A radio station in Namibia is under fire for posting an offensive transphobic Facebook meme mocking transgender athletes.
On Wednesday, Windhoek-based RadioWave FM, dubbed “Namibia’s No.1 Hit Music Station”, posted an image of what appeared to be a female presenting athlete sporting a ridiculous fake beard.
The text accompanying the photo stated: “Chops: Transgender athletes will face tougher restrictions on competing in the Olympic Games 2020. The IOC are halving the maximum testosterone level permitted for women’s events. Does this make the competition fair? This includes wrestling by the way.”
The meme further states: “IOC changes rules to allow transsexual men to compete against women,” indicating the poster’s ignorance by incorrectly referring to transgender people as transsexuals.
The post sparked a flurry of laughing emojis and transphobic comments by the station’s listeners, who seem to view transgender individuals as some kind of “inhuman” group.
Robert Wheal wrote: “Can’t all the transgender people compete against their own Race?? As they are not man not woman? They are I bewteens… They should make a transgender category!”
Others expressed their shock at the post, calling out the station for “insensitive sensationalism.” Jholerina Angel-Khoetage Timbo of Wings To Transcend Namibia, commented: “You should be ashamed that you use a community in a negative light without understanding the challenges already faced by our community on a daily basis.”
In a letter to the station, Aedin Mohrmann, Co-founder of Land Of The Queers, said: “We cannot fathom any reasoning for posting such a disrespectful photo [by] a large, well known media conglomerate in 2019.”
Continued Mohrmann: “Trans people receive enough discrimination as it is. We as a community do not need your online bullying of an entire group of people who are simply trying to live their lives in their own expression, in a world very much out to get them.”
The post was then removed from the page following the complaints, but the station did not publicly acknowledge what it had done or apologise on the page.
However, in response to an email from MambaOnline, Programme Manager Christine Venter said: “Radiowave has noted the concerns raised by our followers and listeners, regarding the post dealing with the Olympic Committee’s recent decisions on transgender persons’ participation in the Games, and the picture which was posted with it.”
She continued: “We have addressed the matter internally. Management removed the image, as we received complaints that it is offensive and upsetting. Unfortunately the Facebook platform also removed the rest of the discussion – which was not our intention, as we do not wish to give the impression that we are not open for constructive feedback.”
Venter added: “We are committed to understanding the matters around the LGBTQ community better, and reporting on it in a responsible way.”
Mohrmann, however, believes that more needs to be done; calling for an apology to be posted and broadcast by the station. He also urged Venter to take steps to educate staff on LGBTIQ+ issues.
“We look forward to hearing from you, both via private email to make arrangements for training and information as well as publicly in the form of an apology,” he wrote.
“Take this as a learning opportunity or get stuck on the wrong side of human rights history, and if you choose the latter be assured the Namibian LGBTIQ+ community as well as our allies will #MuteRadioWave,” Mohrmann warned.
In March 2018, Namibia financial services company Trustco was criticised for running an ad to recruit women candidates for its all-male board, using an image of transgender Olympian and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner. The ad’s headline read: “Some will do anything to get a seat.”
LGBTIQ+ people in Namibia face discrimination, harassment and violence. Consensual “sodomy” is illegal and could be used to prosecute gay men, although this is not believed to have happened since the country’s independence in 1990.
A 2016 UN Human Rights Committee report urged Namibia to adopt legislation explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, including in the Labour Act, and adopt hate crime legislation punishing homophobic and transphobic violence.