africa’s Bill of Rights and struggle to make the government deliver on its promises. I will struggle against the hate waged against LGBTI people and nationals from other African countries who are living here. I will struggle against inequality, patriarchy, misogyny and racism. I will struggle against tribalism, nationalism and fundamentalism.

Many LGBTI people across the world celebrate Pride on the last weekend of June. In several South African cities and townships, Pride happens throughout the year! I hope that at all such events, with rainbow flags flying high, we celebrate one of the freedom movement’s greatest icons, and that we reflect and build on Mandela’s insight: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Phumi Mtetwa is a co-founder of the NCGLE and former executive director of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project

Personal herstories Lihles story

First part – Inkanyiso

My name is Lihle, (not real name). I chose not to use my real name for this story because I was scared of being victimized. Even though I’m not ashamed of the fact that I’m living with the virus. I’m not ready for the stares, and some people will over do the caring things to show that they do not have a problem with me being HIV positive.

I am a 28 year old lesbian woman, mother of an 8 year old boy who brings joy in my life every day.
I live in Khayelitsha with my brothers, I do technical support for a private company, and I studied information technology. I love writing, organizing event and just helping young kids to achieve their dreams.

At the moment I’m registering my project to teach young people from my community about different things like beading and talking about my experiences through life. With my partner’s help we managed to get some material, we also teach fine arts and hopefully in the long run we will be able to teach ceramics as well. However, the material is too expensive for us at the moment.

I’m very passionate about activism, I love happiness and I hate laziness.

I have overcome my fears about the virus and I made a decision that I will not die until my son is old enough to fend for himself and I hope to see my grandchildren. I am one of the luckiest people alive to have a partner that loves and supports me in all I do. She is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I can safely say she is the partner I’ve been looking for, she is compassionate and I love her to bits not just for being there for me but I love her for my heart, she is good for my soul.
If I believed in destiny I would say “she is my destiny” or “the one”. I sometimes feel like I have no right to have sex with her since she is negative, however, that’s something my counsellor and I are working on, but my biggest fear is what if something goes wrong with the protection we are using and I end up infecting her.

I am involved in a lot of activities which keep me going, and my family has been great. The thing that keeps me going is the decision I make every morning to forgive and be happy. So I have to make sure I smile and at least make the one person that keeps me going smiling.

Second part

Choosing to live has been a real challenging choice for me. Living has been really fruitful to say the least.

Growing up had its own challenges especially if one is a breadwinner at home. I applied for a life insurance policy. That I thought was a Gift to my son, my brothers and to my unemployed father, little did I know that I would be receiving a gift myself.

The process and thing I needed to do in order to get the policy were explained to me, which included taking several medical tests to confirm my health state. However, there was one test I had to do before the application was approved. I had to take an HIV/AIDS test.

People usually get scared when they have to test, but I wasn’t because I was so sure that this too will come out negative, so you can imagine my surprise when I was told otherwise.

Let me take you through my day.

I had tested the day before so I was going there to just get my results and go to court, well that was my plan anyway. When I got to the doctor’s office, the doctor asked me to sit down. I could see it in her face that she was the bearer of bad news.

She kept asking questions like:
“If you are HIV positive how would you take it?
Who would you tell? Is there a person you can talk to?”

For me that was stupid because I’ve been given bad news almost all my life and I already knew the results, so I asked her nicely to stop asking me stupid questions and just give me the results.

When she said that she is sorry but I was indeed HIV positive, it sounded different from what I thought it would sound like. I was not prepared for her to say it. Even though I knew what the result were.

She ripped my heart into pieces.

My world fell apart.

I wanted to drain all the blood from my body.

By the time I got home it was already late. In the morning there were no tears, but I began to think about who could have infected me. The blame game had begun in my head. The problem is I didn’t know who to blame from the people I was in an accident with, to people I’ve slept with. I wanted someone to account to this unfortunate incident. I sank in thoughts until my head started spinning.

Even though I wanted to cry as the pain was too much, there were no tears. I decided to buy a bottle of vodka and drank half of it and by that time tears and sobs came non-stop. I cried until I fell asleep. When I woke up, my friends were there, preparing food for me.

I was diagnosed with HIV last year  (2012 June/July). I am not sure about the month now. I then disclosed my status to my father, not that I required any assistance or support from him as he is not staying with me, I just felt like telling him.

No one judged me for my behavior. They were there for me because they cared and because of that I made a choice to live with the virus and that’s all. It is a virus that is in my blood nothing else; it does not define who I am not who I sleep with.

