Transgender Day Of Remembrance 2015


Today, the 20th of November, we come together for the 17th time to morn our brothers, sisters and others who have been killed as a result of transphobia as we commemorate International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). We aim to raise public awareness and bring to its attention the violence, hatred and discrimination transgender and gender non-conforming people face on a daily basis.

According to the total number of Transgender murders up until date from the beginning of 2015 is a staggering 271. Planet Transgender is quoted stating that a transgender person gets murdered every 29 hours and as we form less than 1% of the population this number is truly disturbing, and as if these numbers are not disturbing enough we face a staggering suicide rate within the community at a whopping 41%.The numbers out of Africa are still poorly reported and only four countries were included to form a total of nine murders.

The rest of the numbers stack up as follows:

174 killings of trans people have been reported in Asia in 16 countries

134 killings of trans people have been reported in North America

104 killings of trans people have been reported in Europe in 15 countries

9 killings of trans people have been reported in Africa in 4 countries

5 killings of trans people have been reported in Oceania in 4 countries.

Most cases of Transgender murders are still not reported as the known numbers are minimums and there are many more cases which are not reported or documented around the world.

Transgender and Intersex Africa would like, once again, to take this opportunity to underscore the challenges transgender and gender non-conforming people in South Africa wakes up to everyday. Townships and rural areas are amongst the most violent of places in South Africa and this is no different for transgender and gender non-conforming people. In a previous Needs assessment by TIA it has shown that 65% out of 120 Trans* people where harassed in some form or another including physical violence. And many of them were afraid to report the matter to police for fear of ridicule or wrongful arrest.

South Africa is still struggling to transform and accept transgender and gender non-conforming people even though legislation states that no person may be discriminated against on the basis of sex, gender or sexual orientation. This is particularly true for the people in the townships and rural areas where transformation is slow to non-existent.

Our calls are once again repeated to all human rights groups and our communities to protect all persons against the gender based violence that are rampant in both our public and private spaces as such violence are on the rise and remains largely unchecked within South Africa.

We once again highlight that discrimination against any individual because of gender identity is totally unacceptable and a violation of their basic human rights. Expression of gender is a right that should be enjoyed by all. Harassment and violence that translate to hate crimes towards trans persons should be investigated and enjoy the full attention of the law and its perpetrators should be brought to justice.

The hate and violence towards trans* people across the world has reached epic proportions and needs to be addressed least we collapse completely as a civilized society. Cis and trans* people alike have a responsibility to each other to root out the unwanted elements within our communities, but without the help of people in power the fraction of people identifying as Transgender and gender non-conforming will remain the target of these elements that threaten all of us.

For more information please contact:
Tebogo Nkoana
Transgender and Intersex Africa

Click here to download the statement if you would like to circulate the PDF:
Transgender Day Of Remembrance 2015

Intersex invincibility with the work of intersex human right


Today 26 October marks Intersex Awareness Day. On this day intersex activist from Intersex Society of North America and allies from Transsexual menace held the firs intersex demonstration in Boston back in 1996. Intersex means being born with a mix of anatomical sex traits (chromosomes, genitals and/ or reproductive organs) that are not traditionally considered to be both male and female or atypical for either.

On this Day Transgender and Intersex Africa (TIA) celebrates human diversity. Intersex traits are not abnormality that needs to be fixed. Intersex invisibility remains a concern especially here in Southern Africa. It is important for the voices of Intersex people to lead and take ownership of Intersex movement. “Intersex community is often forgotten and misrepresented; let’s join forces in fighting the ignorance of this vulnerable minority. Movement or activism without Intersex people themselves is nothing but agenda driven by assumptions” says Tebogo Nkoana from TIA. Intersex is still taboo and treated as a shame within our communities. Many children suffer humiliation and isolation because they are born Intersex, whereas others continue to be the subject of unnecessary irreversible and non-consensual surgical procedures from the medical sector. Over the past 5 years if not more, we have seen a significant growth of Intersex human rights work around different parts of the world. Many medical practitioners began to understand that not all Intersex bodies needs to be “fixed”, some doctors also invested in advocating for no surgical procedures when dealing with Intersex children. We have also seen an increased psychological support provided to Intersex people.

