IDAHO–International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia

IDAHO special message – May 17th around the world

From: Day Against Homophobia contact@dayagainsthomophobia.org
Sent: Tue, May 17, 2011 8:32:25 AM
Subject: IDAHO special message – May 17th around the world

IDAHO logo

An impressive global program for the 7th edition of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is taking place this week with hundreds of events planned in over 70 countries.

While most events take place successfully, incidents in Podgorica, Minsk or Moscow remind us that violence, discrimination and stigmatization is still the everyday reality for people because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

All over the world, thousands of activists are mobilizing for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. This year’s IDAHO will break records of mobilization and outreach, as an estimated 50 million people will be exposed to campaign messages in more than 70 countries, calling for an end to discrimination and violence against people on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

The mobilization stretches across all regions, with nationwide events in almost all European countries but also in places as different as Kenya, Indonesia, Fiji, Cuba, Mongolia, Albania, Kyrgyzstan, China or Russia, to name but a few.

IDAHO guys kissingThe global webportal of the Day aims at giving an insight into the extent and diversity of the mobilization and brings information about regional campaigns such as the Latin American campaign “Cures that Kill” which sees organizations and institutions in 14 countries in the region unite against ‘reparative’ therapies [Other Sheep editor’s link on ‘reparative’ therapy], or online mobilization actions such as the participatory video project “As I Am”.

Visit the IDAHO site for more information on activities and campaigns and spread awareness on your sites, Facebook profiles or by any other means.

For events that are not reported on the site, please send us an email to contact@dayagainsthomophobia.org

In solidarity The IDAHO Committee


Editor: Day Against Homophobia
http://dayagainsthomophobia.org

HIV and Transgender Women

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This post is dedicated to the MTV Staying Alive Campaign.

We all know what HIV stands for so I’m not even going there…to the definitions. And we also all know that HIV leads to AIDS.

But what may not know is the high prevalence of HIV infections in transgender/transsexual women. In my work, I have been able to interact with one of the most marginalised and forgotten/unknown groups of people in Kenya. The transgender community.

Most people only know of “MSM”. MSM stands for “Men who have Sex with Men”. Sometimes its put as “MSM and Trans”, here to console the plight and noise of transgender women. But most of the times its just MSM. Now to make the argument make sense, consider this:

The MSM claim:

The MSM fighters go on by saying that “They are men…as in…they have anal sex right? So they ARE men. Right? They (some) have a penis right? So they ARE men!” ← Is this right?

The Trans claim:

What does it mean to be transgender? It means you were born/assigned the wrong gender at birth. Thus, if you identify as a man, you should be treated as one. If you identify as a woman, you should be treated as one. Calling transgender women “MSM” is a direct spat in the face. Its an insult to them. Fine, you find some people saying that ‘MSM is a behavioural term’ but really, is it? When you say its “Men….” even before you continue you’re already calling trans women what they are not; men! True or false?

The transgender community, because of the above issues, is facing a plethora of HIV issues. Recent studies suggest HIV prevalence rates of up to 42% among transgender people in India . A multi-centric study from the same year in Argentina puts the transgender prevalence rate at 35%. In essence, what is happening is that the women either don’t go to HIV matters because of stigma, or feel insulted when asked to go to MSM HIV meetings/initiatives. This is the cause of the very high rates. I feel that it is mostly stigma. Why? Because of their situation, most feel embarrassed or uneasy to go for check ups to regular hospitals where when they are asked about things like if they have infections in their vaginas they cant answer (here I am referring to pre-op transgender individuals) or when they go to clinics specifically for MSMs, they feel out of place since ‘technically’ its for men.

I have no idea what the initiatives here are for transgender women but I do know that there is a lot of work going around for MSMs. It is very unfortunate that the people driving these initiative ‘forget’ that there indeed exists a transgender community and even so female transgender sex workers who are at an even greater risk of contracting HIV. It also disturbs me to know that, with all the progress that Kenya has made in combating HIV prevalence and spread among MSMs, the transgender and intersex community still continues to be ignored. Even more mind boggling is that when they source for funds, they mention that “their MSM initiative also caters for transgender identified individuals”. Through my consultations, I have come to learn that there is more to it than meets the eye. Basically, they do not want anything to do with MSM initiative because to them, it is already an insult and thus not viewed as being helpful to them.

