International Transgender Day of Visibility

March 31st, 2016 was celebrated as International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV). TransWave is committed to promoting transgender health and well-being and as such a TDOV campaign was undertaken to highlight and celebrate the struggle, the acceptance, the journey and the successes of transgender people in Jamaica.

In case you missed the video campaign on our Facebook Page, watch them here!

Keyanna shares her thoughts on visibility and her vision for transgender women in Jamaica.

 

Renee reflects on the meaning of visibility and it’s importance to her

 

Mindy discusses the impact ‪#‎TDOV‬ has on her life.

 

 

Neish shares what ‪#‎TDOV‬ means for him and his hope for Jamaica

 

In addition to the videos, there was a photo campaign that also included other Jamaican transgender men and women. Here are the image along with quotes from our inspirational transgender men and women.

 

Sean TDOV
Sean-Claude

 

 

“My name is Sean-Claude Neufville. I’m 29 years old. I’m a motivational speaker and a future psychologist and a proud Jamaican transman. I live in The Netherland where I will be doing my transition. It is my dream to inspire other transmen in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean to live in their truth by sharing my journey.”

 

 

 

 

Kyym.jpg
Kyym

 

“Hi! I’m Kyym! I’m a transgender woman. I love everything about me. I love who and what I’ve become. I wouldn’t trade the pain for anything in this world, as it is the foundation of the strength I never knew I had. There’s something special about me. People will never be able to get the best of me.”

 

 

 

Ashley
Ashley

 

 

“I’m Ashley. I’m fun. Brave. Loving. A fashionista.A blogger and I’m a Jamaican transwoman”

 

 

 

 

FJ5
FJ

“Hi. I’m FJ. Being visible is a powerful and complex act. It is a demonstration of leadership, an act of defiance, but perhaps most importantly, it is an act of affirmation and strength, embracing the totality of who you are and standing in your truth”

Jessica TDOV.jpg
Jessica

 

 

“I am Jessica Burton – a proud woman who supports my fellow Jamaican trans community with one love, one heart”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we celebrate and applaud the visibility of our transgender community, we also reflect on those who are not able to make that step. We celebrate ALL transgender people regardless of their visibility. We hope that the visibility of some gives other transgender people comfort in knowing that the community is here.

Visibility does not end on International Transgender Day of Visibility. Through continued advocacy, it is our hope to enlighten and educate Jamaicans in order to reduce stigma and discrimination faced by transgender people as well as to increase access to services so that the lives of transgender Jamaicans can be improved.

 

Trans Profile – Ashley

We have a chat with Ashley. Jamaican. Transgender woman. Fashionista

Hi Ashley can you tell us a little about yourself? 

Here are 5 words that best describe who I am: Brave. Positive. Fashionista. Fun. Loving

How did you identify in your childhood/teenage years and what were some of the challenges you faced with your gender identity throughout your youth?

As a child growing up I always felt like a girl. I was always uncomfortable to do boy stuff but as I grow older I realize I am definitely a girl on the inside. Everything I do is natural. I was born this way. 

How has your identity, sexual orientation and gender expression changed or progressed through your adult-life?

Nothing much has changed as it relates to my gender identity and sexual orientation. I am more confident within myself and the decisions I made are truly how I feel in my heart. 

What is it like to identify as a transgender woman, living and working in Jamaica? What are some of the challenges you face?

 It’s very difficult because contrary to popular belief, trans women are not sex objects and prostitutes. This is not true. The opportunities are very limited. This is my life and I’m 100% responsible for every decision I make so I have to do whatever it takes to survive without selling my body. No judgment to those who choose that path though.

Tell us about your blog and your professional journey? (Check out her blog here)

I’ve always loveeeeeed fashion and dressing up growing up and because I never got to graduate from high school to become an accountant as planned. My love for fashion never dies so I decided to start a fashion blog in late 2011. With me being consistent with my blog it has given me alottt of opportunities some of which I capitalize from. I just want to keep on striving and dream big no matter what challenges or obstacles I may face ahead in life. 

Do you have a support network? What are some of the resources that help you navigate life in Jamaica as a transgender woman?

 My ONLY support is me, myself and God. No one gives me anything. Everything I achieve thus far is me believing in myself and go out there and making a way. 

What are some of the changes you wish to see regarding the accessibility to healthcare for transgender men and women in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean?

One of the most important changes is I would love to see is for trans women to be able to get hormone treatment here because as it is right now I don’t know of anyone or doctor that does that kind a treatments in Jamaica. 