“In the past few years, through the efforts and Intersex activists, we have seen an increase in Intersex visibility within UN spaces and a few countries including Intersex with anti-discrimination legislation. This progress should not distract us from the reality that Intersex people are still victims of medical injustice and human rights violation. It is troubling that society is able to see that Female Genitals Mutilation (FGM) as a human right violation but struggle to make the same connection when it comes to Intersex Genital Mutilation, simply because the latter often happens in medical settings. On this day we should call for greater visibility on Intersex issues, greater collaboration with intersex persons themselves taking the lead. Most of all we need public and medical change when it comes to the treatment of Intersex persons. Bodily integrity and anatomy should be everyone’s right” says Nthabiseng Mokoena, Intersex Activist.

“The truth is that Intersex people need to voice and drive their agenda. It is only their voices and visibility that will be mostly relevant in contributing towards changing how the world treats and see Intersex people. Intersex issues are still misunderstood and misrepresented, in most cases not even represented at all. We encourage Intersex people especially black and rural area based to take ownership of Intersex struggle. It is our traditional leaders and social norms that influence negative and stereotype response towards Intersex people” Says Tebogo Nkoana from TIA

“I have learned to accept myself as the way that I am because this is how I was born. Being Intersex does not make me different from anybody else but makes me a special person amongst them. I realized that I was not critically ill, it is just that I was born congenital hyperplasia. I am not shameful of myself” says Keitumetse Skonta, Intersex Activist

For more information please contact:
Tebogo Nkoana
Transgender and Intersex Africa

Click here to download the statement:
Intersex Awareness Day 2015

A Response to “Frustrations of a transgender man”

Posted on October 30, 2013 on here

As Transgender and Intersex (TIA) we have decided to respond to an article that appeared on the Inkanyiso website on the 13th of October 2013 titled “Frustrations of a transgender man”.

The reason for the response is because we felt that as a transgender and intersex organisation, we are clearly implicated in the article.
The article clearly expressed the challenges that are faced by most transgender people in South Africa, especially those that are based in townships and rural areas.

In this response we will try to make a few points clear about how the organisation works and explain the state of transgender health care in South Africa.

In early 2013, we conducted a Needs Assessment report from the six provinces that we serve in South Africa; Gauteng, North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Free State province.
From the report we realized that 67% of our constituents are unemployed, that is quite a high number considering the fact that we have over 520 transgender and intersex constituents as an organisation.
These are people who need access to health care, assistance with their Identity documents or psycho-social support.
Because of the high unemployment rate, most of them are completely dependent on public health care; the problem becomes even bigger considering the fact that only two public hospitals in Gauteng can cater to some degree for the needs of the trans* population; Steve Biko Academic Hospital and Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, the only other hospital that has done great work in terms of trans* health care is Groote Schuur in Cape Town.
Unfortunately in terms of surgeries for transsexual patients, Steve Biko only takes up about four new state subsidised trans* patient per year and Baragwanath does between 6 to 8 state subsidised surgeries per year.

This means with all the people we have on database, only 10-12 actually receive surgeries per year as they cannot afford private health care.
We constantly refer our constituents to these two hospitals and have even started a close working relationship with Baragwanath, unfortunately the hospitals can take you in as a patient for a psychologist’s diagnosis and for a few sessions with the psychologist, but in most cases that’s the most they can do, as the waiting lists for seeing an endocrinologistor surgeon are usually very long at these hospitals.

Additionally the Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) is committed to 4 surgeries per year, and with the huge amount of visibility created over the years about trans* in SA, the GSH waiting list is at this point 26 years long!

This is the bleak picture of trans* healthcare in South Africa, there are no hospitals in two thirds of the country that adequately cater for the needs of trans* patients, as a result most of our constituents usually travel monthly from their provinces to Gauteng in order to access some degree of healthcare, some of them have even migrated to Pretoria or Johannesburg for healthcare.

Trans* healthcare in this country is expensive, you lose so much in the pursuit of healthcare, you lose your money, sometimes you lose relationships with your family and friends and sometimes you lose your life while waiting for healthcare. If you really want to transition using the public health system, you must be prepared for long and difficult process, healthcare for transitioning will not come to you, you have to fight for it, you need patience and perseverance, that is why we have support groups in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Mpumalanga for trans* people, because we understand that this can be a very frustrating journey.