All in all, I sincerely hope that with time the transgender community gets what it deserves. They should rise up and claim their stake. Transgender individuals have more issues to deal with than most people think. Its not just an MSM issue.

*Over and Out*

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A Case of The Third Sex

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(You’ll probably need a cuppa coffe o sumthn coz this is quite long!)

In Kenya, and generally most parts of the world, we only know of two sexes: male and female. There is no ifs and no buts. BUT, there are people who identify with something different other than male or female. Now, I am no guru in this nor am I an expert. But I will give my five cents (adjusted for inflation) worth. I have had the privilege of meeting and interacting with intersex people and I somehow have some idea about their issues. I also did a post highlighting these factors earlier on but this one is specifically to address some issues I felt I needed to talk about.

Before anything else, lets get some of the definitions clear. According to Wikipedia,

Intersex in humans refers to intermediate or atypical combinations of physical features that usually distinguish female from male. This is usually understood to be congenital, involving chromosomal, morphologic, genital and/or gonadal anomalies, such as diversion from typical XX-female or XY-male presentations, e.g., sex reversal (XY-female, XX-male), genital ambiguity, sex developmental differences. An intersex individual may have biological characteristics of both the male and female sexes. Intersexuality as a term was adopted by medicine during the 20th century, and applied to human beings whose biological sex cannot be classified as clearly male or female. Intersex was initially adopted by intersex activists who criticize traditional medical approaches to sex assignment and seek to be heard in the construction of new approaches.

Thus, from the above we see that basically intersex persons are persons born with atypical or ambiguous genitalia. So that we can be at par, lets break that down further. Atypical means: “Not usual in a normal condition; opposite of typical”. Intersex conditions are varied. But one thing is clear, the gender marker, here (because of the way we are socially brought up and taught) is the genitalia. Now if the genitalia does not look like the usual male or female one, then its atypical. Ambiguous means: “Open to multiple interpretations; Vague and unclear”. If the genitalia does not resemble that of either male or female and looks like either, or, both, none, mixed, varied…..you get my drift? Its ambiguous. Its not clear. Its vague.

The above basically points out the onset of intersex condition. Such children born intersex face a plethora of difficulties, some of which I will cite here in no order or form.

Can you imagine a kid who is born with genitalia that resembles more of male than of female but under further scrutiny it is discovered that the kid passes urine through an opening under that which is supposed to be the penis? Parents freak out and wonder what to do. The doctor prescribes that an operation be performed on it immediately because “we don’t want it to be a social pariah”. The kid is assigned a female identity and the small penis is trimmed down to look like a clitoris and the what would have been the scrotum is opened up to look like a vagina. They cannot create a vaginal canal since the kid is too young. The said kid grows up and begins to socialize. In due course, it begins displaying more male characteristics than female. But since the parents want “a perfect family” and don’t want any embarrassment (considering intersex persons are viewed as a curse in many societies), they don’t disclose to anyone about the kid’s intersex condition and brush off the kids behaviour as wanja kihii (in Kikuyu) or tom boyish behaviour, a “phase that will pass”. As the kid grows, she indeed develops breasts because she had some estrogen in her body but is now even more of a ‘boy’ than ever. She even knows (inside) that she is different but cannot pin point what the issue is. And the parents still don’t disclose this to her. When she grows older she learns of her intersex condition and reprimands her parents for deciding her fate for her. She tells them that she has never felt as being a girl and she wants to be who she really is, a boy. Now, by this time, she already has gotten an Identity Card that shows a female name. But even looking at her, she looks a whole lot like a boy than a girl, her mannerisms, speech, character, and even her likings and desires are inclined towards male than female. One could deduce that she is just tom boy but she knows this isn’t so. She knows she is and has always been a boy. What would you do? How would you help her/him?

This is but an example of what goes on in the intersex community. Just a drop in the vast ocean. I liken this short story to that of Richard Muasya. He is an intersex inmate at Kamiti Prison who seeks special recognition of the fact that he is neither male nor female, despite the fact that he identifies as male. I understand when some people say that its not a big issue and that KHRC and others could concentrate on more pressing matters but I beg to differ, albeit not entirely. There are many issues that need tackling and that are being tackled. Not all of us do the same thing. We each have something we go for, we do, we fight for, we want to achieve. This is a human rights issue and Muasya is but one of the many intersex people we have in Kenya. He is brave enough to come forward and say outright that  gender binary is and has always made intersex people be discriminated against and ostracised by society simply because “they don’t fit in”. While people can say that he identifies as a man and thus should not complain, he indeed complains because, far from the fact that he was jailed for a crime (funny, one of the charges was rape. It was dropped since he could’t possibly rape anyone due to his intersex condition) he has faced other problems in life (see link).

