South Africa : Lack of bisexual, transgender and intersex people causes an imbalance in representation

Published: April 1, 2011

It has come to my attention that many LGBTI organisations in South Africa do not really have programmes or projects that focus on bisexual, transgender and intersex (BTI) people despite large numbers of the existence of this group in different provinces with limited access to information about their gender identity and sexual orientation.

Director of the Pietermaritzburg Gay and Lesbian Network in KwaZulu-Natal, Anthony Waldehausen admitted that that there is lack of bisexual, transgender and intersex programming among LGBTI organisations.

Waldehausen indicated that his organisation does not have any programmes directed specifically at BTI people. However, they are aware of transgender and intersex people’s needs, but bisexual people remain a neglected groups.He mentioned that their focus was on the gay and lesbian community as this group forms the majority of their organisation’s constituency.

He added that they are open to being inclusive of BTI people’s needs in their work but acknowledged that they would first need to identify individuals who will represent these groups. Waldehausen also highlighted that they do have one transgender person who serves on their Executive Committee.

On the contrary, Trish Dzingirayi, social worker for OUT LGBT Well-Being in Pretoria said her organisation offers mental health services to BTI people in the form of support groups, she highlighted however that the challenge lies where BTI people are reluctant to come to the groups.

According to Dzingirayi the support groups are a result of the expressed needs of BTI people to have a safe space, where people feel a sense of belonging and networking amongst fellow BTI’s

“To ensure appropriate programming for BTI people in South Africa, proper research, consultation, programme initiators and drivers should come from the TBI cohort”, said Dzingirayi.

Meanwhile, Waldehauson said he will be doing a strategic planning session soon and will be looking at strategies of including BTI people in their programmes.

LGBTI organisations must endeavor to include BTI people in their work as the lack of programming would mean the exclusion of this group in services such as health care and access to information.

A transman from Gauteng who did not want to be named said, the major challenge faced by transgender people in his province is having to contact people that are in a different province every time when they are in need of assistance and services.

He also expressed that it is impersonal to speak to an organisation on the phone or via email due to distance especially about sensitive matters that concern transgendered people. He said transgendered people in his province need more medical services.

Robert Hamblin, Advocacy Manager and Deputy Director of Gender DynamiX, the only trans organisation in South Africa said, “It is difficult to service transgendered people throughout South Africa because many of transgendered people are not visible and do not have the terminology to identify their gender identity.”

Hamblin also pointed out that BTI people should be employed within LGBTI organisations so that they can design their own programmes because LG people cannot talk for them.

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