Archive for the 'Homophobia' Category

Actions to show support for Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga

May 27, 2010

London protest

Date: Saturday, 29 May 2010
Time: 1:00pm – 2:30pm
Location: Malawi High Commission, 70 Winnington Road, London, N2 0TX

Michael Nastari organiser of the London protest said “I like so many others felt sickened by the news of this appalling sentence.” With reference to the sentence of Unnatural Acts he goes on to state “All people should have a human right to freedom of expression; if two people wish to express their love for each other then they should be free to do so.Steven and Tiwonge should be free to express themselves and their love for each other in a way which is natural to them.”

The global outrage has sparked simultaneous protests planned in Berlin, San Francisco, San Diego and New York with more expected to follow as worldwide condemnation of the news spreads.


Online petitions:

Further details to follow…


Previous related posts:

Malawi: Live at the witch trials

May 23, 2010

“I am just a woman who loves my man. I’d rather remain in prison than to be released into a world where I am kept away from Steven.” (Tiwonge Chimbalanga)

I’ve been reading the formal Judgement in the case of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, a 24-page document which was passed on to me by nueva_voz, and it’s alternately harrowing and infuriating.

Harrowing to read of the brutally invasive treatment of Tiwonge by, well, pretty much everyone from the judge to the witnesses and all points in between – and infuriating because it’s hard to draw any conclusion other than this was a witch-hunt, a show trial and a foregone conclusion. And the defendants’ exercising of their rights to silence speaks volumes. The question I cannot fathom is – why? Why was there such a concerted campaign to make a public example of this young couple? Why did the authorities deem them such a threat that they needed to use such strongarm tactics against them?

The Judgement document opens with a summary of the three charges against Steven and Tiwonge. Steven was charged with “buggery or having carnal knowledge of the second accused person Tiwonge Chimbalanga Kachepa against the order of nature”. Tiwonge was also charged with buggery “or a charge of permitting the first named person to have carnal knowledge of him against the order of nature”. In the third charge, both Steven and Tiwonge were accused of “the offence of indecent practices between males”.

So right from the start, Tiwonge’s sense of self, her core sex identity, was completely erased.

From there, the report moves on to a section it calls, without a hint of irony, Facts. Not only is the one apparently pertinent fact (that Tiwonge is trans) ignored, but the details it introduced are steadily twisted and woven to create a series of logical fallacies that would surely have impressed even Lewis Carroll.

The simple facts of this case that are not in dispute are that both Tiwonge, also known as Aunt Tiwo, and Steven are men.

I rather think that the couple would dispute that, and that the report acknowledges not only that Tiwonge was known by a typically feminine noun – aunt – as well as describing her undertaking “womanly chores” at her church makes me wonder how the report can state categorically that she’s a man. At the very least, she seems to have been recognised as living in a cross-gendered role. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the court based its assumptions on the outmoded and discredited trope that a person with a penis must be a man.

This very shaky foundation is then built on in the Issues section which seems to assert that a chinkoswe ceremony (broadly analogous to a western-style engagement) “leads to the conclusion that the two had carnal knowledge”.

There follows a Burden Of Proof section which sets out the principle that accused people are innocent until proved guilty. Quite how that plays out when it’s already apparent that the authorities have concluded that they are indeed guilty, is another matter.

The next section, Evidence, seems to consist entirely of uncorroborated “witness” statements by an assortment of nine pillars of society – church elders, entrepreneurs, doctors and the investigating policeman – all of whom, without exception, emphasise Tiwonge’s assertion that she was a woman, albeit male-bodied.

The Evidence section is perhaps most distressing where it lets slip that Tiwonge was subject to enforced gynecological and psychiatric examinations after her arrest, “at the request of the police”. However, there is one quote in the evidence which is otherwise completely ignored:

She [businesswoman Flony Frank] then told the court that she discovered that [Tiwonge] has male genitals though they did no look normal to her

Is this a description of ambiguous genitalia? Is Tiwonge an intersex woman? Consider this quote of Tiwonge’s in the New York Times:

I have male genitals, but inside I am a complete woman. Maybe I cannot give birth to a child, but I menstruate every month — or most months

There are then several sections of legal jargon concerned with the meaning of phrases like “proof beyond reasonable doubt” and, ironically, “circumstantial evidence”. The gist of the argument is that Steven and Tiwonge must be guilty of buggery because they confessed to having anal intercourse. That the confessions seem to have been extracted under duress seems to be ignored by the court.

Next is a detailed discussion of the third charge – “the offence of indecent practices between males” – at the end of which it comes as no surprise to learn that the court decided that the couple were de facto guilty because they’d lived together as husband and wife. There is the inevitable whiff of trans panic – by presenting as a woman, Tiwonge was, somehow, “cheating”.