Such are the kinds of issues faced by such people. Consider one who has a proper functioning penis and testes. Because at first it didn’t look like a penis and the testes were un-descended, it was decided that its a she. Only later to discover, as the above story, that she can not only impregnate a woman, but is also menstruating! Furthermore, her true identity is he. Thus, this man, is forced to live a life of female-hood and worse, endure the pain of menses like women! Imagine that! Again, since he was raised as a girl, all his documents including identification ones, have a female name and bear an “F”. Considering he looks nothing like a woman (this is an assumption based on what I’ve read/heard) it is very difficult to convince people he is the she indicated in his ID card.

This is why such a case is important. It is imperative that the government considers such persons and make a ruling such as that of India which recognises the unique identities of intersex and transsexual individuals. By having an “O” for Other, it paves way for covering issues surrounding ambiguous and/or unique gender identities.

I shall find out more and share. I am very passionate about these matters and it pains me to know that society still regards them as social misfits, freaks of nature, taboos to be killed at birth and many other gross violations of their human right.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are mine alone and I have made references through links. As mentioned earlier, I am not an expert and therefore these views should not be taken as expert/professional opinions.

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Why is Africa so Homophobic?

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For about a week or two I have been at loggerheads with myself about why I have not been writing and updating my blog and some of the things that came to mind was why on earth I started the blog itself in the first place when I cannot even make a coherent relevant interesting post, not even once! A while back I could write a post a day. Now I find it hard. Not that there isn’t anything to write about but just the mere fact that the time to do so is not enough and maybe even the zeal to do so. And its not like I cannot write, its not like I don’t have the ideas…you know what? You get the drift. Now back to my question.

Why is Africa and africans so homophobic? What is our problem? Is it that we do not understand what homophobia is? Is it that we do not understand what homosexuality is? Are we really that myopic or are we deliberately ignorant? What ails us? Mind you, I will not go about putting links and definitions here about what I have read, what I have seen and all the posts I have been looking at. I will just ramble on at this because It has been poking at me for a while. But then again. I believe it is important I do so where I can.

Recently, Malawi sentenced a “gay” couple to 14 years in jail. Why do I say “gay”? Because if you read carefully the correct stories and the judgement itself, you will realise that Tiwonge is indeed transgender and not gay. Thus, she identifies as a woman! Fine, the point here isn’t her trans identity, rather it is the fact that they were jailed for loving one another. If my memory serves me right, (I am being lazy) they were charged with “acts of gross indecency”. My question is, if that was indeed gross indecency, shouldnt it have been the big crowd invited to the engagement ceremony that would have gone to court and complain about being shown yuky stuff in public? If it was indeed indecent, then who are the ones who felt disgusted? How come they had so many guests? In the end, it was a sad and wrong move that the Malawian courts made and surely that sentence will haunt them for days to come. What is my view on this?

Love is an interesting thing we have. It is an emotion as well as a virtue. These people were not accorded love by anyone. I wonder how Jesus feels like at that moment. These are two people who love each other. They were jailed using an archaic law that goes against the most basic human rights principles that even the Malawian constitution claims to uphold. Therefore, if the constitution says they have been accorded rights and they have now been jailed, aren’t we treating them as less human? It is very sad.

Neighboring Uganda has been considering a piece of legislation that will ensure that I cannot write about homosexuals in Uganda and if I am found I will be jailed for 7 years. My HIV positive gay Ugandan friend cannot be seen in public with me because if for any reason I want to wipe a spec of dust from his cheek then I am jailed for life and he is executed since he is positive and gay! Talk about retroactive steps! My! When I saw the bill, I couldn’t believe my eyes! And then I watched this youtube video and it further opened my eyes. It is a dangerous piece of legislation that will end up hurting the whole of Uganda rather than the targeted group. My view?

With all honesty, how does two people enjoying each others company affect me? Lies have been spread that if we allow homosexual people in the world we will all die. Seriously? As in do you hear that statement? We will all die? Jeez! Its not even possible statistically!

