The late Daisy Dube.
Friday 20 November is the 11th international Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), in which the world remembers those who have fallen because of transphobic violence.
The day draws attention to the many nameless and faceless victims that the media never hears of – stories that shame us as a society and as human beings.
TDOR was first marked to honour Rita Hester who was murdered on November 28 1998. She was a well known member of the transgender community in Boston, USA, where she worked on education around transgender issues. Hester was stabbed 20 times in her apartment and her murder remains unsolved.
South African Transgender rights group Gender DynamiX commemorated TDOR on Friday by highlighting two individuals whose death was directly related to transphobia.
Daisy Dube was shot and killed in Yeoville in 2008 because of her gender identity. She and three drag queens out for the night stopped and asked three men in a car to stop calling them “isitabane.” (A isiZulu slur used for LGBT people). She was shot and killed for defending her identity.
Aunty Victoria, attempted suicide and later died in Muhimbili National Hospital Dar es Salaam this year. The years of stigma and constant discrimination, and finally the loss of her lover made her life unbearable. Hours before her death, naked and unconscious, a hospital worker took photographs of her body.
The photos were uploaded to the internet, sent out via email and widely circulated. Echoing this shocking disrespect, the morgue at Muhimbili was left unlocked and hundreds of people queued to look at her body. By the time Aunty Victoria was buried, her breasts and genitals were surgically removed to conform to the Muslim belief that her body should be the one she was born with, so that Allah would recognise her in death.
“We plead with the wider community of South Africa to join us in remembering these casualties of hatred, intolerance and injustice. South African law acknowledges and respects the concept of gender expression not being a fixed notion,” said Simone Heradien, board member of Gender DynamiX.
“We appeal to the media, politicians and the public to remember that the human rights are for all South Africans. We are human first before gender, race, class or creed.”
The organisation noted that transgenderism is classified in many countries around the world as a mental disorder, rather than a natural gender variation.
“This western diagnosis contributes to the ongoing transphobia, isolation and pain that trangender people face – resulting in depression and suicidal tendencies. African societies which traditionally respected members who didn’t conform to the standard gender binary, are beginning to take on the first world view and are treating transgendered people like freaks to be culled,” said the organisation.
To further mark the day, Gender DynamiX and its partner GALA (Gay and Lesbian memory in Action) will be releasing the book Trans: Transgender life stories from South Africa today.
Edited by Ruth Morgan, Charl Marais and Joy Rosemary Wellbeloved and published by Fanele, Trans aims to take the reader on a journey into the many worlds inhabited by transgender South Africans. It is available countrywide.