Friday, July 9, 2010
Dear Young Black Transsisters,
Been a while since I wrote one of these open letters, and this time I thought I'd direct this one at you since y'all don't get enough love sent your way.
One of the cool things about being the TransGriot is from time to time, I get to chat with some of you either online or on the phone. I get to hear your joys, your sorrows, your concerns, your triumphs, and your disappointments.
First thing you need to know and always remember is that you are not alone. Even if you have some issues separating yourselves from your blood family, know that you are loved not only by God or whatever you address the higher power as, but by us as well.
Your family has expanded, not contracted, and your sisters are all over the planet. You are part of the interlocking mosaic of humankind, and you are special.
While it's going to be tougher for you than your cissisters to find that special someone, it's not impossible either. One thing that will make that bumpy road to romance a lot smoother is if you start by loving yourself first. Once you get that loving yourself first party started, everything else will fall into place.
You have people like myself who are willing to fight tooth and nail for you in order to make your lives better. We are ready, willing and able to pass on our hard won knowledge about dealing with life as a transperson of African descent.
We stand ready to give you that motivational kick in the butt when you need it or a comforting hug when it's necessary. We fight the Forces of Intolerance inside and outside our community so that your generation of transwomen and succeeding ones have it a little better than we did.
These aren't just one way interactions, my young Black transsisters. We get to understand how much the world has changed since we were your age and walking in your pumps. In some cases we get to listen to you kick it to us about new ways of approaching a situation or thinking about these issues.
We are proud to note that you are the best educated, smartest and most tech savvy group our people have produced. We know you are capable of great things if you just get that break you need to excel.
I don't see it as a burden to interact with you, I see it as an honor, privilege, and something I am called to do. It's a promise I made to God that if I was blessed to transition, I would happily serve as a mentor to the transkids coming behind me since I and my peers were denied that.
In the best traditions of our people, I hope that I have either done, written or said something that inspired you. I hope that you feel that I have lifted you up as I climbed. All I ask is that you do the same someday for the transsisters that transition behind you.
I get the pleasure of answering your questions, passing your history on to you, and sometimes just enjoying chilling with you for that fleeting moment of time I'm conversing with you
My generation didn't have the benefit of our African descended trans elders kicking knowledge to us due the WPATH standard in place at the time demanding that they hide once their transitions were completed. Some chose to live stealth lives for various reasons as well.
It's one of the reasons why we are just now finding out about some of the accomplishments of our African descended transsisters. Consider yourselves blessed that we are now able thanks to 21st century communications technology and changes in those restrictive policies to do so for you.
The French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir once stated, 'One is not born a woman, one becomes one. Our cissisters don't come out of the birth canal knowing everything there is to know about womanhood, they have to learn it just like you do and it is a lifelong process.
The major difference is you face resistance from society and your blood families in some cases as you try to navigate all the issues wrapped up with wandering Planet Earth in an African descended feminine body. To complicate matters, you don't have as much time to learn what you need to know.
You also face faith-based ignorance, prejudice, discrimination, being walking targets for sexual assault and the Black Woman's Burden of having her beauty and intelligence denigrated and disrespected.
You have a history despite the best attempts of people inside and outside the community to erase you from TBLG history and try to tell you what you can't do or accomplish.
People who share your ethnic heritage executed the first trans oriented protest in 1965. Miss Major was present at Stonewall in 1969. Marsha P. Johnson in conjunction with Sylvia Rivera helped organize STAR. It was an African American transwoman named Avon Wilson who was the first client in 1966 of the now closed Johns Hopkins Gender Program. Over the last ten years four of us have picked up IFGE Trinity Awards for the work we have done to uplift the entire trans community. Tracy Africa was a successful fashion model in the 70's and 80's. Dr. Marisa Richmond was present at the 2008 Democratic Convention as the first trans African American elected delegate to a major party convention. Some of you, like Isis are making history today.
There are many of your transsisters working in a wide range of professional fields and occupations around the country and across the Diaspora.
You are African descended transwomen. You have nothing to be ashamed of in saying that. Up, up my mighty sisters, and accomplish what you will.
But in the end, the best advice I can give you is that you must love yourself and have pride in everything that you do. You are the descendants of queens and history making women of action who have been the backbone of our culture and our people, and that is a towering legacy to live up to.