The problem with our community is that they almost don’t understand that as an organisation the best we can do is offer assistance to you by referring you to a hospital, tracking your case and intervening when the hospital does not treat you well and offering psycho-social support.
But we cannot guarantee that you will get the surgery you seek at the time that you want, this can be a very long process, and you need to work with us.
That is why when people ask for referral letter from us, we ask them to come to the office because we cannot give a referral letter that we have signed and clearly bears the letter head of the organisation to a person we have never met or interviewed.

If the constituent says they do not have the bus fare to come to us, sometimes we assist when we have the funding and sometimes we tell them they will come to us when they have enough money to do so or they can wait for the time when we have an outreach activity in their province.
This is a struggle that we all have had to undergo as trans* and intersex people form disadvantaged backgrounds. The Director of TIA, Tebogo Nkoana had to leave his family and friends and move to Cape Town as a 19 year old in order to get his transition.
He had to work once he got to Cape Town in order to meet his daily needs as his family couldn’t afford to send him money.
Our Advocacy coordinator had to move from the North West and move to Pretoria for health care.
We have all made sacrifices to get where we are, and we are still struggling with access to health care. This should not be the case in a democratic state, but unfortunately that is how things are at the moment and until the time when our health care system prioritises trans* and intersex health care.
We are going to need a whole lot of perseverance and unity.

The struggle for the right to healthcare for trans* persons is not a battle that we can fight alone.  We need the trans* community to come on board.
This is not a struggle that TIA and Gender DynamiX can fight alone.

The biggest problem that we have at the moment is the lack of the trans* community’s interest in organising and owning their movement.
It is very common for trans* people to request assistance from us but when we need assistance from them in terms of organising or needing information through surveys very few of them actually take part.
All three of the trans* organisations in the country are actually very small in terms of staff numbers, as TIA we have only four permanent staff members and because of a lack in funding only two of the staff members are paid. As a result, we cannot afford to subsidise or fund anyone’s medical assistance when our own staff members can’t even afford to pay rent.

Trans* organisational funding is one of the biggest problems at the moment, most of us don’t even know if our organisations will still exist in the coming year as funding is very difficult to come by. Adding the total number of staff members at TIA and Gender DynamiX equals to 9 people.  We cannot expect 9 people to lead and take charge of a trans* movement that includes thousands of trans* people.
We all need to own the movement and be the change we want to see in the world.

In order to serve the trans* and intersex people based in provinces outside of Gauteng, we conduct outreach activities. We visit these provinces with the intent of getting in touch with the trans* and intersex people in these provinces, sensitising service providers and collecting data that can be used for advocacy. In fact, in the coming two months, we will be conducting outreach activities in the North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo in collaboration with Gender DynamiX.
We ask the trans* and intersex community to attend these activities and events so that we can figure out how to organise and bring about a change in our country in terms of transgender and intersex human rights.
In most cases when we organise these activities only a few trans* people attend even though we do our best to inform them a long time in advance.

We cannot reiterate any further that this is a struggle.
A struggle we will all have to take part in, we might not see the results immediately but we will definitely see them in the future.
The trans* movement has made great strides in the past few years considering how small it is.
It is time that we united and forced government to prioritise trans* health care because regardless of gender identity or expression, we are also citizens of this country who deserve health care and full human rights like anyone else.

Aluta Continua.

Related articles

2013 Oct. 24: Jack Daniel’s


2013 Aug. 9: Transgender youth suicide in Johannesburg


2013 Oct. 4: I sensed something was wrong


Dr Collin

Remember the fight we had with Doctor Collin last year? How he refused to issue a referral letter to one of his trans* patients so that the person can apply for a new Identity document with the Department of Home Affairs? How he only issued the letter once we intervened and yet the letter was incorrectly written? Well… we are proud to say that after all the fighting and advocating, the trans* man who was mistreated by Dr Collin has just been contacted by the Department of Home Affairs to come and collect his new ID book. He is now legally recognized as male and it will reflect on his ID book. We all know how difficult and almost impossible it is to try and live without an ID book in South Africa, let alone an ID book that does not reflect your true gender.

A Win Against Transphobia in the Workplace

Finally after much struggle and lobbying, one of our constituents who is a trans* woman has been employed by a large retail store in South Africa. She had been struggling to get a job because of the discrimination she faced as a transgender person. We are constantly flooded by queries from people who are about to begin their medical transition and they are afraid to loose their jobs because of workplace discrimination on the basis of their gender identity.

