South Africa is home to a culture of transphobia

Two M&G articles defending trans-exclusionary views draw on the insidious anti-trans rhetoric flourishing in the UK, but ignore our country’s constitutional protections

2022-01-17 04:15:00 PM

South Africa is home to a culture of transphobia - Two M&G articles defending trans-exclusionary views draw on the insidious anti-trans rhetoric flourishing in the UK, but ignore our country’s constitutional protections

Two M&G articles defending trans-exclusionary views draw on the insidious anti-trans rhetoric flourishing in the UK, but ignore our country’s constitutional protections

Trans Britain: Our Long Journey from the Shadows, describes the tonal change as “a confected campaign launched [by] certain of Britain’s newspapers.”The defence of trans-exclusionary feminists ignores the widespread harm their viewpoints cause to the transgender community.

A reportby the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association shows that the anti-trans rhetoric of the UK media and celebrities contributes to an increase in hostility towards transgender people. The report singles out Rowling’s repeated transphobic attacks as a prominent example.

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, Christine Burns, activist and editor of Trans Britain: Our Long Journey from the Shadows , describes the tonal change as “a confected campaign launched [by] certain of Britain’s newspapers.” The defence of trans-exclusionary feminists ignores the widespread harm their viewpoints cause to the transgender community. A report by the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association shows that the anti-trans rhetoric of the UK media and celebrities contributes to an increase in hostility towards transgender people. The report singles out Rowling’s repeated transphobic attacks as a prominent example. The result? A dramatic increase in trans hate crimes. According to data acquired by Vice World News, transphobic hate crimes in the UK have quadrupled over the past six years. There were 598 reports of transphobic hate crimes in 2014-15 and 2 588 in 2020-21 — a rise of 332%. And this is only a fraction of the hate crimes experienced by the transgender community. The more concerning aspect of Forrests’s articles is the danger of importing the anti-trans rhetoric flourishing in the UK to South Africa. It reeks of neocolonial moral imperialism that ignores the inclusionary systems that uphold trans rights in South Africa. Given our history of biological determinism and the legacy of apartheid-era eugenics programmes, the insistence that we adhere to biological essentialism is reckless. This is particularly so given that our constitution enshrines the rights of trans people by protecting us against discrimination based on sex, gender and sexual orientation. An interlocking set of rights (equality, dignity, life, et cetera) covers trans people. The Promotion of Equality and Prevention on Unfair Discrimination Act further enshrines the protection of trans people from discrimination and harassment. The Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act recognises the right of trans people to change their gender marker — additionally, it recognises trans people as the gender they identify.   There are many legal protections for trans people in South African law; however, many of these exist mainly on paper and lack actionable, reality-based implementation. Trans people continue to face violence, harassment and dehumanising prejudice. Articles like the ones penned by Forrest are evidence of the far-reaching cultural changes needed in South Africa to protect trans rights adequately .   The single-handed reliance on the defence of “free speech” to support transphobic ideology is tiresome. The alleged “unalterable maleness of trans women” is frequently cited to deny trans women access to public spaces like bathrooms. Additionally, the assigned sex of trans women is weaponised to harass them to the point of fleeing a complex in which they legally resided, as was the case before the equality court in Lallu vs Van Staden . The equality court held that a neighbour’s verbal abuse of a trans woman amounted to harassment, hate speech and unfair discrimination. Despite the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act provisions stating that gender confirmation surgery is not necessary for changing your gender marker, many Home Affairs officials incorrectly apply the legislation. Trans people are often denied changes to their gender marker for this reason. This usually prompts a protracted bureaucratic fight with Home Affairs to use the legislation correctly. It is easy to claim there is no unfair discrimination facing trans people in South Africa when your framework for discrimination is minimal. There is no accounting for the widespread discrimination trans people experience within the