Category Archives: Queer & Trans Struggles

Nepal Adds “Third Gender” To Census

This year’s census in Nepal includes a new category for transgender people, thanks to a recently-passed anti-discrimination law. Parliamentarian Sunil Babu Pant says the transgender community is happy because, “This shows that the government has started to recognise them.”

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Queers Against Apartheid: From South Africa to Israel

Simon Nkoli

By Tim McCaskell.

Canadian Dimension is the leading progressive politics magazine in Canada. Published 6 times per year, it covers art, politics, labour, indigenous issues, queer, feminist and emerging social movements.

Twenty-five years ago I used to compile the international news for The Body Politic, at the time Canada’s leading gay and lesbian liberation journal. In the winter of 1985 I was sifting through the piles of newspapers, journals, and newsletters that we received every month and I noticed a small article in a newsletter from Scotland.

The article talked about a young anti-apartheid activist who was being held in solitary confinement and who had just come out as a gay man.

Simon Nkoli

Anti-apartheid activism was a major current in progressive organizing in Toronto in the mid 80s so the story immediately piqued my interest. I contacted the Toronto Committee for the Liberation of South African Colonies (TCLSAC) and got the number of a member who had returned to South Africa. He was able to put me in touch with someone who was in contact with this young man, Simon Nkoli.

Simon was one of the Delmas 22, most of whom were members of the United Democratic Front. The UDF was the major legal anti-apartheid organization since the African National Congress (ANC) had been banned as a terrorist group. The UDF had been central to organizing protests against arbitrary rent hikes in the African townships surrounding Johannesburg. Most of the protests had been peaceful, but violence had broken out on a number of occasions and there had been several deaths. In September 1984, the South African police attempted to crush the ongoing protests and swooped down on key organizers, arresting twenty-two. The prisoners were held in solitary confinement until they were finally charged with treason and murder in January 1986, charges that could carry the death penalty.

Simon had been a leader in both the Congress of South African Students and the UDF. He was also a gay man and had joined the fledgling Gay Association of South Africa (GASA) in 1983. GASA, ostensibly a multi-racial group, was overwhelmingly white in practice. Meetings, for example, were usually held in white only areas. Simon was disturbed by this and organized a support group that met in Soweto on GASA’s behalf. The Saturday Group, as it became known, was overwhelmingly black. Read the rest of this entry

Cuban Revolution Combats Homophobia

By Hamish Chitts, writing for Direct Action, the organ of the Revolutionary Socialist Party in Australia.

Revolutionary Cuba is a leader in Latin America in the battle against homophobia and is taking steps to become a world leader. Since 1994 the age of consent for gay and lesbian sex in Cuba has been 16 years, the same as for heterosexual sex — unlike Australia. Since the 1980s Cubans have been able to access sex reassignment surgery (SRS) as part of Cuba’s free healthcare system. This program was temporarily halted when the combined effects of the US economic blockade and the loss of vital trading partners with the collapse of the Soviet Union forced the Cuban government to make severe economic cutbacks.

Since late 2008, SRS is once again freely available. The Cuban National Assembly is considering what would be among the most progressive gay and transsexual rights laws in Latin America. The legislation would recognise same-sex unions, along with inheritance rights. It would also allow Cubans to change the gender on their ID cards, with or without SRS.

In the first years of the revolution, this was not the case. The revolution received much condemnation (from friend and foe) for its official homophobia in its early days, when it was still deeply influenced by the homophobia of the dominant Catholic culture and the homophobic attitudes from the Stalinised Soviet Union. Read the rest of this entry