Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Audrey Mbugua, a human rights activist in Kenya published a powerful piece that appears at allAfrica.com. In Transgender Rights Not Simply Gay Rights she highlights some of the injustices against many transgender people in various parts of Africa. In the US we understand that local, state, federal government, employees, places of worship, and late night comedy shows have all contributed to the persecution and oppression of transgender people. Audrey Mbugua in writing about recent events in Africa, points out the irony (and well known fact amongst transgender and transsexual people) that some of the perpetrators of the injustices are gays, gay rights activists, and the media. She gives the following recent example:

Tiwonge & Steven

(W)e all recall the arrest and trial of Auntie Tiwonge and her boyfriend Steven in Malawi that sparked condemnation from local and international human rights fora. Despite the evident transgender status of Tiwo, these activists humiliated her over and over again for them to perpetuate the gay agenda in Africa. Instead of these activists taking the opportunity to educate others about the transgender concept and challenge the lack of laws that cater for people who are changing sex, they branded her and her boyfriend as male homosexuals. It’s only after their release that some gay activist made token noise that Tiwonge is indeed transgender, but the damage had already been done.

In her piece Audrey provides specific examples that have appeared in the press, that while intending to educate people about transgender issues and people, actually serve to misinform and potentially worsen their plight.

And let’s consider the ever-ridiculous habit of the images that LGBT organisations use to depict transgender people. What happens is they use a picture of a person busy applying a tonne of make-up and a wig. Then this person has to have features that are meant to say ‘it’s a man putting on make-up’, or a picture of a person with a very hairy torso and in a dress. This results in the world believing that transgender people are female impersonators, pretending to be women and going late at night to get unsuspecting straight men to sleep with them. They get accused of the crime of deception, which results in hostility and violence against transgender people.

The article is a must read for folks who wish to be transgender allies and for anyone involved with organizations and movements that tag a T onto the end of the LGB. While there is some overlap in some issues LGBT people face, non-trans folks like me need to educate ourselves, listen to the criticism, educate more, and listen more. As Zack Ford and I discussed in our most recent episode of Queer and Queerer (Trans Allies Gone Wild!) allies often get it wrong and need to be open to criticism. Good activism always comes out of good relationships.

More and more information is being shared by all kinds of transgender, genderqueer, transsexual, gender non-conforming folks through through blogs, YouTube videos, (my new favorite channel is HaydenShyBoi) news stories, memoirs, Twitter feeds, and more. Now with access to the Internet no one needs to be ill-informed.

I am grateful for the many trans folks who have taken part in studies and surveys about their experiences. I know it can be time consuming, but so vital in the work of getting funding and awareness about specific trans issues. I know of a new survey being done by a friend of mine at Smith College. She is looking for trans people over 18 who live in the USA to fill out an on-line survey regards health care and treatment. You can find the study here.

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Doin’ Time in South Africa


Glen, Patrick, Peterson & Jennna

I had a very South African Christmas with Glen and his family. They traditionally eat ham and eggs for breakfast with a shandy (beer mixed with carbonated lemonade). I passed on the animal products and opted for one of my personal favorites–beans on toast. I did not turn down the shandy.

On Tuesday Glen, Jenna (his colleague from work) and I visited Two Sisters, an orphanage run by Patrick Thibedi Chamusso. Some of you may have heard of Patrick through the 2006 film Catch a Fire. During the anti-Apartheid struggle, Patrick got involved in the fight and eventually was captured and jailed alongside of Nelson Mandela and others from the ANC.

Chamusso was arrested in 1980 by South African Special Branch for conspiring with the ANC to bomb the Secunda refinery, a crime he insisted he did not commit. He was later released without charges being laid. He claimed that he had been tortured whilst a prisoner. He fled to Mozambique where he joined Umkhonto we Sizwe, the militant arm of the ANC.

After military training, he returned to South Africa where he single-handedly carried out a second, partly successful, bombing at Secunda, which – as was intended – resulted in no casualties. After a massive manhunt, he was arrested and ultimately sentenced to 24 years in prison on Robben Island. In 1994, as the apartheid system began to be dismantled, having served 10 years, Chamusso, was released under the new government’s amnesty policy.
From Wikipedia


Patrick and some of the smaller children

In Robben Island he and his fellow captives had years to talk about their futures and the future of South Africa. While some of them desired to become government officials or entrepreneur, Patrick decided that he wanted to help his people affected by HIV and AIDS. After his release, he raised money and eventually opened a home for children who lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.

I asked Patrick what he learned from his days in the struggle that he found useful today in his work in the orphanage. He said that when training for the military, they had to learn how to live for others and not for the individual. He learned community and sharing and looking out for each other.

You can contribute to Two Sisters here. It is a worthy cause. Dollars, Euros and Sterling go far in South Africa right now.

Tomorrow Glen, Jenna and I travel eight hours by car to the Drakensberg Mountains.This is the home to the second biggest water fall in the world and the highest point in Southern Africa. We will spend four days hiking and also go into Lesotho.

From there we head off to Transkei on the Eastern Cape for a few days at the beach and in a village before we go to Cape Town (where I will perform Transfigurations)

What a lovely time we are having all together. I love experiencing new foods, new customs, learning new words and engaging in conversation with people from diverse backgrounds. Tonight I will actually do a Christmas performance for Glen’s family and about eight of their friends. I think I will present Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano, which gives me a chance to do bits from four different shows.

Most likely I will be off-line for a few days, so I hope everyone has a very nice week before the New Year. I know we head into 2009 with a mix of genuine fears and tentative hopes. The economy frightens the snot out of most of us right now and questions swirl as to how some of this is going to get sorted. 2009 will also offer us opportunities to better look after each other, to build community, to get back to basics.

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