“Stand Against Transphobia” Photo-Exhibition at National Library until Saturday

On Monday, March 31, 2014, Guyana Trans United (GTU) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) launched their “Stand Against Transphobia” Photo-Exhibition in celebration of International Transgender Day of Visibility at the National Library’s Conference Room. 

Observed globally on March 31, International Transgender Day of Visibility is a day to visibly celebrate being transgender. It’s a day to raise awareness of the discrimination faced by transgender individuals and to highlight accomplishments. It is also an important day for allies and stakeholders to show their support for transgender people. GTU and SASOD joined these global celebrations in an effort to raise awareness of the issues and showcase Guyanese transgender people through this photo-exhibition.

The “Stand Against Transphobia” Photo-Exhibition is the first photographic exhibition of transgender people in Guyana. Giving a brief overview of the photo-exhibition, photographer and curator, Ulleli Verbeke, SASOD’s Co-Chair, shared that, “each photo portrays a trans-woman and is annotated with a brief quote on their lives and accomplishments. She expressed that, “the women featured in this exhibition are fearless and I am honoured to have had the opportunity to work with each of them on this project.” She thanked them for participating and for allowing her to share their stories. 

Photographer and curator of the photo-exhibition, SASOD’s Co-Chair, Ulelli Verbeke, giving an overview of the photo-exhibition

Openly sharing about her life as a trans-woman, and highlighting some of the many acts of discrimination and human rights abuses meted out to her and many other transgender people, was trans activist and GTU member, Twinkle. She chronicled her life from the time she discovered that she was “a woman trapped in man’s body” and the discrimination she experienced from family and peers. She spoke about the many acts of stigma and discrimination experienced by other transgender Guyanese from their families, employers, healthcare workers and the general population.

Trans activist and member of the Guyana Trans United, Twinkle giving the keynote speech

Also speaking at the photo-exhbition was Mr. Derek Lambe, in his capacity as Chargé d' Affaires for the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and for the Dutch Overseas Countries and Territories. He noted that, “For the European Union, human rights and fundamental freedoms are the "silver thread" running through our actions both at home and in our external relations. The EU's position is that the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons are protected under existing international human rights law and that transgender, and LGBI, persons have the same rights as all other individuals — no new human rights are created for them; but neither should any be denied to them. These rights include: equality before the law, right to privacy, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, right to work and the right to health. The EU, similarly to the United Nations, is committed to the principle of the universality of human rights and reaffirms that cultural, traditional or religious values do not justify any form of discrimination, including discrimination against transgender and LGBTI persons.” The European Union also encourages the Government of Guyana to repeal the laws criminalising same sex intimacy and cross-dressing, Mr. Lambe stated. “We fully support SASOD and Guyana Trans United in their efforts in this area. The EU demonstrates its support for LGBTI issues in relations with the Government, in public statements, in international fora, and also in providing funding to assist civil society organisations. The European Union Delegation in Guyana is proud to have been able to provide funding to the Equal Rights Trust and SASOD to support them in their efforts to combat discrimination and to advocate for legal reform and to address societal prejudice,” he added. He concluded that “one of the reasons for the international Transgender Day of Visibility is also to focus on all the good things in the trans community. This has been done beautifully in this excellent photographic exhibition, which gives a face to transgender Guyanese persons, both literally and symbolically. I congratulate Guyana Trans United and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD).”

(l-r) Mr. Derek Lambe, in the capacity of Chargé d' Affaires for the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and for the Dutch Overseas Countries and Territories; Trans activist and GTU member, Twinkle; Dr. Shanti Singh, Programme Manager, NAPS; Quincy McEwan, Director of Guyana Trans United & Schemel Patrick, Advocacy and Communications Officer, SASOD

The participation of transgender Guyanese in this photo-exhibition is particularly courageous in the local context where the laws criminalise cross-dressing and there have been police crackdowns against working-class transgender women. In a September 2013 decision, Chief Justice (ag.) Ian Chang ruled that cross-dressing in public is only a crime if it is done for “improper purpose.” The learned judge did not clarify what the term “improper purpose” means nor did he indicate what improper purposes gave rise to the February 2009 police crackdown against cross-dressing. SASOD and the four trans litigants are appealing this and other aspects of Chang’s decision. The notice of appeal was prepared within the 6 week deadline of the judgment and filed. The next step is now up to the Court of appeal. The court will fix what essentially a case-management date is, after which a date will be set for arguments.

At the launch cutting the ribbon declaring the “Stand Against Transphobia” Photo – Exhibition officially opened was Dr. Shanti Singh, Programme Manager at National AIDS Programme Secretariat of the Ministry of Health. Also in attendance were Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Dr Nicole Giles; Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy, Mr. Bryan Hunt; Diplomatic Attaché of the Mexican Embassy, Alejandro Martinez; Public Affairs Officer, US Embassy, Tabatha Fairclough; Chief of Party for the USAID/International Republican Institute LEAD project, Glenn Bradbury; PAHO/WHO Family and Community Advisor Dr. Rosalinda Hernandez; civil society partners and other supporters.

Dr. Shanti Singh unveils the exhibition as Quincy McEwan, Director of Guyana Trans United looks on

Schemel Patrick, SASOD’s Advocacy and communications Officer, in her remarks noted that, “Guyana Trans United and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination aim to utilize this photo-exhibition to continue to empower transgender Guyanese to “stand against transphobia” by ‘visibilizing’ them in their own images and words.  For us, visibility is key to empowerment.”

The “Stand against Transphobia” photo-exhibition is being hosted with financial support from the Equal Rights Trust (ERT), the Delegation of the European Union to Guyana (EU) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS).

The “Stand Against Transphobia” photo-exhibition will be housed in the lobby of the National Library, Conference Room all week until Saturday, April 5. The National Library is opened from 9:00 to 17:00 hrs. during week days, and 9:00 to 13:00 hrs. on Saturday.

A section of the participants viewing the photo-exhibition

Related Web-Links:

Twinkle’s Keynote Address: http://sasod.blogspot.com/2014/04/international-transgender-day-of.html

Derek Lambe’s Closing Remarks:http://sasod.blogspot.com/2014/04/international-transgender-day-of_4.html