This is how I disclosed to my friends:

I sent an sms to one of my close friend, so I know what I told her. The others I think I told them during my drinking spree. Some I sent WhatsApp messages and even though some acted like they accepted me. I later realized that was not the case. My friends and I used to call and visit each other often but this time it was different, even if I was the one who did the visiting, they suddenly didn’t have time or they would just ignore me blatantly.

To all the lesbians out there who are living with the virus and feel there is no one to talk to because you’re scared of how your fellow lesbians will take your HIV status, you are not alone.
The key is to live a positive lifestyle.

My Girlfriend and I

I have just reconciled with my girlfriend, I wanted to be honest with her so that she can decide if she wants to stay with me or not. After telling her, she was very supportive and caring still, even though we encountered some challenges sexually, because I was scared to make love to her due to my status.

We had to go through the process together, learning more about HIV and our sex life, we went to Triangle Project (an LGBTI organization in Cape Town) and there we learned ways to protect each from contracting STI’s including protecting her from HIV.

We now have a healthy sex life. We’ve worked through our problems and honesty the open communication in our relationship has worked so far.

My Fears

If my CD4 count went down and I start taking medication what will happen?
However, I have plenty of time before I cross that bridge.

My attitude towards my status has really helped me and the people around me including my brothers help me not to give up.  Disclosing my status gave me strength to face the virus head on and for that I thank God for giving me such wonderful people in my life, people who halved my load. Thus far I haven’t faced any real challenges that I can’t deal with.


*** Please note that the name of the author is reserved to protect her identity and privacy.

QAR Weekly News

  • Another South African Lesbian MurderThis morning (10/11/2012) I received a call from Ndumie Funda the founder and Director of Lulekisizwe a project that nurses, supports and feeds the lesbian bisexual and trans woman (LBT) in townships who are victims and survivors of “corrective rape”, whom I had just seen the day before and we were just talking about the current situation facing the LGBTI community in Cape Town especially in the townships. Funda sounded stressed and in shock over the phone when she asked me to get the word out about the murder of Sihle Skotshi (19) who was an active member of Lulekisizwe. Later I met up with Funda and  had an opportunity to interview the two survivors of the attack who were with Sihle when she died.tags: Queer Politics, LGBTI Africa, South Africa, Sexual Violence


  • Malawian Anti-Gay Laws under review, suspendedGoing against a trend in Africa, Malawi’s government is moving to suspend laws against homosexuality and has ordered police not to arrest people for same-sex acts until the anti-gay laws are reviewed by parliament.Human Rights Watch called the decision “courageous” and said it should inspire other countries that criminalize homosexuality.Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara last week told a public debate on minority rights that the police have been ordered not to arrest anyone suspected of engaging in homosexuality. Anyone convicted under Malawi’s anti-gay laws, some of the toughest in the world, can get up to 14 years in jail with hard labor. Kasambara said parliament will soon discuss the laws. 


The funniest things happen when you out yourself as a translesbian (i.e. a transsexual woman identified woman; a lesbian.) I, for one, am an African translesbian and I have a beautiful girlfriend who is virtually more African (if I may use this as an honorific) than I am and she’s a lesbian as far as being a lesbianism goes. Although all this is happening in Europe as I speak; African LGBTI is condemned to the underground while the “religiously righteous” seems to prefer repression to sex, sexuality and gender identity truths. Yes the strangest things still happen in the twenty first century. In Africa, for instance, as a translesbian, I will be so far underground the light of day will only emerge as a virtual spectre and how sad is that? All these stem from the deluded assumption that transphobia or homophobia is of African origin. Nothing can be further from the truth, according to Dr. Sylvia Tamale, the moral order (as applied in Ugandan Law) in its ascribed hatred and fear of transgender and gay people exposes its own selfishness. [1]