Do you face any other challenges you wish to discuss further?

I don’t really face any other challenges and I’m thankful. I get criticism everyday when I’m going about my daily business. It’s my normal now because I’m grown and I have a strong unaffected spirit. 

What advice would you give to transgender men and women living Jamaica and the wider Caribbean?

Stay in school. Get an education. Believe in yourself. Don’t worry too much over people’s words. It’s powerless and does not matter. 

 

First Event Conference (A Review)

Our co-founder, Neish McLean, attended the First Event Conference recently held in Waltham, Massachusetts from January 20-24, 2016 at the Westin Hotel. The event was attended by over 700 persons within the transgender community and featured a plethora of workshops as well as social activities. The workshops offered participants an extensive array of gender specific topic options to choose from and catered to therapists, youth, family, transmasculine persons, transgender women and cross-dressers. In addition, there were general-focused workshops ranging from professional development to meditation.

First Event1

Each day kicked off with a new-comers orientation session. This was  a great way to start the day as it afforded the opportunity to meet other new-comers and explore what brought each person to the conference. After the orientation session, persons dispersed to their different workshops of interest.

Of particular interest was the  transmasculine track of the programme which had workshops such as ‘Masculinity and the Trans Masculine Person’, ‘Show Me Your Package’,  ‘FtM Chest Surgery Show and Tell’, and ‘New Directions in Surgical Gender Confirmation for FtMs’. One of the more impactful sessions was the FtM Chest Surgery Show and Tell as it gave a live and personal exchange between the volunteers and the audience. The volunteers were able to stand up, bare-chested and explain their procedures and experience.

Some of the general workshops included topics such as ‘Preparing a Successful Transition’, ‘Building a Support Team’, ‘Professional Workplace Transition’ and ‘The Power of Voice’. The Building a Support Team workshop highlighted the importance of creating a safe space that supports the transgender individual through their journey.

In addition to the workshops, the conference also featured a vendors’ area displaying products and services being offered by businesses and professionals for the community. In addition, Tiffany’s Closet was a budget-friendly, high quality offering of clothing and accessories for the shoppers to take advantage of.

In the evenings, there were scheduled social activities to attend. Thursday evening featured event was a Black Tie/Red Carpet Community Service Award event. Friday night featured the John Warrener Memorial Fashion Show and Saturday night’s main event was the banquet with keynote speaker – Dr. Renee McLaughlin.

First Event Conference provided a wonderful opportunity for attendees to learn, explore and challenge the restrictions that often prevent the freedom to express and live an authentic life. It afforded a safe space, especially for those who didn’t have a supportive environment, to embrace all that they are, all that they deny and to let themselves out; let themselves be. Many lives were changed over the course of the conference. Many mental barriers were broken and many lives were set free.

The Way Forward for the Jamaican Transgender Community

After interacting with individuals in the transgender community and participating in the workshops, TransWave is charged with thinking about a way forward given our local context. Jamaica has a far way to go when it comes to equality for the transgender community. However, 2015 reflected greater visibility and increased engagement with civil society and government agencies. For 2016, further collaboration with our partners such as J-FLAG, We-Change, Colour Pink Group and Aphrodite’s Pride is integral to paving the way for increased access to services for transgender Jamaicans. The work continues.

 

Transgender Rights are Human Rights

Today, December 10, 2015, we celebrate Human Rights Day under the theme “Our Rights. Our Freedom. Always”. Human Rights Day commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.

Jamaica has since incorporated the principles set forth into Chapter III of our Constitution at the time, and now have adopted and amended the principles to make our own Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom.  As set out in the Charter of Rights, all Jamaicans have several rights afforded to them by law.

However, the right to freedom in Section 2(i) which makes specific reference to the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of – (i) being male or female; (ii) race, place of origin, social class, colour, religion or political opinions does not adequately protect transgender persons from discrimination.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom neglects to fully protect all Jamaicans regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. This failure to protect all Jamaicans makes the following outlined in section 3 debatable with regards to their coverage and protection of transgender and gender non-conforming Jamaicans. Section 3 states – (a) the right to life, liberty and security of the person (c) the right to freedom of expression.

Ban Ki-moon

One cannot have the right to life, liberty, security or freedom of expression when the right of freedom from discrimination does not adequately cover transgender persons. Transgender rights are human rights. The amendment of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom to include the right to freedom from discrimination regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation would be a step in the right direction to securing the rights and freedom for transgender and gender non-conforming Jamaicans. Our rights, our freedom, matters.

