transphobia

Christina Engela's picture

Grow A Pair

Sadly most trans people like being in the closet too much to get involved in educating the public on trans issues. I know of some others here in my city, and every one of them is flatly uninterested in exposing themselves to public view - leaving trans-activism to non trans people - and broadly speaking, giving them the opportunity to blame a lack of progress on others.

Yes of course, it's not easy exposing yourself to the world as a trans person - it's hard enough trying to convince ignorant family members that you don't get a thrill out of wearing women's underwear, or like playing with little boys like some of those pedophile Catholic priests do - and as usual, we are SO ashamed to be trans we could never accept the idea of actually being PROUD of who we are or for our achievements as trans people. In fact, we set out to spend the rest of our lives denying that we ever left the factory with slightly different equipment before having an "upgrade" - or even that any such "upgrade" ever took place.

It's safer to slide over from one side of the closet to the other, rather than stepping out and taking a stand by being visible. It's safer to continue letting people get away with judging you and persecuting you for who you are or how you were born. It's more convenient to keep your mouth shut while people continue to call women "him" or "it" and to discriminate unfairly. It's so much easier for some of us to blame the so-called "cis-gays" for the lack of advancement in civil rights battles, rather than looking at ourselves for not having the gumption to get involved in advocacy organizations ourselves or simply starting our own.
Christina Engela's picture

Gender Stereotypes And Diversity

The following is a speech I made at a university in Port Elizabeth today, where I was asked to speak on stereotypes and the trans community as part of their Diversity Week. A special note of thanks to Busisiwe Deyi of the Eloquor Society.

My name is Christina Engela and I'm here to talk to you about transgender and transsexual stereotypes.

If someone just said the word "transsexual" or "transgender", what sort of image would pop up in your heads? What is the stereotype?

Mrs Doubtfire? Boy George? A drag performer on stage? A man in women's clothing? What sort of stereotypes come to mind? A stereotype is like gossip - even though it hasn't been proved, people still accept it as fact, and I suppose it depends on what people have been saying.

Am I someone who's after your children or perving over other women in the ladies room? Do I pee standing up? Am I someone that other people need to be protected against? Am I a threat to society?

I'm sure you can tell I have a "unique" voice for a woman - but I can assure you that I am none of these things.

When we talk about transgender and transsexual stereotypes, lots of words come to mind, words like "freak", "pervert", "deviant", "he-she's" and a lot of other nasty words that are meant to hurt. But do any of the people who use these words or say these things about us actually know what it means to be a transsexual person? Do they know what is true and what is false about transgender people? Or are they just acting on an assumption based on their lack of knowledge of something?

This is the nature of a stereotype, it is based on ignorance, assumption and inaccuracy.

I am a transsexual woman, which means that I was born in a male body, but I underwent painful surgeries to become the woman I always knew I was inside. A transsexual person doesn't change their physical gender because they just wake up one day and feel like it. It is a lifelong unhappiness with a medical condition in which a mind of one gender is born into a physical body of another. It was something I had to do in order to continue to live and to be happy.

I've just told you this, but up until this moment, did you know what a transsexual woman was? Or did you believe the stereotype?

I mentioned ignorance - because if I don't know what a transgender or transsexual person is, then how can I know the truth from a lie? In fact, there is so much ignorance out there about gender issues that many trans people don't even know that they are trans, until they eventually work it out for themselves, or they become so unhappy with the way their lives are that they are forced to look for help. You see, ignorance - and stereotyping causes so much needless suffering.

If someone tells you a lie about trans people, or if people claim that being transgender is "un-African" or "unnatural", then how can you know if they're lying? Well I can tell you that if you don't see any transgender people in your community, then that is because they are hiding. And they are hiding because they are afraid of people who are afraid of anything that is different to themselves - people who act in anger brought on by their own fear, which is brought on by ignorance.

People fear the unknown, and not knowing something is ignorance. Ignorance is what breeds negative stereotypes, and these reinforce fear. So you have a vicious circle of ignorance, fear and negative stereotypes. And the way to break this vicious circle - and the answer to ignorance - is education.

If you don't know what a transgender person is all about, then find out - ask one, and they will tell you.

Ask me, I am one - and I know what I am - I'm not a stereotype, I'm happy, and I'm not afraid.

(Posted at Sour Grapes)

Christina Engela's picture

A World Without Fear

Xenophobia?

What's that?

Recently there were some widely publicized outbreaks of violence in South Africa which were directed at foreigners living in the country, particularly illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Somalia. The term xenophobia was applied to these acts of violence, and many have taken it to mean only this sort of attack on foreign nationals living among the local population - attacks fueled by differences of nationality only. Sorry to burst this little nationalistic bubble - but that's not all there is to xenophobia.

Some very biased and obviously prejudiced people who represent South Africa at the UN and also in other offices of government have recently asserted that racism and xenophobia are far more "important" issues to address than homophobia. Comparing homophobia to racism, they say, is an insult to the victims of racism. Hmm. This appears to be one group having been marginalized and persecuted, recently liberated, and now looking for somebody else to be "better" than and to explore its new-found "superiority" over.

Are you hated? Are you marginalized or persecuted for something which you cannot help being, or for something that is as natural to you as breathing? Congratulations - that makes you another equal victim of xenophobia!
Christina Engela's picture

Hate The Sin, Hate The Sinner

Where I come from, being called a bigot used to be an insult, and being called bigoted was an accusation people used to take very seriously. Considering that I grew up in South Africa during the last years of the Apartheid regime, and was schooled under its influence, this is a revealing scenario.

