Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Transgender Rights Are A Worldwide Struggle

One of the things I've noticed over the last few years is how transpeople all over the world are gathering the courage to stand up, proudly proclaim their pride in who we are and fight for our human rights to be respected. The battle over ENDA in the United States is just one front in this struggle to not only gain recognition and respect but to be able to openly and honestly live our lives.

As a transgender person, my brothers and sisters are everywhere. I am not limited to the borders of the United States or my ancestral home continent of Africa in this regard. Any success that we as transpeople have somewhere on planet Earth affects me positively. I also share the pain and disappointment when I hear about the violence and repression faced by transpeople in many parts of Africa, Central America, South America, Jamaica and the United States or the legal setbacks in various countries when it comes to transgender issues.

I cheered when Israel's Dana International won the Eurovision song contest. I'm envious of my sisters in Thailand who get to transition early without the faith-based hatred that we face here in the States. I marvel at the beauty of the transwomen from Mexico, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan and other parts of the globe. I was moved to tears when Georgina Beyer became the first transwoman ever elected to a national legislative body as a member of New Zealand's parliament. I was happy to see that then 12 year old Kim in Germany was allowed to transition and is now happily growing up as a teen aged girl. I'm thrilled by the victories that Spanish transpeople gained in terms of their name change rights. I was fascinated to discover that transpeople even exist in Iran and other parts of the Middle East.

I jumped for joy when the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 was passed by the British Parliament. The recent Irish case allowing a transwoman there to change birth documents will hopefully help us here in the States.

Some of my early role models when I was growing up in the 70's were international in scope such as Britain's Caroline Cossey. I'm inspired to fight harder for my rights here in the States by drawing on the examples of courage from Ugandan Victor Juliet Mukasa , the Queen of Africa and transactivists in Argentina.

And my thoughts are reciprocated in other parts of the world as well. The upcoming Transgender Day of Remembrance started here in the States but has quickly become a worldwide event. I was pleased to discover that my blog is read internationally when I noted that Portugal's Eduarda Santos links her transgender blog to various posts of mine on occasion. I hope that you international readers are enjoying getting to learn about what life is like for a transgender person who also happens to be an American proud of her African roots.

I'm delighted to see that transgender pageants are exploding in popularity in the Philippines, Thailand and Great Britain and that our transpeeps in South Korea, thanks to Harisu, can not only get their name changes done but get married as well.

Even China has an emerging transgender community with Chen Lili as its poster girl. And like Georgina Beyer, more transpeople are getting elected to public office in various countries, including my own.

We are all interconnected. Transpeople know this lesson better than anyone. Just look at how SRS technology advanced. It was an international effort and we traveled to wherever it was available.

In 1952 the late Christine Jorgenson got her pioneering surgery done in Denmark. Others later flocked to Morocco in the 1960s to get the updated techniques from Dr. Georges Burou that modern SRS is based on. The late Dr. Stanley Biber of Trinidad, CO built upon and perfected it during the 70's and 80's. Montreal surgeons Dr. Yvon Menard and Dr. Pierre Brassard built on that work and Dr. Michel Seghers was doing cutting edge SRS surgeries as well in Belgium. Now transpeople flock to Thailand from all over the world to take advantage of the reasonably-priced cutting edge work of the Thai doctors to get it done.

The civil rights struggle, like the medical advances in SRS techniques is an international one as well. We may feel in our various countries from time to time that we're fighting it alone, but we aren't.

But the fight is an ongoing one. Just as we have religious zealots in the United States seeking to retard our progress, so do our brothers and sisters around the world. Islamic fundamentalists are opposing our sisters in Malaysia and Indonesia. Nigerians have the double whammy of being opposed by Islamic and Christian fundamentalists.

Like the US Republican party, there are politicians pandering to the bigot vote like Prime Minster John Howard of Australia and our transsisters are caught in the crossfire. The Catholic Church has moved from an affirming position on transgender issues to an increasingly intolerant one under Pope Benedict XVI. Our sisters in the Philippines have recently suffered a blow from their Supreme Court in terms of being able to change their birth documents.

As former South African president Nelson Mandela so eloquently stated, 'the people are their own liberators.'

We must take his words to heart and act as our own liberators. We must continue to support each other, reach out to supportive family members and friends, win allies, pool information, strategies, tactics and information so that we reach our ultimate goal: respect of our humanity.

We transpeople should never give up hope. We must continue to fight to have our basic human rights in our various homelands respected and protected. That must happen if we wish to contribute our talents to help build our communities and our respective nations. We must be able to work without being harassed or denied employment we are qualified for. We mush be able to live quality lives without having fear, shame, guilt and the specter of violence heaped upon us. We must be able to freely use our talents to accomplish whatever we set our minds to do and have the faith to believe that one day we will prevail over the Forces of Intolerance.

And yes, I believe this will happen in my lifetime.


Unknown said...

Dear Monica

I couldn't be more surprised when I found that you mentioned me and my blog on this post. It was a grateful surprise.

I think that it would be much more effective to all Transgender people unite their efforts around the world and fight together for the human rights that are still being denied to us.

That's why I consider important the knowledge of what's happening in the world these days.

Once again thanks
Hugs and kisses

Monica Roberts said...

I appreciate you linking to my blog. The acknowledgement was way overdue. ;)

You're absolutely right about the need for transgender people around the world to start communicating now because our opponents are already hard at work sharing strategies to deny us our rights.,

We have anti-GLBT Latvians repeatedly meeting with homobiogot pastor Ken Hutcherson in Seattle. The problems that Aussie transpeople are having with identity documents are straight out of the US Religious Right playbook.

That knowledge cuts both ways. We in the States need to know what strategies worked in helping transpeople in Europe get civil rights coverage.

And frankly, it's cool for me to know what my transbrothers and transsisters around the world are up to.

Zoe Brain said...

Hi Monica!

It works both ways: legal victories won in one jurisdiction have weight in others. The Re Kevin decisions in Australia have been mentioned before the US Supreme Court. It is common to have US Civil Rights decisions taken into account in Australia whenever the existing Australian law is unclear.

These situations can work for us, or against us. It's why some in far-off places work so hard to make sure existing rights aren't eroded. Because it won't just affect us.

Our task is made easier by having inspirational people in far-off places fighting the same fight in their own way. We draw strength from them - and from you in particular, Monica. Thanks!

Monica Roberts said...

Sometimes it surprises me to hear that people consider lil' old me an inspiration.

You're right about judicial decisions cutting both ways. Our US (sac(Religious Reichers are quick to pick up, point out and quote the adverse decisions and ignore the ones that favor us.