The constitution of South Africa prohibits all unfair discrimination on the basis of sex, gender or sexual orientation, whether committed by the government or by a private party. The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, restates this constitutional prohibition.

Transphobia in the workplace is unproductive and unconstitutional!!!!!!

To Conform or Not To Conform?

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to fit in, to be “normal” and be a part of a clique or group of people who accepted me. There was a point in my life where my desire to be accepted by others outweighed my desire to live, a point where I gave up my values, interests and ideas— just so that I could fit in. Well I have always been different. I was the girl that listened to rock music in a Black township where most teenagers listened to house music, hip hop or Kwaito (a South African style of popular music similar to hip hop). Having taste in music that is considered “white” in an African black township is not the coolest thing to do. I was the girl that preferred to go to the library while everyone went partying; being a nerd is also not easy in the township.Being intersex just made things worse and my attempts to fit in were sabotaged by my clearly androgynous appearance. I had to deal with daily whispers and comments such as, “Is it a boy or is it a girl?” My refusal to undress in front of other girls further ignited the curiosity from others regarding my sex and gender.

I hated the fact that I am intersex, I hated my “ambiguous” genitalia, and I hated the fact that I could not wear a tight fitting bikini like other girls or have honest conversations with them about periods. My only desire at that time was to have surgery because I imagined stepping out of the operation room and my life instantly transforming into a state of bliss. The information that I received regarding genital reconstruction surgery for intersex people only painted a positive picture and left out any mention of the detrimental effects it might have on me. At this time I even started to hate my parents because they previously refused surgical procedures on me. Even if they had signed off on surgery, I was frustrated because doctors in public hospitals did not have any experience on how to deal with my case and we could not afford private medical care. I began to think that my only option was suicide, but I couldn’t even take my own life because I kept thinking that once I am dead I would have to be undressed at the mortuary and the world would know my secret.

After meeting with many intersex individuals and seeing the detrimental effects that childhood surgeries had on them, I now consider myself privileged that I did not have to go through early genital reconstruction. I have seen the pain and trauma that unnecessary and non-consensual genital mutilation has had on the lives of intersex people and now I am grateful that my parents chose not to have any surgery done on me as a child. I am grateful that the decision to have or to not have surgery rests with me—the owner of this body. If I were to decide to have surgery I would have to live with the consequences knowing that I made an informed decision. At this time I can say that I no longer want to have genital reconstruction surgery. I have learned to love myself. I have learned that we are not all the same—we cannot be. I have learned that I will never completely fit in anywhere and the more I try to—the more I stick out like a sore thumb. If nature wanted me to be like everyone else then we would have all been born exactly the same. A world without diversity is a world not worth living in.

Unfortunately we live in a world that does not celebrate or respect diversity, a world where people are obsessed with fitting you into neat little boxes of norms and stereotypes. Any contradictions to these rigid norms are quickly eliminated. A world where everything is in black and white. Grey areas are not approved of. The grey areas are often painted over in solid black or white and it is hoped that no one sees beyond the surface. I am now at a point where I have to fight to keep my “difference”. Every trip to the doctor becomes an argument and battle about what is “right” for me. My doctor keeps telling me about how having different looking genitals will lead to personal distress. He read this in some medical journal and refuses to hear any other opinion. The fact that I live a perfectly happy life as an intersex person without any surgical intervention clearly bothers him. They told him in medical school that every intersex person should be operated on as an infant or else they will grow up traumatised and confused. My life refutes that statement and that is why I believe he is obsessed with trying to get me to undergo genital reconstruction surgery even though I have had no health complications. I often tell him of the negative effects of early, unnecessary and non-consensual surgeries on intersex bodies and he responds by saying that he is a doctor and therefore knows better and that surgeries are for the “good” of the child. Before you misunderstand me, I am not against surgery but I am against IMPOSED surgery on intersex persons. I am against NON-CONSENSUAL surgery and I am against UNINFORMED and UNNECESSARY surgery on intersex people—especially if their intersex variation has no immediate life threatening implications. I have to go on a mission to find a new doctor since my current doctor and I can’t seem to agree on anything.

The right of bodily integrity and self-determination of intersex people should be ensured and maintained. This is my body and I have the right to personal control of my own genital and reproductive organs. Do I still want to fit in? No, I am too fabulous to fit in anywhere! I shall not conform.

By Nthabiseng Mokoena


Originally posted here