Some of this is still played out today in Europe, exported worldwide and with that is the knowledge that the fear and hatred apportioned to the civilising process which continues riding the wave of contemporary history today. It is no surprise that suddenly all the lesbians around you feel threatened by the unknown they assume that you present them with. It is something people do out of insecurity, paranoia and a scream out for approval. The question I would love a straight answer to is, who’s transphobic/homophobic now? The assumption that only female born women can be lesbian has a history as dated as humanity itself. Translesbianism is only one strand of womanhood and trans-homosexuality (i.e. transsexual and homosexuality), there are trans-gay-men (a strand of manhood) out there doing their thing on various platforms too: be they non op, pre op or post op and we date with as much diversity as the mainstream does.
What makes this area interesting? Well, translesbians unlike our lesbian allies are subjected to a sort of underhanded scrutiny by all as a result of absolutist conditioning. You can understand my shock when pre op, an acquaintance asked me if he could be honoured with a test run “fuck”. Worse he could not even imagine how offensive and demeaning his request was. I find that the wonder still prevails in a lurch, a sideways glance or a passing shout of abuse by a child, an adult or both, one aiding the other in learned prejudice. Everyone seems to want to see you naked to confirm their assumptions. When you are out for the night all eyes are on you and I’m not raising this subject in isolation as the situation above confirms. If this isn’t enough, I have also inadvertently had week long flings with women curious to know: vagina or hole? With a certain experience you instinctively become aware of your innate longings and act on them without the expectation that you are going to be anyone’s “science project”. Why are trans-homosexuals so threatening to the gay community especially when we are part of the same group? Why do people feel that they have to get into relationships with you because somehow they find out that you are transgender/transsexual? Is it merely their curiosity that goes into overdrive or is something else on a psychological level tossed in the mix?

Imagine going into a club and everyone just seems to be rearing for a fight. Understandably, you leave them to it. Engaging circumstances like these are counter-productive open traps waiting to ensnare you at the slightest opportunity. You measure their range and spar virtually as you blow them virtual kisses, or cyber smooch them, if you like and it ought to end there but it rarely does. Talk to those that are worth it, hug those that you love, and befriend accordingly. Those who are intent on picking a fight soon get the message that no matter how loud their voices get, more often than not what happens is that they expose their own fears, their hatred. Even the fear in their uncomfortable laughter sounds more jarring than anything a translesbian or trans-dyke and a trans-gay-man or a trans-fag could ever provoke; and wait for it: trans-femme, trans-androgynous or trans-butch, we are proud and we are here to stay not in competition but together.

Conversely, perhaps it is time we start thinking about lasting sexual orientation and gender identity freedom in Africa today rather than waiting for another European pill to bail us out or worse, the next century and half hence in which to mend our way, ourselves. The script of our future is ours to write, definitions ours to define and all that. Divided we fall, united we stand together as one.

[1] See Voices of Witness —Africa 2008, which can be viewed on the Integrity USA website under ‘other resources’.


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,


On Being Transgender






My name is Mia Nikasimo. As a volunteer for Changing Attitudes at the Lambeth Conference I found myself in an opportune position to reflect from a translesbian (i.e. a transsexual woman who identifies as a lesbian not to be confused with above or beyond “lesbians,” or a transgender man) standpoint on the Anglican Communion and attempts to exclude the LGBTI.

I have purposely mentioned my trans status here because “transgender” as an umbrella term (for transsexual female, male, sister, brother, mothers, fathers any of the following might choose to cross dress, are intersexed, queer, kings, drag queens and more) can easily loose ones identity in the mix and because I can only share this reflection as a translesbian in the full awareness that some, like my LGBTI African brothers, sisters cannot. As the founder of an online support group call Transafro I aim to give voice to our various narratives Anglicans or otherwise, to promote, empower and raise consciousness in Africa, the Diaspora and allies.

Transgender, contrary to what is often believed to be the case, is not about sexual orientation. Rather it is about gender identity which, for instance, in the case of transsexuals (i.e. female or male), sexual orientation is something that gradually happens as birth sexuality goes through a sort of transformation and so on and so forth. Even some transsexual people do not fully understand this so I am not surprised that most members of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community do not understand the “T” or transgender enough to change their attitudes towards us never mind the wider Anglican Communion of Bishops which is why education, dialogue and reflection is important.

The consensus will always be that: WE DO EXIST, WE ARE TRANSGENDER AND WE ARE PROUD!!!

Primarily, in conjunction with some members of Changing Attitudes, this stance is saying that I am here, a transsexual woman and a lesbian of African origin (Nigerian, in my case) but also as a member of the wider lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community here to reaffirm our identity in the face of attempts to erase our presence from the Anglican Communion. However, the organisation’s mission statement which states that we are: ‘working for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender affirmation in the Anglican Communion’ is well intentioned we need to be proactive in our efforts.