I hope that I and other African descended transwomen have provided you with role models that we didn't have or didn't know about back when we were your age in terms of how to become quality women of trans experience.
I have no doubts that you will exponentially improve on what we've been able to accomplish and write impressive new chapters in future history books where the African descended transwoman is concerned.
And as you climb, know that we will be happily watching you every step of the way.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
HJ (Iran) (FC) & HT (Cameroon) (FC) (Appellants) v Secretary of State for the Home Department(UK) Summary & Judgement
London SW1P 3BD T: 020 7960 1886/1887 F: 020 7960 1901 www.supremecourt.gov.uk
7 July 2010
HJ (Iran) and HT (Cameroon) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 31 On Appeal from:  EWCA Civ 172
JUSTICES: Lord Hope (Deputy President), Lord Rodger, Lord Walker, Lord Collins, Sir John Dyson SCJ
BACKGROUND TO THE APPLICATION
HJ and HT are homosexual men – from Iran and Cameroon, respectively – who seek asylum in the United Kingdom on the basis that they would face the risk of persecution on grounds of sexual orientation if returned to their home countries.
In both Iran and Cameroon it is a criminal offence punishable by, inter alia, imprisonment and, in the case of Iran, by the death penalty, for consenting adults to engage in homosexual acts.
The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, as applied by the 1967 Protocol (“the Convention”), provides that members of a particular social group, which can include groups defined by common sexual orientation, are entitled to asylum in States that are parties to the Convention if they can establish that they would face a well-founded fear of persecution if returned to their home country.
The Court of Appeal found that, if returned to their respective home countries, HJ and HT would conceal their sexual orientation in order to avoid the risk of being persecuted. As HJ and HT would hide their sexuality they would not come to the attention of the State authorities and so would not be at risk of persecution. Accordingly, neither party had a ‘well-founded fear of persecution’ that entitled him to protection under the Convention: it was permissible for a State party to the Convention to refuse asylum to a homosexual person who, if returned to their home country, would deny their identity and conceal their sexuality in order to avoid being persecuted, provided that the homosexual person’s situation could be regarded as ‘reasonably tolerable’. Only if the hardship which would be suffered was deemed to exceed this threshold would the applicant be entitled to protection under the Convention.
The Appellant appealed to the Supreme Court, contending that the ‘reasonable tolerability’ test espoused by the Court of Appeal was incompatible with the Convention.
The Supreme Court unanimously allows the appeal, holding that the ‘reasonable tolerability’ test applied by the Court of Appeal is contrary to the Convention and should not be followed in the future. HJ and HT’s cases are remitted for reconsideration in light of the detailed guidance provided by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom Parliament Square London SW1P 3BD T: 020 7960 1886/1887 F: 020 7960 1901 www.supremecourt.gov.uk
REASONS FOR THE JUDGMENT
There is no dispute that homosexuals are protected by the Convention, membership of the relevant social group being defined by the immutable characteristic of its members’ sexuality [paras  and  per Lord Hope and para  per Lord Rodger].
To compel a homosexual person to pretend that their sexuality does not exist, or that the behaviour by which it manifests itself can be suppressed, is to deny him his fundamental right to be who he is. Homosexuals are as much entitled to freedom of association with others of the same sexual orientation, and to freedom of self-expression in matters that affect their sexuality, as people who are straight [paras  and  per Lord Hope and para  per LordRodger].
The Convention confers the right to asylum in order to prevent an individual suffering persecution, which has been interpreted to mean treatment such as death, torture or imprisonment. Persecution must be either sponsored or condoned by the home country in order to implicate the Convention [paras  and  per Lord Hope].
Simple discriminatory treatment on grounds of sexual orientation does not give rise to protection under the Convention. Nor does the risk of family or societal disapproval, even trenchantly expressed [paras ,  and  per Lord Hope and para  per Lord Rodger].
One of the fundamental purposes of the Convention was to counteract discrimination and the Convention does not permit, or indeed envisage, applicants being returned to their home country ‘on condition’ that they take steps to avoid offending their persecutors. Persecution does not cease to be persecution for the purposes of the Convention because those persecuted can eliminate the harm by taking avoiding action [paras  and  per Lord Hope and paras - and  per Lord Rodger].