Nelson Mandela Human Rights

The video below highlights the reality of the lives of transgender people across Asia-Pacific. It’s quite a similar reality that many transgender Jamaicans face. Our hopes for the future are the same. Have a watch.

 

The Visibility Campaign

Four beautiful people came together to lend themselves to a campaign which aimed to promote transgender and gender non-comforming visibility. It was a collaborative effort with J-FLAG, who funded the event, and TransWave.

The campaign was launched during Transgender Awareness Week (#TransWk) which was recognized from November 14-20, 2015.

The kick off for the campaign was a Trans Gallery display at PRISM, a social and cultural event hosted by J-FLAG for the LGBT community, on November 15th. With over 300 persons in attendance, PRISM presented the opportunity for the community to get its first look at the campaign while the talents were on hand to answer questions and give feedback. One highlight of the event was the opportunity to address the audience, introduce the talents and speak a little about the diversity within the transgender and gender non-conforming community.

Trans Gallery
Trans Gallery viewing

After PRISM and the resulting buzz, the campaign hit social media. TransWave featured one person from the campaign each day (Monday to Thursday) and highlighted the group shot in honour of Transgender Day of Remembrance on Friday.

Here are some of the feedback from social media:

IMG_20151121_151858 IMG_20151121_151830 IMG_20151121_151638 IMG_20151121_151728 IMG_20151121_151929 IMG_20151121_161929

We are heartened by the support we received. TransWave is committed to highlighting the needs of the community, creating spaces to share, engage in conversations, and mobilise to improve the health and well-being of the community.

We’d also like to thank Dexter Pottinger for his styling expertise; Lance for the great shots; and Madeline, from Quick Fyah Marketing, for the campaign edited shots.

 

TRANS PROFILE – FJ (Part 2)

This is the final part of the series on FJ. Part 2 features a discussion on his identity as a transgender man, some of the challenges he faces and some of the changes he wishes to see. (First part of profile.)

What is it like to identify as a transgender man, living and working in Jamaica? What are some of the challenges you face?

I was fortunate enough to be in the minority of college graduates who acquired a job within a year of completing their studies. That doesn’t mean however, that I landed a job as soon as I began looking. In fact, that’s quite far from the truth. I had been interviewed countless times for jobs I was qualified for and more than competent to perform, but had been denied because of my gender expression.

In Jamaica, being gender non-conformist in your gender expression automatically brands you as gay or lesbian. As such you are discriminated against in the slightest or most egregious of ways. So given that I was designated female at birth, my masculine presentation worked against me in some of these instances.

You can identify such occurrences because from the moment you step into the establishment you see the reactions on their faces. You feel the stares and become aware of the faint whispers and hushed tones amongst members of staff. The interview commences. Questions are asked and you respond, but they’re not listening; not really.  I have only been on one interview during which I felt that the interviewer was genuinely interested in getting to know me and actually listening, not just hearing, to my responses. Not surprisingly, I currently work for him.

My work environment is special. The culture at the company is familial. Everyone supports each other, not only career-wise, but in their personal lives as well. They attend family gatherings such as funerals, weddings and even christenings. But despite such a congenial atmosphere, there are times when I experience homophobia. I would call it transphobia, but their motivations lie in their perception of my sexual orientation and not my gender identity.

When I first began, it was worse than it is now; especially from other persons who worked in the building that my company shares. To be fair, they were rather “polite” about it, as very few were bold enough to question my choice in attire or my perceived sexual orientation. Now they have more or less gotten used to me, but I still get the occasional quip or inappropriate look.

I’m eternally grateful for the existence of a gender neutral bathroom. You can only imagine the reactions I received from the women while attempting to conform to convention and use the bathroom that coincided with my body parts. The discomfort was too much for me to bear. I gave up on trying to appear normal, which in turn resulted in a more comfortable situation for everyone else. I always go to the men’s room in other public spaces though.

Being constantly misgendered is something I’m building my tolerance to; just as I am with the crude street harassment to which I am constantly being subjected. Some of my coworkers are aware of my identity as a transgender man, others are not. My office consists of quite a few Christians and other individuals with strong beliefs regarding gender identity and human sexuality. So while I don’t appreciate the language used, I’d rather not stir the pot if you catch my drift.