In those days, liberals used to refer to people as bigots because they were supporting and defending racist policies, and were very enthusiastic about it. Very often, the same people used to "categorically deny" being bigoted and would take such accusations very personally while often going to extremes - very often religious extremes - to try to justify their bigotry.

The landscape has changed since then, both politically and socially. As we are so often reminded, queer is the new black. There are no true "conservative" parties in this country today of the same ilk as there is a Conservative Party in the UK for example. No, here we have some small minority parties which are called conservative only because they are staunchly religious fundamentalist in nature and cannot in their minds or in their policies separate the concepts of politics and their particular religions.

Such conservative parties, which despite their claims of speaking on behalf of all "true" Christian South Africans, only form a very small, very vocal minority in the country. Perhaps this is fortunate, because their policies are radical and their reactions to democratic ideals such as freedom, equality and liberty - well, reactionary - and they scare away the moderates. They hijack the stage and the microphone away from the moderate majority and take pride in blurring the lines between church and state, fact and fiction - and actively pursue their goals of spreading malicious myths and slanderous "ex-gay" propaganda in South African culture in order to cultivate their support base.
Christina Engela's picture

40 Myths, Busted

I thought today I might make a short list of things that expose the shaky foundations of most stereotypical anti-gay myths being peddled by anti-equality groups. In doing so, I found a list, upon which I based my list. You can view the original here.

1) Being gay is not natural. Good, moral people and God-fearing Christians always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

2) Being gay is un-African. Real Africans obviously reject unnatural un-African things like clothing, shoes, cars, cel-phones, soccer and of course, Christianity.

3) Marriage equality for gay people will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall - or hanging around politicians will make people like Juliaaas smart.

4) Marriage equality for gay people will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even want to marry their pets or underage children because everyone knows dogs and children have legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

5) Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, men can still marry as many women as they like, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

6) Gay marriage is a new invention, no matter what the ancient histories of Egypt, Greece, Rome, Japan, China, Africa, Medieval Europe - and Wikipedia say about it.
Christina Engela's picture

Once Upon A Hate-Crime

Come kiddies, gather round - aunty Tina is going to tell you all a story... somebody was kind enough to send it to me, and I want to share it with you because it made me think. Pay attention in class, because I will be throwing lollipops at anyone I see sleeping - and there will be questions afterwards.

Once upon a time, a mouse looked through a crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package.

"What food might this contain?" The mouse wondered. He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap. Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed this warning :

"There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!" 

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The pig sympathized, but said, "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."
 
The mouse turned to the cow and said, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"
 
The cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose."

So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap . . .. alone.. . ..
 
That very night a sound was heard throughout the house -- the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.
 
The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it. It was a venomous snake whose tail was caught in the trap. The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital. When she returned home she still had a fever.

Everyone knows you treat a fever - with fresh chicken soup. So the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient. But his wife's sickness continued. Friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

But, alas, the farmer's wife did not get well... She died. So many people came for her funeral that the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them for the funeral luncheon.
 
And the mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.
 
So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and you think it doesn't concern you, remember --- When one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.
Christina Engela's picture

Jacob, Jacob, Wherefore Art Thou?


Why has President Zuma of South Africa, who visited Uganda for a few days this past week, not condemned the Ugandan Genocide Bill?

The bill in question, which is still being debated in the Ugandan Parliament and - if passed, will condemn millions of innocent Ugandans to death simply for being born gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex - and simply for being a favorite scapegoat and target for the hatred of an increasingly virulent homophobic agenda in Uganda. This legislation will also effectively turn many heterosexual people into criminals just for not reporting the existence of GLBTI colleagues, parishioners, neighbors, clients, family and friends to the authorities and for "harboring criminals".

This bill has over the past six months drawn the ire and outright condemnation of churches, companies, advocacy groups, the UN, and governments from countries all over the world - except the largest, most prosperous and influential country in Southern Africa. A country, whose Constitution promises dignity, equality and legal protections to everyone, but in this case - specifically pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity. A country, whose government has thus far completely ignored all requests from advocacy groups in South Africa to speak out on this issue, and to add its voice to the weight of condemnation from those countries who are concerned with the welfare of the human rights of the Ugandan people.
Christina Engela's picture

They Got Him In The End - Or Did They?

 


Dr Aubrey Levin, aka the Dr Mengele of Apartheid South Africa has finally run foul of the law. He was arrested in Canada last week for abusing a Canadian man at his practice. It seems that old habits die hard. "Dr Shock" as he was called back in the old days, used to torture gay and lesbian military personnel to try and turn them straight. Amazingly enough the folks at your local friendly neighborhood "ex-gay" ministry have been trying to that for decades too - and haven't been having much success either. Most intelligent people already know that it is nigh impossible to "straighten" what was made "skew" in the first place, to paraphrase an Afrikanerism. For those not smart enough to bluff their way out of Levin's grasp, (shouting "Praise the Lord, I'm healed!") he performed forcible sex-changes on them - and according to some sources, many of these were intentionally botched.

Only one thing can define such actions to me - an intense hatred.



I managed to just avoid him in my own term in the South African Army - luckily he had already left by then. I did my whole transition in the Army. It could have worked out very differently if he were still there of course. As it was, I picked up lots of horrific tales from "family" who had been there - or still worked in the military medical environment, of days gone by. All told me how lucky I was to have missed them.
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