Intersex Day of Rememberance

Today, the 8th of November, is Intersex Day of Remembrance. It is the 14th and ultimate day of The Fourteen Days of Intersex Awareness. This day marks Herculine Barbin’s birthday. Barbin lived in France in the 19th century and is regarded as the first intersex person to have written their biography. Barbin committed suicide in 1868 after legal authorities forced a transition to male.

Transgender and Intersex Africa (TIA) would like to thank activists, allies and other mainstream organizations for the help in raising awareness around intersex issues during the 14 days of Intersex. We were able to attract the attention of general society, media and government in order to highlight the key challenges of intersex people in South Africa. We urge society to keep the conversation, advocacy and activism around intersex human rights alive; this should not only be done during the 14 days of intersex but every day of the year.

Even today, as in the days of Herculin Barbin, intersex people’s rights to bodily autonomy are still not fully recognized. Intersex People are still forced into normalization processes according socially constructed binaries. Transgender and Intersex Africa recognizes the hard work that advocates and activists worldwide have done in the pursuit to bring about a better life for intersex people and raise awareness about their issues. For this reason we would like to commend the life and work of Sally Gross and other intersex activists in South Africa. Gross is the founder and director of Intersex Society of South Africa (ISSA) and is the person that ensured that the national constitution of South Africa is fully intersex inclusive. She continues to tirelessly work towards the full emancipation of intersex people in South Africa.

“A lot of work still needs to be done on the African continent to raise awareness about intersex people, their human rights and the injustices they face as a result of bigotry, sexism, heteronormativity and stereotypical gender and sex norms. It takes a lot of courage for a person to come out and say that they are intersex and still claim their place in this world. For that, I applaud intersex activists and advocates for their courage and bravery” – says Nthabiseng Mokoena, Advocacy Coordinator at Transgender and Intersex Africa

“Non-consensual, unnecessary and uniformed intersex infant genital mutilation is a human rights violation. Parents of intersex children and medical doctors should not hold the power to impose a gender and sex on the child, this decision lies with the person not the doctors”- says Tebogo Nkoana, Director at Transgender and Intersex Africa

For more information:

Nthabiseng Mokoena
Advocacy Coordinator

Tebogo Nkoana
Executive Director

Dr Franco Colin

For immediate release

Exposing one of South Africa’s “trusted” transgender health care expects, Dr. Franco Colin.

On the 30th of October TIA received an e-mail from one of our constituents based in Kwa-Zulu Natal. The constituent who had been diagnosed by Dr. Colin was refused a letter confirming that he had undergone gender reassignment therapy. The letter is one of the requirements for anyone who wishes to change their sex description on their Identity document. An e-mail had been sent to the constituent stating:

“Unfortunately Doctor Colin cannot give you this letter as your process of gender reassignment is not completed yet. He can only do this after all the hormone therapy and surgery”

TIA wrote an e-mail to Dr. Colin’s office arguing that it is unconstitutional and insulting to refuse a patient the letter with an excuse that the gender reassignment process is not completed yet. It is clear that Dr. Colin does not have a complete understanding of sex alteration laws within the country or he ignores them. Act 49 of 2003 states:

“Any person whose sexual characteristics have been altered by surgical or medical treatment or by evolvement through natural development resulting in gender reassignment, or any person who is intersex may apply to the Director-General of the National Department of Home Affairs for the alteration of the sex description on his or her birth register”.

TIA also argued that it is an individual’s decision to define what a “complete” gender reassignment process means to them. It is unethical for a doctor to enforce what their view of “complete’ means on an individual.

After the e-mail sent to Dr. Colin’s office, the constituent received his letter. The letter was well written but insulting as it continuously addressed the female to male transsexual as “she”, even though it was clear from the letter that it was for an FTM patient. TIA asked how the Department of Home Affairs would acknowledge the gender of the constituent if his own doctor does not acknowledge it.

Dr. Colin is known as a psychiatrist who discriminated against transgender patients who are not working, claiming that this “lifestyle” is expensive and that it is for people with a high income. Most black transgender individuals have been discouraged to transition through Steve Biko Academic Hospital as Dr. Colin was previously used as gate keeper for patients who wished to transition through that hospital.

“It is disappointing to learn that a highly worshipped transgender expect would do these kinds of mistakes where he does not acknowledge correct gender pronouns and is clueless of Act 49. Dr. Colin should be ashamed of his title of being a well-known transgender expect” says Tebogo Nkoana, Director at TIA

“Medical doctors should not only be concerned with the health needs of a person, but also their human rights. What is the point of assisting a person to medically transition yet refuse to acknowledge their gender identity? The state of transgender health care within the country seriously needs to be re-evaluated” says Nthabiseng Mokoena, advocacy coordinator at TIA.