Do you have a support network? What are some of the resources that help you navigate life in Jamaica as a transgender man?

Hmm. A support network. Yes I am very fortunate to have made a family out of supportive friends and of course I can’t leave out my Twitter peeps lol. When I began owning my identity and coming out, I thought that it was only my friends that would have been accepting and supportive of me. However, I was, as I usually am when I make these assumptions in my head, so very wrong. Yes my friends accepted me with open arms, but gradually, over time, some of my biological family came around as well. I’m tempted to call her my little cousin, but she isn’t so little anymore, so I shall refer to her as my younger cousin. She is a living testament to the fact that regardless of my gender identity or sexual orientation, there will always be at least one family member (apart from my mom) who loves me unconditionally.

Growing up I learned to be self-reliant. I don’t possess strong familial ties with the exception of those I share with a few of my family members. Even so, during my turbulent teenage years, there wasn’t really anyone I could confide in that would help me to successfully navigate those stressful and trying times. Subsequently, I internalized everything and developed my own coping mechanisms; though how well they work is another story entirely. So I don’t use resources as much as I utilize exercise, work and my hobbies to keep me occupied and my friends and meditation to aid in keeping me grounded.

A group of gender non-conformists are in the process of establishing a more formal support group for persons who don’t conform to society’s gender binary. It’s an initiative I’m looking forward to being a part of and I hope tremendously that it will prove to be beneficial to those involved. Mental health is of the utmost import to trans and queer persons; especially those who experience gender dysphoria. Having a support system is just as crucial as accessing the appropriate health care that will enable queer and transgender persons to lead healthy, balanced and productive lives.

 

What are some of the changes you wish to see regarding the accessibility to healthcare for transgender men and women in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean?

Tackling the issue of providing adequate health care services for transgender individuals in Jamaica will be an arduous task. Ideally, our framework would include comprehensive policies and procedures for providing health care to transgender persons; complete with legislation to ensure that the rules implemented receive the strictest adherence and failure to comply is met with equal retribution. Sadly injustices against LGBT persons still run rampant in our society. We have to ensure that when trans persons attempt to access these services, they are not met with the same discrimination that is already all too commonplace in their everyday lives.

I know that expanding our health care sector to cater to the transgender community might be novel and exciting to health care professionals, but we are not guinea pigs and I would hate for us to be treated as such. I believe that a concerted effort between all parties involved – medical institutions, medical professionals from various segments, insurance companies, legislators and the trans community is the only way to successfully achieve a suitable and sustainable outcome. Our services should not be the result of a doctor “trying a ting”.

I am an advocate for sensitization and training sessions for current medical personnel, as well as the inclusion of transgender specific issues in the curriculum for persons aspiring to enter the medical profession. All too often are our doctors and nurses ill-equipped to handle the nuances of delivering services to transgender people. They often misgender their patients and use offensive language, albeit sometimes unknowingly. Still, this can result in members of the trans community refraining from accessing healthcare services in the future. Refusing to use their preferred name may also be distressing, as is the inability to use a gender-neutral restroom, or at the very least the one patients prefer to use.

Usually, as soon as persons hear the word “transgender” they automatically think “surgery” and “transitioning”; but there is so much more to trans people than transitioning and their surgeries. As such, the approach to healthcare for the transgender community should be holistic and not centered solely around hormone therapy or surgical procedures.

On top of all of this, the healthcare services being offered need to be affordable. Unemployment rates for those belonging to marginalized populations tend to be significantly greater and this affects their ability to afford healthcare. Subsequently, healthcare is not usually one of the top priorities of said population. We need to work in conjunction with healthcare providers and insurance companies to ensure that this vulnerable group is able to access these services which are especially crucial to their overall wellbeing without said access adversely affecting their pockets.

Do you face any other challenges you wish to discuss further?

Retaining my sanity? Lol. I kid. On a serious note, living in an environment that can be quite hostile to LGBTQ individuals demands a magnitude of resolve that is unbelievably and undeniably hard to maintain consistently; day in, day out. Some days are better than others, but we are humans after all, not machines.

 

What advice would you give to transgender men and women living Jamaica and the wider Caribbean?

You are not alone in your strife. There are many others like you who face similar struggles. Find or build a support system if you can, even if it consists only of online interaction. Isolation is dangerous and having a support system will vastly improve your mental and emotional health. Also, in whatever you do, stay safe. We all desire full self-expression but be mindful of your social context. Visibility is important but please remain as safe as you possibly can.