The ‘reasonable tolerability’ test applied by the Court of Appeal must accordingly be rejected[para  per Lord Hope and paras ,  and  per Lord Rodger].
There may be cases where the fear of persecution is not the only reason that an applicant would hide his sexual orientation, for instance, he may also be concerned about the adverse reaction of family, friends or colleagues. In such cases, the applicant will be entitled to protection if the fear of persecution can be said to be a material reason for the concealment [paras ,  and  per Lord Rodger].
Lord Rodger (with whom Lords Walker and Collins and Sir John Dyson SCJ expressly agreed), at para  and Lord Hope, at para , provided detailed guidance in respect of the test to be applied by the lower tribunals and courts in determining claims for asylum protection based on sexual orientation.
Judgments are public documents and are available at:
Download the judgement here in PDF.
Peace and tolerance
Monday, July 5, 2010
Jamaicans have always been able to identify anything that stands out from the norm. The mere acknowledgment of difference, though, is never enough. The tree whose branches seek sunlight in an organic way, must be pruned to suit the tastes of the farmer in whose orchard it grows. The regulations for gender and sexuality for everyone living in Jamaica are made painstakingly clear to all of us in childhood. In adulthood, each individual becomes a guard of this ‘code of conduct’, and it is socially and culturally acceptable to enforce it where the need arises.
A few days ago, I was walking with a sibling in town. Two men were walking by us, and one of them stopped, turned and said to his friend, “my yuut, a wich wan a dem ya a di uman.” I continued walking as if I heard nothing. I don’t respond to ignorance. You never want these people to actually think that they may have hurt your feelings with their ugly words. The following day, while walking in town, a friend and I walked by a group of men. They were staring at us as we approached them, and their peculiar gaze assured me that they might have something to say. As soon as we passed, some outspoken soul among them uttered the word “Fish,” and again, I pretended as though I had heard nothing. Still, the word stung like a poisoned dagger. This fish was pierced.
Two days later, I visited the town where I grew up, in another parish. Everyone knows me, if not by name, by face. I sat in one of the few green spaces in the town, far away from the other patrons of the park. As one young man headed toward the exit, he shouted, “Yow,” in my direction. I turned to face him standing about a hundred meters away. “Batiman!” he shouted. “Mi no hail no batiman!” Except, he had. He was not provoked, and I had not done anything to suggest to him that I might be gay. Somehow, I was different, and that was enough for him to go on his rant against someone he didn’t know. I would have been lucky if that were the only encounter I had with idle, name-calling guards of sexuality and gender.
A few hours later, I walked into the offices of a financial institution. The offices were filled to capacity. I stood by the door with my friend, looking beyond the crowd to find a friend who is working at the office for the summer. Disturbing the silence of the air-conditioned waiting area, a young man just next to me asked my friend, “My girl, a wa kaina go-go bwai dat yaa paar wid?” She ignores him, and he repeats his question; this time more loudly. At least sixty pairs of eyes were on me now. He calls out a third time, “Janis, a wa kaina go-go bwai dat yaa paar wid!” I was mortified. I am used to people staring at me, but to have an entire group of people scrutinize my appearance, judging for themselves whether I seemed to be a ‘go-go boy’, was embarrassing.
Alas, my adventurous day did not end there. I spend the afternoon at the beach, then headed home with my childhood best friend. This area is populated with men who don’t work. I would never walk here alone, because Jamaican men are particularly homophobic, and aggressive when in groups. Still, I was a bit apprehensive. I looked ahead of me at one point, and I noticed there were about fifteen men scattered at the head of a lane. Gulp. I looked straight ahead, avoiding their gaze as we passed. Ten steps away from them the word “faiya” started flying at us from what seemed like a million different mouths and innumerable cardinal directions. There were overlaps, and echoes in a cacophony. Faiya! Faiya! Faiya! I never turned to look back.
I hate being made to feel like I don’t belong in my own country. I hate feeling like it’s not safe to walk on the streets of my home town. However, I will not give credence to their ignorance, and crassness. Sticks and stones may break my bones, as do the words they say behind my back. Through reflection, and continued hard work, the broken bones will heal, and I will become a stronger, more self-confident person.
