November 13-19 is Trans Awareness week, culminating in the International Transgender Day of Remembrance on the 20th November to honour those who have been lost. The week serves to raise awareness and advocate on the importance of supporting and affirming transgender persons within our communities.
As per the South African Constitution, every person has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, yet the lack of free, accessible gender affirming therapy remains a daily challenge. The long waiting list at Groote Schuur hospital for gender affirming surgeries delays the process for transgender persons to affirm their gender expression, leaving many facing a variety of challenges that are hurdles to their health and wellness.
This year, we have witnessed the gap that COVID-19 has left from the loss of people who have been cornerstones of movement building in different sectors. One such loss is Netta Marcus, and we extend our thoughts and prayers to her family (biological and chosen). Aunty Netta was one of the founding members of Sistazhood, a safe space for unhomed transgender sex workers. May her spirit find peace as she joins heroines such as Waleed ‘Leigh’ Davis.
It is time we all take a more active role within our allyship towards the transgender community to reduce the hurdles faced. What hurdles you may ask?
Akani Shimange wrote:
For Tran(s) people the Covid safety precautions are nothing new.
- Worn masks for the world so we are safe.
- Sanitized our personalities for the world to accept us.
- Isolated ourselves, our entire lives.
So, for every cis person who is frustrated by the “new world” they live in, remember that your Transphobia has been our pandemic.
There should be no space in our communities for hate and exclusion. I would like to encourage all readers to not only show up and speak out against discrimination and violence on transgender persons, but most importantly, let your actions speak louder than your words by actively supporting the transgender community in a practical way. Akani Shimange further notes ways to show your support:
As we quiet our pain in hymns of hope
We are reminded of the souls we lost in streets violated for who they are
The world is filled with hate unmatched to tear us apart
May our brothers and sisters rest peacefully knowing we shall triumphant transphobia one day.
Let us hold each other in strength
As we continue to fight for our rights
We are transgender
We are people
We do matter
Mercury Duma is a writer, poet and activist based in Pietermaritzburg. His work focuses on issues faced by transgender people in South Africa. His writings uphold concepts of acceptance, visibility and comfortabilities.
International Day of Trans remembrance is a day that many queer persons and allies use to commemorate those that have lost their lives by affirming who they are. Naturally, affirmation comes with a great deal of contestation and negotiating space! However, without contestation and dialogue, as a people we will never change the status quo of those continuously invisibilised, brutalised and silenced. Those that have lost their lives and lives of their loved ones, they did not die in vain instead, invigorated a burning desire not to have another life lost. We are indeed our ancestor’s wildest dreams!
“Until they become conscious, they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled, they cannot be conscious – George Orwell”
Please join us on 20 November to remember the life of Netty Marcus and other Trans activists lost this year.