On reflection, I have found that one significant question in particular seemed to manage to escape our attention. Although we have raised the stakes immensely in changing the Bishops attitudes, what are we as attitude changers doing to bring the same rigour to bear on ourselves? Before we can change attitudes among the Bishops we have a lot of education, dialogue and reflection work to in our community (i.e. the LGBTI) especially with regard to bisexual (although I cannot speak for them I am aware that they have little or no representation) and transgender people. Simple definitions such as what is a transsexual woman/lesbian? still manage to confuse some lesbian and gay men who then amusingly or otherwise call a transwoman or a translesbian a gay man robbing her of her trans identity and or her sexual orientation simultaneously just for a laugh. Likewise, referring to a transgender/transsexual man as a woman denies him his status as a man. Attitudes within the Anglican Communion cannot be changed in an atmosphere of homophobia or transphobia because of deep rooted fear which is why there is a call for more education, dialogue and reflection.

Although my mother is an Anglican which meant I could easily have chosen Christianity I opted for Buddhism. This is not to say that Buddhists are without similar conditioning as the Anglicans but because it was a religion I chose with a full understanding of what I was doing. Rather than the impositions and guilt ridden disposition of the Anglican Communion towards gender identity (i.e. as a transsexual woman) and sexuality (i.e. as a lesbian) I left Christianity and became a Buddhist and found peace of mind albeit formative. With committed and concentrated practice of meditation I was more able to get on with my life.

This suited me. I read broadly about Buddhism finding solace in the stories of practitioners like Tenzin Palmo and Milarepa to mention just two. With meditation practise I also found a sort of peace of mind that meant I could let go of hatred, guilt and fear and approach the world from a position of compassion, love and understanding. I even wanted to become a Buddhist nun and spend the rest of my life in spiritual contemplation in a cave out in the wild somewhere but I quickly realised that that would be indulging my desire to escape it all. Somehow, the city became my cave practice based on Plato’s Cave allegory.

I began to see anew and in seeing saw the Anglican Communion and the human condition as both locked horns and wondered where all the compassion, love and understanding had gone. I followed the Anglican Communion as it observed its rituals I did mine with Buddhist ones evoking the essence of compassion, Tara and or the Boddhisattva of fearlessness, Amoghasiddhi and shared the experience at every opportunity in social engagement.

However, on a final note, I feel the service of the Bishops is not about celebrity or notoriety rather it is about the cultivation of the seeds of compassion, love and understanding in all the Anglican Communion and not just some. This must include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people too or the shepherd fails in his duty to all his flock of sheep. But this mantle is not for them to bear alone. We have our part to play in the affirmation of the LGBT without excluding the “T” as can happen and continues too.


  Prejudice… Was that it or wasn’t it? Deception rides the tide Now again, it died of old Whatever it is when it is How it is wherever it took Place there’s only one Name to call it. Prejudice! An opinion based on Limited facts -…

Same Sex Marriage – the opposition line up

An excellent article by Gary Younge in which he traces the struggles for marriage equality through first race and now through sexual orientation.   Younge rightly emphasises that to compare the two struggles is not to equate them but there are  parallels which are worth highlighting and he focuses on three of these.

First, is the use of God and tradition to defend exclusivity and, therefore, exclusion. When the Lovings plead guilty in a Virginia Court in 1959, the trial judge, Leon Bazile, gave them a 25-year sentence — suspended, so long as they left the state — with the argument: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red,” as a Virginia judge wrote in 1965, when he upheld the state’s so-called Racial Integrity Act:

“And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

At the US supreme court, the state of Virginia compared interracial marriage with polygamy and incest — just as Republican hopeful Rick Santorum has done regarding same-sex marriage.

In 1971, when a American Civil Liberties Union lawyer argued the case for a gay couple’s right to be married before the Minnesota supreme court, one judge turned his chair around and refused to look at him. The court rejected the case unanimously, citing the book of Genesis to support its decision. Religion is still the principal argument against gay marriage, and religious people are still those most likely to oppose it. Another Pew survey shows three in four white evangelicals are opposed to gay marriage (it’s the only religious demographic where support for gay marriage did not increase between 2010 and 2011); that’s roughly the same proportion as those who support gay marriage who are religiously unaffiliated.

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Call for Papers: Murderous inclusions: International Feminist Journal of Politics

Call for Papers: Murderous inclusions special issue

Guest editors:

Jin Haritaworn, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
Adi Kuntsman, The University of Manchester

Silvia Posocco, Birkbeck, University of London

Sexual citizenship is usually examined though the lens of inclusion — into rights, legal and political subjecthood — through sexuality. What has received less scholarly attention is the problem of inclusion itself, and its costs. Instead of focusing on the inclusion and incorporation of sexual minorities as a certain pathway to progressive politics, this special issue explores inclusions that are murderous: it aspires to decouple the link between inclusion, queer politics and justice. The special issue seeks to critically examine parameters of sexual citizenship that accompany — or work hand in hand with — violent regimes of coloniality, ‘wars on terror’, ‘development’ and structural adjustment, criminalisation, pathologisation, border enforcement and neoliberalism. What new techniques of governance can be mapped in a context of power which increasingly speaks the language of sexual and gender rights, protection and diversity? What challenges arise from these complicities and convergences of queer inclusions, and how are they best addressed? What are the spaces of difference between situated and ever shifting regimes of legal regulation, and the ethical domain of queer politics and justice?