TIA urges Dr. Colin to improve his approach to transgender medical and social needs. He also needs to use updated standards of care for his patients.

For more information:
Nthabiseng Mokoena (Advocacy Coordinator)
Tel: +27780210363

Tebogo Nkoana (director)
Tel: +27734324499

October 2012 Update

After our tense meeting with Steve Biko Hospital, followed by article City press article, 2 members of TIA who were previously refused treatment have now confirmed that the hospital is now assisting them. Today one of them is receiving her hormones for the first time after 5 years of struggle . As TIA team we proud to see our work paying off. SMS from Catricia “Hello Tebogo I saw the panel today and i got my hormones. Thank you a lot for bieng there for me” Congratulations Cate!!!

The Child

By Nthabiseng Mokoena

Thunder, lightning and storms as the heavens ululate and sing for the arrival of a child, a soul, a person…a human being.
Joy, excitement and hope as the father anticipates and wishes for the birth of a boy, a male, an heir….a son.
Emotions run high and thoughts run wild as the mother prays and pleads to deliver a girl, a woman, a baby girl…a daughter.
As she screams and scratches, pants and prays, she pushes once more to usher into the world the child, the soul, the person…the human being.
Questions, queries, thoughts and assumptions run through their minds as midwives. They stare in confusion, they wail and lament as they turn to the ancestors and ask; what is this that you have given us?
Villages, towns and townships run amok with rumours and riddles, tales and teachings of the cursed child, the hermaphrodite, the tranny…the “it”
Stares and snares, whispers and worries follow the child through every stage, every street, every corner…and every room.
The coldness and crudeness,
The isolation and ignorance.
All these constructed and contributed to me becoming the ‘I’
I who is mistreated and misunderstood.
I who is ignored and not included.
I who is butchered and mutilated.
I who is intersex.
I who is in the perfect form, state and variation.
I exist!

In terms of I…

Written for International Intersex Awareness Day

By Sam Ndlovu

Is it genuine interest, or intrigue or just intrusion
When it comes to intersex, many think it’s an illusion
many wonder, what’s my sex? Tell me where lies the confusion
Just embrace my uniqueness, put an end to my exclusion

I symbolize diversity and all life’s variation
I signify such beauty that u turn to complication
I’m infinite existence I’m incredibly complex
I’m intricately intimate, of course I’m intersex

I’m genuine inclusion, I’m an endless possibility
Although I seem ambiguous and mostly viewed suspiciously
I’m just a true embodiment of life’s interpretation
Of unity and oneness and of true interrelation

And though you may interrogate or Isolate or bully
I choose to rise above your fears, though I’m ignored unduly
I’m not a this, I’m not a that, I am this person fully
And that is all you need to know to get to know me truly

International Intersex Awareness Day

For immediate release

Transgender and Intersex Africa supports the International Intersex Awareness Day on the 26th of October. On this day in 1996 intersex activists carrying the sign “Hermaphrodites with attitude” and allies from Transsexual Menace held the first public intersex demonstration in Boston, USA.

TIA believes that this day is a great opportunity to break the silence and stop the ignorance about the existence of the intersex community in South Africa. It is also an opportune time to highlight the challenges and struggle that intersex individuals face in our country, such as non-consensual and unnecessary genital mutilation of intersex babies. Hundreds of intersex infants continue to be subjected to inhumane “corrective surgeries” in order to align them to stereotypical norms of sex and gender. Many intersex people continue to live in silence and isolation as a result of the prejudice and discrimination they face from society. As a result TIA aims to increase access to medical care and legal services for intersex people.

Transgender and Intersex Africa remains committed to its mission to advocate and lobby for Intersex human rights. We remain committed to empowering intersex individuals and creating safe spaces where they can share experiences and knowledge.