The report winds up by saying that the decision to impose the maximum penalties (14 years imprisonment with hard labour) was taken not only for its deterrent effect – a “scaring sentence” – but also because Malawian society is not ready “to see its sons getting married to other sons, or cohabiting or conducting engagement ceremonies”.

And that’s about the size of it. A complete sham with the sole purpose, it seems, of enforcing cis and hetero normativism. In the process, the authorities have steamrollered the human rights of this couple. The reactionary and brutal treatment of two people who – at worst – have committed a so-called victimless crime is as depressing as it’s frightening. My thoughts are with Steven and Tiwonge; I sincerely hope they survive this ordeal.


Previous related posts:

Bring back The Pansy Project’s Facebook page

May 22, 2010

Image of pansy from WikipediaWhilst I generally have little patience with the cis gay rights movement – primarily for its readiness to throw trans women under the metaphorical bus whenever we ask for its support in our struggle for civil rights, social justice and legal recognition *cough*ENDA*cough* – on an individual level it’s hard not to empathise with cis gay people who have been subject to homophobic harassment and abuse…

Manchester-based artist Paul Harfleet started The Pansy Project when he began to revisit various city streets to plant pansies at the sites of homophobic abuse.

A string of homophobic abuse on a warm summer’s day was the catalyst for this project. The day began with two builders shouting; “it’s about time we went gaybashing again isn’t it?”; continued with a gang of yobs throwing abuse and stones at my boyfriend and me, and ended with a bizarre and unsettling confrontation with a man who called us ‘ladies’ under his breath.

Paul decided that planting a small unmarked living plant at the site would correspond with the nature of the abuse: a plant would continue to grow, as he did through his experience. As he says:

Placing a live plant felt like a positive action, it was a comment on the abuse; a potential ‘remedy’.

The species of plant was of course vitally important and the pansy instantly seemed perfect. Not only does the word refer to an effeminate or gay man: The name of the flower originates from the French verb; pensar (to think), as the bowing head of the flower was seen to visually echo a person in deep thought. The subtlety and elegiac quality of the flower was ideal for my requirements. The action of planting reinforced these qualities, as kneeling in the street and digging in the often neglected hedgerows felt like a sorrowful act. The bowing heads of the flowers became mournful symbols of indignant acceptance.

Each pansy’s location is named after the abuse received and the project consists of the website, photographs and installations at sites of homophobia. In the five years since he began The Pansy Project, it’s been embraced by many in the gay community, who see it as way to deal with an experience shared by many. To my mind, the idea that art – living art – can challenge the brutality and ugliness of hate is actually quite beautiful and looking through the website, I think it’s hard not to be moved by it.

And yet, earlier this week, Paul’s Facebook group page was summarily removed by the site’s administrators on the grounds that “it transgressed their regulations”. Although Paul has requsted clarification from Facebook, none has been forthcoming. He has now set up a new page – Bring back THE PANSY PROJECT now – which he’s using while he waits to hear back from Facebook.


Curtsey to Earwicga for the heads-up

Image via Wikipedia


Cross-posted at The F-Word

Pope says that the Equality Bill “violates natural law”

February 2, 2010

Just to pick up on a point I made in passing in my previous post, about the Pope’s attack on the (admittedly poor quality) Equality Bill.

The BBC News website has this to say:

The Pope has faced a backlash after urging Catholic bishops in England and Wales to fight the UK’s Equality Bill with “missionary zeal”.

Pope Benedict XVI said the bill – which could end the right of the Church to ban gay [and transsexual] people from senior positions – “violates natural law”.


The Pope told the Catholic bishops of England and Wales gathered in Rome: “Your country is well-known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society.

“Yet, as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs.”

“In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed.”

Peter Tatchell is quoted as saying:

“His ill-informed claim that our equality laws undermine religious freedom suggests that he supports the right of churches to discriminate in accordance with their religious ethos,” he said.

“He seems to be defending discrimination by religious institutions and demanding that they should be above the law.”

And our Prime Minister’s response?

Gordon Brown said he respected the Pope but commenting would be inappropriate.

A stark reminder that those who govern us consider the links between state and religion to be more important than the human rights of the general population.


Previous, related posts:

McDonald’s refuses to hire woman because she’s transgender

December 7, 2009

Via the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund website:

On July 10, 2009, 17-year-old Zikerria Bellamy applied online for a position as a Shift Manager or Crew Leader at a McDonald’s restaurant in Orlando, Florida. On July 28, after managers at McDonald’s learned that Zikerria is transgender, she received the following voicemail message from one of the managers:


You went to [indistinguishable] McDonald’s today.
It doesn’t matter how many times you go down there.
You will not get hired.
We do not hire faggots.
You lied to me.
You told me you was a woman.
And then you lied to me.
You told me you were seventeen.
I can’t believe you.
You’re a lying brother [indistinguishable].
How could you ever lie to me?
We will never… [message ends]

It’s a bingo card all of its own, that: transphobia, racism, homophobia, cissexism, trans-misogyny, hate speech.