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Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years [Film]

Cannot wait for this…………….


Scheduled to make its world premiere in the Panorama Documentary section is Dagmar Shultz’s Audre Lorde – The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 is an untold chapter (the Berlin years) of the late writer, poet and activist, Caribbean child of immigrants from Grenada, who died rather young at 58 years old in 1992.

Specifically, the film will focus on…

Audre Lorde’s years in Berlin in which she catalyzed the first movement of Black Germans to claim their identity as Afro-Germans with pride. As she was inspiring Afro-Germans she was also encouraging the White German feminists to look at their own racism

The film will serve as a historical document for future generations of Germans, which profiles and highlights, from the roots, the African presence in Germany, and the origins of the anti-racist movement before and after the German reunification, as well as facillitates an analysis and an understanding of present debates on identity and racism in Germany.

The film can be considered a companion piece to the1994 documentary A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde by Ada Gray Griffin and Michelle Parkerson, which also screened at the Berlin Film Festival.

Via Shadow & Act

Poem for Zoliswa

On December 19th, those guilty of Zoliswa’s murder will be sentenced.

This is a poem for Zoliswa by Elsbeth Engelbrecht ©

Dear Zoliswa;
The undecided meaning of your life were impenetrable
on the day your mother turned into a melting grief
After so many years
Her heart must have been surprised by an uninvited confirmation
That there is no hanging stench in the street where you died
Yet, you were there
it is not an out of the way solitary place
It really exists
She still lives there at the end of the street

And what does it all mean?
This ritual cleansing of your last words to an unimaginative accusation;
“Are you a lesbian?”
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Will the real Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill stand up

Since the passing of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill 2011 [SSMB] by the Nigerian Senate hundreds of online and twitter comments have been made supporting the Bill. By far the majority of these comments have defended the Bill on the basis that it only concerns marriage between two people identifying as the same sex; that as a national law it stands outside of international treaties to which Nigeria is a signature. As I pointed out previously, this is a deceit by the supporters of the Bill in both houses as same-sex relationships are already criminalised and obviously, so is marriage between persons of the same-sex. The two questions we should be asking are: what is the real purpose of this Bill apart from whipping up moral hysteria against a largely invisible 1-3 million Nigerians? and how will it impact on everyone irrespective of their sexual orientation.

In addition to targeting people who identify as lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender or gender non-conforming, the SSMB will:

Prevent and or call into question two people of the same sex living or staying together, whether lovers, friends, co-workers or acquaintances,.

Will prohibit any display of friendship and or affection between two people of the same sex. Any form of touching, holding hands, embracing, and even looking could very well result in a 10 year prison sentence.
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Heteropatriarcial recolonisation

On hearing the news of the passing of the Nigerian “Same Sex Marriage Bill 2011, my reaction was, I was too numb to even have a reaction at the miserable state of my country. Did I really expect anything different?

Chude Jideonwo “Why the Nigeria’s Anti-Gay Bill Sickens Me alludes to the real purpose of the Bill which is to expand the existing legislation on homosexuality to include organisations and individuals who “register operate or participate in gay… organizations” and as he points out this could well including criticisms of the Bill such as his article and this blog post.

It is important to first understand that no gay Nigerian, as far as anyone knows, is seeking marriage — in Nigeria…….You can comb the breadth of our decidedly homophobic media (“Homosexuals are in trouble!” crowed The Sun Newspapers, no doubt mirroring the excitement of its upright editorial board), and there is neither anecdotal nor empirical evidence of a clamor, even a quiet one, for gays to be married in churches, mosques or courts.

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Normalisation of violence against women

From Witness – how militarism, masculinity and the media contribute and facilitate the normalization of violence against women..

Images of masculinity and militarism pervade mass media across the world, with aggressive male behavior, sexually exploited feminine bodies, and pictures of conflict saturating visual culture. These images contribute to the normalization of violence in our everyday lives. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign seeks to highlight the links between the culture of militarism and gender-based violence through our 2011 Campaign theme, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!”
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