The body met in Brighton yesterday and more than two-thirds of doctors present backed a call for the Royal College of Psychiatrists and other mental health standard-setting bodies to reject the treatments and ban their use in codes of practice.
Health departments should also investigate alleged cases of conversion therapy being funded by the NHS, the meeting agreed.
Research published last year found that a sixth of registered British therapist and psychiatrists have attempted to "cure" patients of homosexuality.
Tom Dolphin, the proposer of the motion and the vice-chair of the BMA's junior doctors committee, said: "Sexuality is such a fundamental part of who a person is that attempts to change it just result in significant confusion, depression and even suicide.
"You can’t just wish away same-sex attraction no matter how inconvenient it might be."
But Cardiff consultant neurophysiologist Gareth Payne said there was no "gold standard" evidence that conversion therapy did not work and was harmful.
He added that it was important to respect the wishes of patients who asked for the therapy.
Earlier this year, gay journalist Patrick Strudwick published an expose of 'ex-gay' therapists and began a campaign group to persuade medical bodies to condemn the treatments.
He went undercover for the article, telling two therapists he was struggling to cope with attraction to men and wanted to be straight.
One therapist, named only as Linda, tried to convince him he must have been sexually abused as a child by a member of his family.
The other, who PinkNews.co.uk later revealed was homophobic former Northern Ireland MP Iris Robinson's advisor, tried to make Mr Strudwick sexually aroused during his therapy.
Mr Strudwick told the Independent that the BMA's declaration was a "watershed moment in the struggle for gay equality".
Just as other body parts such as the face may need a little a rejuvenation at times, so does your vagina.
Vaginoplasty, sometimes referred to as rejuvenation of the vagina, is a procedure that can usually correct problems such as stretched vaginal muscles, enlarged vagina lips, or too small or too big mons pubis (tissue lying above pubic bone).
Gynaecologist and cosmetic surgeon, Dr Kemel Gajraj said that some women are born with bigger vagina lips than others, or the lips might be stretched and look abnormal "wherein the clitoris is covered with skin. Thus a vaginal rejuvenation procedure is done to correct it," he said.
He also noted that some people might have too small or too long a clitoris and, as such, a readjustment would be done to correct that problem. Another issue that some women have to contend with is the mons pubis being too fat.
"Some women complain that when they wear their jeans or tight-fitting clothes, the mons pubis is just too pronounced. In such a case, we will do a suction, where we take out some of the fat."
On the other hand, Dr Gajraj said while some women come in to have their vagina lips made smaller, others want the opposite. In such a situation, what they do is take the excess fat from other parts of the body and place this in the lips. The doctor told Flair that vaginal rejuvenation is quite popular in Jamaica, especially among women who want to tighten the muscles of the vagina.
He said for women who have experienced multiple childbirths, the vaginal muscles tend to experience enlargement due to stressful expansion during the delivery. This may result in loose, weak, vaginal muscles. The doctor also explained that when a women gets a tear during childbirth it also stretches the lining of the vaginal muscle and contrary to popular belief, salt water baths only help heal the wound but it does not tighten the lining of the vagina.
He said the lining of the vagina can be stretched with just giving birth to only one child, dependent on how big the child is. Multiple childbirth is also a concern.
To correct this, a suture of the vaginal muscle is required.
"Also with this procedure you would have better bladder support because when the vaginal muscles are stretched it's hard to support the bladder."
The doctor noted that a vaginal rejuvenation is an outpatient procedure done in the morning and the patient is out by the same afternoon. He further stated that within a week the wound will be healed, but it may take up to six weeks before the patient can have sex again.
So, if you or your partner is not satisfied with your vagina, a rejuvenation procedure can work wonders.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Research in mice suggests that scientists may have a new lead on using gene therapy against the virus that causes AIDS.
The researchers tinkered with human stem cells and then inserted them into mice where they multiplied into immune system cells that provided protection against infection with HIV, according to a study released online July 2 in Nature Biotechnology.
The results are unlike typical research in animals because the mice have been "humanized": They have human immune systems and resisted a human disease. Still, until research is conducted on humans, there's no way to know if the treatment will work in people. And it may be years until that happens.
But there are high hopes. "It's a one-shot treatment if it works," noted study co-author Paula Cannon, associate professor of molecular microbiology at the University of Southern California.
In gene therapy, doctors try to coax the human body into doing something differently by tweaking its genetic structure. To treat HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, scientists have been experimenting with using gene therapy to boost the immune system.
In the new study, researchers engineered human stem cells -- cells that create other cells -- to lock a kind of "door" that allows HIV to enter.
The door, a "receptor" on immune cells linked to a gene known as CCR5, is disabled in a very small percentage of people, and those people appear to be virtually immune to HIV.
"That's like nature telling us how to cure AIDS," Cannon reasoned. The idea of the experimental treatment is "to engineer a patient's own cells so they'd be resistant to HIV" in much the same way.
The researchers did this by "cutting" a gene in the stem cells. These genetically manipulated cells did try and repair the injury, Cannon noted, but they didn't do a good job and HIV's way in was essentially disabled.
The researchers inserted these tweaked stem cells into the humanized mice and other mice, then tried to infect them with HIV.
According to the scientists, the genetically engineered stem cells went on to create mature immune system cells, such as T-cells, in the humanized mice. After a couple of weeks, these new immune cells appeared to provide protection against HIV. The cells grew greatly in number, offering fewer targets for the virus to attack.
Meanwhile, the virus made its usual successful attack on other mice that had not undergone the procedure.
Rowena Johnston, vice president of research with the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) in New York City, said gene therapy is starting to show "real promise," and this study reveals a new side of its potential.
"One of the doctrines of gene therapy in the context of HIV has been the assumption that every relevant cell must be transformed," she said. "This research demonstrates that need not be the case."
But could this approach work in humans? The answer to that is yet to come, Cannon said.
"We want to make sure that this works, and a good place to start is in a patient population who already have their stem cells taken out," she said. Cannon and her colleagues would like to test it by piggybacking on a gene therapy treatment in which the stem cells of HIV-positive lymphoma patients are removed, tinkered with and then put back into their bodies.
Cannon doesn't know how much the gene therapy will cost, but one estimate puts the expense of this type of treatment for HIV at $100,000. But if it allows HIV patients to avoid taking drugs for the rest of their lives, she said, it should be cost-effective over time.
Whatever the case, the treatment isn't around the bend. Cannon said it could be four years before research in humans can begin. But another treatment that uses a similar strategy on a type of immune cell is already being tested in people.
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Thanks for your Donations
thank you for your donations via Paypal in helping to keep this blog going and related costs. Please continue to support me and my allies in this venure that has now become a full time activity. When I first started blogging in late 2007 it was just as a pass time to highlight GLBTQ issues in Jamaica under then JFLAG's blogspot page but now clearly there is a need for more forumatic activity which I want to continue to play my part.
Activities & Plans: ongoing and future
- To continue this venture towards website development with an E-zine focus
- Work with other Non Governmental organizations old and new towards similar focus and objectives
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- Exposing homophobic activities and suggesting corrective solutions
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Individuals who are mentioned or whose photographs appear on this site are not necessarily Homosexual, HIV positive or have AIDS.
This blog contains pictures that may be disturbing. We have taken the liberty to present these images as evidence of the numerous accounts of homophobic violence meted out to alledged gays in Jamaica.
Faces and names witheld for the victims' protection.
This blog not only watches and covers LGBTQ issues in Jamaica and elsewhere but also general human rights and current affairs where applicable.
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Recent Homophobic Incidents
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Steps to Take When Contronted or Arrested by Police
b) Only give name and address and no other information until a lawyer is present to assist
c) Try to be polite even if the scenario is tensed) Don’t do anything to aggravate the situation
e) Every complaint lodged at a police station should be filed and a receipt produced, this is not a legal requirement but an administrative one for the police to track reports
f) Never sign to a statement other than the one produced by you in the presence of the officer(s)
g) Try to capture a recording of the exchange or incident or call someone so they can hear what occurs, place on speed dial important numbers or text someone as soon as possible
h) File a civil suit if you feel your rights have been violatedi) When making a statement to the police have all or most of the facts and details together for e.g. "a car" vs. "the car" represents two different descriptions
j) Avoid having the police writing the statement on your behalf except incases of injuries, make sure what you want to say is recorded carefully, ask for a copy if it means that you have to return for it