Needless to say, Zikerria didn’t even get a job interview – McDonald’s simply refused to hire her. Although whether you’d actually want to work alongside world class bigots and hatemongers like that manager is another matter.

TLDEF has now filed a Complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations against McDonald’s for refusing to hire 17-year-old Zikerria Bellamy because she is transgender.

More information over at the TLDEF website

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia – May 17

May 16, 2009


idaho2009Each year, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (the “IDAHO”, as it is usually called), will see actions and initiatives take place in many countries and contexts and on many different issues.

All these activities and initiatives are a very strong signal to all, decisions makers, public opinion, civil rights movements, human rights defenders, etc. throughout the world that our fights for our Rights as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, intersex, etc… is vibrant!

The Day provides all different kind of actors with a very powerful opportunity to express their demands and to advocate for their case. Each year also, the IDAHO aims at using the extra public, political and media attention that it provides at all levels to highlight one specific aspect of the struggle for sexual rights.

This year, we chose to highlight the often neglected but important issue of Transphobia.

Read the Appeal in English (PDF)


See the list of personalities already supporting the Appeal (PDF)

See the list of organisations that already support the Appeal (PDF)

Read our full media briefing (Word document)

Read our Media Release (PDF)


Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia

Lambda Istanbul granted permission to continue operating

May 7, 2009

Lambda IstanbulIn January, I wrote (link here) about the rejection by the Supreme Court of Appeals of a local court’s order that Lambda Istanbul (the Turkish LGBT solidarity organisation) be closed down for having objectives which were against Turkish “moral values and family structure”.

The case was then scheduled to return to the local court in Istanbul earlier this week, with the expectation that it would uphold the Supreme Court of Appeals’ decision. It seems that this has been the outcome, which is welcome news; however there is a sting in the tail.

By upholding the decision, this condition set by the Supreme Court has also been upheld:

Dissolution of the defendant association could still be demanded if it should act counter to its constitution, in the ways of encouraging or provoking gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and transvestite behavior or acting with the aim of spreading such sexual orientations.

In my view, this is a truly inequitable condition imposed by the Supreme Court, born of the same paranoia-fuelled ignorance that led to the UK’s similarly repressive – albeit narrower in scope) Section 28 amendment to the Local Government Act 1988 (repealed in 2003) which stated that a local authority:

“shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”

Lambda has responded, saying it will only feel truly safe when the Turkish constitution is amended to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity:

(The) constitutional safeguard is a must to hinder any homophobic interpretations of those vague concepts in law such as ‘general morals’ or ‘social values’ by barristers, who suffer from the very same social prejudices as many others in society.

Given the apparently open season of violence towards trans people in Turkey, it should not need stating that such a constitutional safeguard should be implemented immediately.


Previously related posts:

Cis man makes offensive “joke” then complains about consequent police warning

March 30, 2009

tg_black-on_pink_100x107Via the Daily Telegraph (link here) comes a story of offensive cluelessness on the part of pretty much all concerned – including the journalist.

A Conservative councillor claims he was questioned by police for two hours after making a light hearted comment in response to a question about transexuals.

First display of cluelessness. Why only a single ‘s’ in ‘transexuals’ (sic)?

Jonathan Yardley, 48, was told there had been a complaint about his remark and was asked if he was homophobic or had made a “hate comment”.

He had been chairing a quarterly meeting arranged by West Midlands Police at which members of the public can discuss crime.

It started with a presentation with members of the audience given a handset to allow them to select answers to questions flashed up on a screen.

A police authority worker who was acting as presenter then told them: “Let’s start with an easy question to get us going: Press A if you’re male or B if you’re female.”

Second display of cluelessness.

Why was it necessary to open a public meeting about crime with a question about gender identification? A question which assumes that all present are binary identified?

One member of the audience in Wolverhamtpon responded by asking: “What if you’re transgendered?”

Mr Yardley, a quantity surveyor, who is married with a 13 year old daughter, said: “I quipped that you could press A and B together. There was much laughter.”

Third display of cluelessness. Epic, offensive cluelessness.

Unbeknown to him there was a man dressed as a woman in the audience whose male partner had raised the question.

Fourth display of cluelessness, the second from the journalist – an essentialist assumption passed off as factual reportage. “A man dressed as a woman”? What does that even mean – and how would the journalist know anyway?