“Intersex people should be celebrated as part of the diverse and variant human phenomenon, intersex individuals should not be forced to undergo life impacting medical procedures without their consent and the proper information.” says Nthabiseng Mokoena, Advocacy Coordinator at TIA

“The medical pathological approach to intersex is still a big concern; intersex is not a disorder and should not be seen as one” says Tebogo Nkoana, Director at TIA

“My sex, my gender, my body…. MY DECISIONS’ – TIA

For more information:
Nthabiseng Mokoena
Advocacy Coordinator
Tel: +2778 0210363

Tebogo Nkoana
Tel: +2773 432 4499

Activity Update

* 2-5 October: We were attending a Capacity Development Trajectory programme in Namibia.
*6 October : We had an information stall/desk at Johannesburg Pride in order to bring visibility of the Transgender and Intersex community and offer medical and legal advice to trans and intersex individuals.
* 8-11 October : We were finalising projects and activity plans for the remainder of the year and the coming year, watch this space, great things are going to be happening!
* 11 October : In the spirit of solidarity, our Advocacy coordinator accompanied Nadzeya Husakouskaya to the Ukranian Embassy in Pretoria, in order to submit a letter stating activists’ disapproval at the prohibition of proganda of homosexuality bill in Ukraine.
* 12 October: Transgender and Intersex Africa had a visit from Flavian Rhode from Positive Vibes, one of the managers and organisers of the Southern African LGBTI capacity development programme( Twafika). We met to discuss the organisation’s capacity development plans and how to make the organisation better for you.
*13-15 October: we are busy with fundraising, media interviews and support group activation.

Steve Biko Academic Hospital

For immediate release

Transgender and Intersex Africa (TIA) is a black trans* and intersex organisation from South Africa focusing on black trans* and intersex issues in black townships and rural areas. We lobby and advocate for transgender and intersex human rights. TIA strives to promote tolerance, inclusion and recognition of trans* and intersex human rights.

For over a decade Steve Biko Academic Hospital has been one of the medical institutions in South Africa that provides gender reassignment therapy. However, the trans* community still experiences difficulties in accessing the hospital’s services. Many underprivileged patients have complained of unsatisfactory treatment from the hospital.

Their complaints include:
• Poor health service delivery.
• The hospital follows outdated standards of care and there are no clear medical guidelines for trans* patients.
• Denying trans* patients access to medical care by referring them to an expensive private psychiatrist for mental evaluation and diagnosis before they can be accepted as the hospital’s patients.
• Using unfair criteria to determine which trans* patient gets access to their services i.e. the “passing” get better treatment than those who do not pass according to stereotypical gender binaries. The hospital also prioritises working class in comparison to the unemployed trans* patients.
• The hospital does not recognize the importance of dispensing hormonal treatment for trans* individuals regardless of their financial background.
• The hospital does not give patients the opportunity to express themselves in their mother tongue

TIA’s arguments:

• It is unfair for a public hospital to refer underprivileged patients to a private doctor before they can be assisted by the hospital.
• Every hospital should have clear and accessible guidelines on how to deal with specific patients.
• Denying patients the opportunity to express themselves in their mother tongue impacts on the outcome and decision taken during evaluations.
• We are disappointed that Steve Biko Academic Hospital does not recognize the value and contribution of other public health practitioners by refusing referral letters from respected professionals.
• Steve Biko Academic Hospital should align their standards of care with other trans* friendly hospitals in the country such as Groote Schuure in Cape Town which has been the only hospital in South Africa that tries its best to provide and improve trans* community health care.
• A public/ Government hospital cannot prioritise patients based on employment. It is not only unconstitutional, but also further marginalises/ distances trans* people from access to services. Due to other socio-economic factors, trans* people are already the most marginalised groups, and early school drop-outs, ID book situation, and many other factors lead to unemployment for trans* people.

“ I feel like they do not make any efforts to assist me. They do not know where I come from and how it feels like to live as a trans person. Their system failed me”-says Catrecia from Mamelodi, who has been a patient at Steve Biko for 5 years without any success.

“Steve Biko Hospital is very poor towards trans people. I feel like they are undermining us by telling us that we are not in any crisis and can continue to live just fine without gender reassignment surgery”-says Revelation, outreach officer at TIA who was a patient at Steve Biko Hospital for 2 years without any success.

“ The psychiatrist used is not allowing appropriate health care for all groups, there should be staff sensitization at the hospital” –says Leighann van der Merwe, coordinator, SHE

“It is shocking that a government health institution clearly stigmatises and discriminates transgender people, they measure and decide transgender people’s access to care by different standards than they do the general population” – says Sibusiso Kheswa, Advocacy Coordinator, Gender DynamiX

We urge Steve Biko Hospital to reconsider their approach and methods of working with transgender patients. Nature chooses who will be transgender, individuals do not choose this. Transgender health care is not a privilege but a human right- says Tebogo Nkoana, the founder and executive director at TIA.

TIA is meeting with the hospital’s panel responsible for trans* patients on the 26 September 2012. We are going to encourage change and the importance of fair medical services for the trans* community.

For more information contact:
Nthabiseng Mokoena
Advocacy coordinator

Tebogo Nkoana
Executive director