Last but not least, the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya on May 17th celebrated IDAHO as I stated here. This week, I heard rumours that the Inter Religious Forum was suing the National Museums of Kenya for hosting the event in what they called “allowing the commission of acts of gross indecency in a public space”. So I beg to question. Here was a genuine celebration by two genuine and legal NGOs with guests coming from all sectors of the society; rich, gay, poor, lesbian, high society, straight, yuppies, bisexual…i mean, the guests were diverse and vast. The media was even there, the international representatives were there. I mean, can I even start thinking about the sillyness of that statement? Aren’t gays, lesbians, transgender and intersex people PEOPLE? Aren’t they taxpayers? And since when was it a crime to congregate? I am at a loss of words!

I never wanted to do a lengthy post but all these things triggered my somewhat angry mood this week and I just had to vent it all out.

Some day, we will be able to understand the human rights concept. Someday.

Somehow. But, is it this>>

May 17th is IDAHO

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The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) is celebrated every May 17 around the world.

It is coordinated by the Paris based “IDAHO Committee” founded and presided by French academics, Louis-Georges Tin. It is celebrated in more than 50 countries in the world, and recognised officially by the European Union, Belgium, United Kingdom, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Mexico, Costa-Rica, etc.

The international day against homophobia aims to coordinate international events to call respect for lesbians and gays worldwide. Unlike theLGBT Pride Day, which is meant to emphasise proudness of one’s sexuality and refusal to be ashamed of it, IDAHO is held to highlight:

“… that in reality it is homophobia that is shameful and must be deconstructed in its social logic and fought against openly.”

May 17 was chosen as the day of the event because homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization (WHO) on May 17, 1990.[3]

(Source: Wikipedia)

Today marks an important day in the calendars of the LGBTI community and other supportive mainstream human rights organisations and movements. It is a day, as stated in the above text, set aside for all LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual and Intersex) persons to stand in solidarity against homophobia and transphobia.

Here in Kenya, the day is being commemorated by KHRC (Kenya Human Rights Commission), the one led by L.Muthoni Wanyeki and GALCK (Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya). I think there is something about it on their websites. This year, Kenya is paying particular focus on Transgender and Transphobia. There is also a newspaper Feature by The Standard on today’s paper. Sadly, thanks to useless website they have, I can’t find a link.

Kenyans know little about this day and its events and more-so the reason why it is commemorated. I do not intend to make a lengthy post about it but I would like to highlight a few things to note.

First, we remember the debacle that happened in Mtwapa in the recent past. That was outright homophobia in action. But first, lets see these two words in definition (Wikipedia).

Homophobia: Homophobia is a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards homosexuality and people identified or perceived as being homosexual. Definitions refer variably to antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, and irrational fear. Homophobia is observable in critical and hostile behavior such asdiscrimination and violence on the basis of a non-heterosexual orientation. In a 1998 address, author, activist, and civil rights leader Coretta Scott Kingstated that “Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood.”

Transphobia: Transphobia (or less commonly, transprejudice and trans-misogyny, the latter referring to transphobia directed toward transwomen) refers to discrimination against transsexualism and transsexual or transgender people, based on the expression of their internal gender identity (see Phobia – terms indicating prejudice or class discrimination). Whether intentional or not, transphobia can have severe consequences for the target of the negative attitude. Many transpeople also experience homophobia from people who incorrectly associate their gender identity with homosexuality. Attacking someone on the basis of a perception of their gender identity rather the perception of their sexual orientation is known as “trans-bashing,” as opposed to “gay bashing.”

What happened in Mtwapa was indeed homophobia, based on religious fundamentalism and extremism. Don’t get me wrong, everyone has a right to religion but the most basic right of all is the one found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I mentioned it here. It is clear that none should infringe on these basic rights, which include freedom of conscience and right to privacy. These are but some of the rights that sexual minorities (the general term used to describe minority groups marginalized on a sexual basis, including sex workers) are not accorded to and further more are infringed upon by society.

It is my wish that, as this day is marked and passes, that we as Kenyans and more so as human beings, can reach into our human core and say NO TO HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA. This cause is important and it is imperative that we all understand why every human being should be free from such acts of human rights violations.

And with that, I rest my case. I have been lax on writing about human rights and my activism but I hope I shed more light on this aspect of our lives as time goes by.

Thank you for reading and for supporting. I am very happy to interact with such wonderful persons such as YOU GUYS!!!

XOXO!

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