Mr Yardley, Wolverhampton city council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods and safer communities, said: “Several days later a complaint of homophobia was made. I was asked to go to the local police station, questioned for two hours by a sergeant and an inspector and let off with a warning.

Homophobia, yes. Transphobia, too, it seems.

“I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. They explained the legal process and what had happened and how the complaint had been made and they said I could be subject to a civil prosecution.

“There are much more important issues that the police should be spending their time on. I have so much trouble with crime and anti-social behaviour in my ward. I’m not homophobic, I just said it as a joke. It’s a sign of the times we live in, you can’t make jokes any more.”

Fifth display of cluelessness, and a special guest appearance by the “political correctness gone mad” faction. Kai Chang deconstructed that particular meme with style and aplomb a long time ago. Mr Yardley would do well to read it – The Greatest Cliché: The Unexamined Propaganda of “Political Correctness” (link here)

Because, you see, Mr Yardley, you can make jokes. But it helps if they’re (a) not at the expense of an already marginalised minority and, (b) amusing. Unless you actually want people to think of you as an ignorant bigot, of course.

This whole story exemplifies the almost subliminal and systemic transphobia to which trans people are routinely subjected, day in, day out. “Jokes” like Mr Yardley’s are every bit as hurtful and offensive as all the other forms of hate speech spat at us by small-minded bigots everywhere, every time we have the temerity to enter any space predominantly occupied by cis people.

“A joke”, you say, Mr Yardley? Well, I ain’t laughing.

Serbian government amends antidiscrimination bill

March 14, 2009

Serbian flagVia Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

BELGRADE (Reuters) — The Serbian government has said it had amended an antdiscrimination bill following requests from key religious communities, but that the draft still met international standards.

The bill, which now goes to parliament, is a key precondition for Serbia to join the European Union and its visa-free regime.

The original draft had sparked criticism from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religious communities over stipulations that ban discrimination of homosexuals and transgender people.

“We have reached a good law, which eliminates discrimination and is in line with international standards,” Rasim Ljajic, Serbia’s labor minister, told a news conference. “I cannot say that religious communities will be too happy.”

Prompted by protests from the top clergy, the government last week withdrew the bill from the parliamentary procedure.

“The disputed article on sexual orientation is part of European standards,” Ljajic said. “This is an umbrella law banning discrimination, not a law protecting any single social group.”

Ljajic said the wording of the controversial Articles 18 and 21 had been altered, “but not the essence of the law”.

The amended draft now says that the conduct of priests and religious officials against homosexuals will not be treated as discriminatory, if it is in keeping with church doctrine, faith, or the purpose of a church or a religious community.

Human rights watchdogs strongly opposed the withdrawal of the draft from parliament, arguing that religious communities were meddling in state affairs and sexual minorities would face discrimination.

Under the Serbian Constitution, religious communities are separated from the state, but top clergy from the Orthodox Church often influence political decisions.

The 250-seat parliament will discuss the draft law at its next session, scheduled for next week.


Previous related posts on this blog:

Remembering Angie Zapata

February 17, 2009

Received this message from the Remembering Angie Zapata Facebook group (direct link to full message text

SAVE THE DATES: March 18th & April 7th

Colorado Anti-Violence Program Announces
Discussion, Meditation & Dinner to Prepare for Upcoming Murder Trial

Trial dates have been set for the murder of Angie Zapata. The eight day trial begins on April 14, 2008 and takes place in Courtroom 11 of the Weld County Courts at 901 9th Ave in Greeley. We would like to provide as much community support to her family and friends as possible by packing the courthouse during those days. If you are interested in coordinating rides to Greeley from the Denver-Metro area, please contact Kelly Costello at 303-839-5204 or

CAVP staff feels it is important for all of us involved in the trial to do so from an intentional and loving space. We recognize that we are all emotionally impacted when people target the LGBTQ community with violence. These incidents often lead us to feel a heightened sense of fear and vulnerability. We may feel anger and hatred towards those responsible for such violence.

In an effort to support our community members in maintaining a positive and healthy emotional and mental space around the trial of Allen Ray Andrade, CAVP will be hosting two evenings of discussion, meditation and dinner. Discussion will be facilitated by CAVP staff and meditation by Marti Engelmann.

We encourage you to participate in BOTH sessions if:

– You are even slightly considering attending any trial dates
– You would like to find other ways to support people going to the trial
– You have any interest in participating in creating this type of space regardless of your
involvement with this case

March 18th from 6-8:30 pm and April 7th from 6-8:30 pm

CAVP Office

Discussion and meditation 6:00- 7:30. Dinner provided afterwards.

RSVP to Crystal Middlestadt at or 303-839-5204.



(Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia)


Previous related posts on this blog: