The One in Nine Campaign, the feminist organisation behind last year’s controversial disruption of Joburg Pride, has been slammed for excluding transgender and intersex women from one of its training programmes and implying that they are not ‘real women’.
According to four trans and intersex groups – Gender DynamiX, S.H.E, Transgender and Intersex Africa and Iranti – Org – One in Nine has limited access to a feminist political education course to “female-born people who are not male-identified”.
Leigh Ann van der Merwe, coordinator of S.H.E, said in an open letter to One in Nine that this requirement was “blatant exclusion” and “effectively sets out to exclude transgender and intersex individuals from the course”.
Responding to Van der Merwe, One in Nine campaign director, Carrie Shelver justified the exclusion on the basis that her organisation “is not an LGBT organisation”.
She said that: “Based on our analysis of social oppression and our capacity to respond, the campaign focuses its limited resources on developing leadership of female born people who are socialised as women and who live their lives within the social category women and whose access to resources and spaces are accordingly determined and so frequently under attack”.
The trans groups criticised One in Nine’s response as perpetuating the patriarchal construction of gender as being based on what one was born as, and for implying that transgender and intersex women in South Africa were privileged.
Van der Merwe said that “This is not a true reflection of the lived experiences of this group of vulnerable women often excluded from mainstream personal development opportunities, and the denial of basic human rights such as education, exacerbate this context for transgender and intersex women…”
Nthabiseng Mokoena, Transgender and Intersex Africa (TIA), also commented that “The criteria for the One in Nine Feminist Political Education Program is an articulation of patriarchal values. As a woman, I was born intersex, socialised as a woman and lived within the social category of woman. Intersex women also experience limited access to resources, their lives and health are frequently under attack, and therefore, you can never imply privilege on my part.”
Iranti – Org’s Jabulani Perreira said that it was ironic that while the One in Nine Campaign had called on transgender and intersex people to support its public mass meeting on Joburg Pride it was “not clear on its partnerships in a broader feminist agenda that advances all women and feminists irrespective of how society has biologically imposed an identity.
“The One in Nine Campaign seems to affirm this very state construction of gender which goes against the human rights approach taking place in other countries,” said Perreira.
“With all due respect, no feminist, no women and no person can determine the gender identity of another human being, least of all, the expression thereof,” added Liesl Theron of Gender DynamiX. “This is an articulation of 1970s, second wave feminism characterised by a very transphobic attitude”.
The groups said that One in Nine’s attitude is “taking us backward and breaks down an already fragile feminist and human rights movement” and urged the organisation to “do away with this discriminatory requirement for participation in this training course”.
Shelver told Mambaonline that the idea that One in Nine did not consider trans or intersex women to be ‘real women’ was “of course not true”.
She explained that many organisations regularly target projects or initiatives and resources at specific groups and pointed out that the organisation has often worked with other sectors of the LGBT community.
“It’s most unfortunate that it’s been interpreted this way. To say we have an anti trans agenda is not true,” Shelver said, adding that the organisation’s board would soon issue a comprehensive and formal response on the issue.