South Africa celebrates Trans Day of Visibility

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Iranti and Home Affairs assisted trans and gender diverse community members to register to change their gender markers and names on the International Trans Day of Visibility. (Pics courtesy of Iranti)

South Africa’s LGBTIQ+ community marked the International Transgender Day of Visibility on Thursday, with one organisation teaming up with Home Affairs to assist trans folk with identity document changes.

Commemorated annually on 31 March, the International Transgender Day of Visibility – also known as TDOV – is a global celebration of transgender and gender-diverse individuals and their achievements.

It is also an opportunity to acknowledge that much work remains to be done to secure full equality and rights for trans individuals.

LGBTIQ+ people, organisations and allies took to social media to show their support for TDOV with posts and images that featured the colours of the transgender flag; light blue, pink and white.

In a statement to commemorate the day, Pretoria-based group OUT LGBT Well-being insisted that the South African government fulfil its commitment to provide equal and affirming services to transgender and gender-diverse people.

OUT said this includes urgently amending the “restrictive and onerous” Alteration of Sex Descriptors and Sex Status Act (Act 49 of 2003) which requires transgender individuals to have begun their medical transition before being allowed to request to change the sex descriptor on their identity documents.

“Without accurate identity documents, transgender and gender-diverse people face struggles to secure employment, access services and travel. Delays in timeously providing applicants with amended identity documents are not acceptable,” said the organisation.

It also urged the government to pass proposed new identity management legislation that will be inclusive of transgender, gender-diverse and intersex South Africans.

“OUT salutes those transgender and gender-diverse people in our country who are helping to visibilise the community, despite the ever-present risk of discrimination and violence,” commented Lerato Phalakatshela, OUT’s Human Rights Manager.

“Please treat us equally because we are equal and we are human…”

In Johannesburg, LGBTIQ+ group Iranti partnered with the Department of Home Affairs to help trans and gender diverse people who needed assistance with changing their gender marker and name in their identity documents.

LGBTIQ+ members of the community have often faced discriminatory, stigmatising and dehumanising service at Home Affairs offices over the years.

Irani invited trans and gender diverse people to “a safe and inclusive space” at its office in Brixton on Thursday where Home Affairs officials were present to collect gender marker change applications for processing at their offices.

Officials also took down the details of those who had issues with previous applications, and provided information on the requirements, processing, time frames and costs related to applications.

Wits RHI attended the event to offer clinical services and to assist applicants with making appointments to secure the required medical documentation.

“The overall experience has been really wonderful. And the Home Affairs officials were really supportive and nice. We got through the application pretty quickly,” said Luke, one of those who’ve applied to change their gender marker.

Luke said it was important that staff at Home Affairs be better educated and sensitised about the needs and rights of the trans community. “It’s not really ideal for us to go [to Home Affairs offices]. It is a scary experience.”

Another applicant, Lebogang,  added: “The message that I would give to the people at Home Affairs is please treat us equally because we are equal and we are human.”

While the day was deemed a success, Iranti continued to call on Home Affairs “to remove gender markers from identity documents, repeal the Alteration of Sex Descriptors and Sex Status Act (Act 49 of 2003) and replace it with depathologised legislation that grants trans and gender-diverse people the right to self-determination.”

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