“Stand Against Transphobia” Photo-Exhibition Set for the National Library

On March 31, transgender people the world over celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility (ITDV). Joining these global celebrations in an effort to raise awareness locally, Guyana Trans United (GTU) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) will be hosting a week-long “Stand Against Transphobia” Photo- Exhibition.

The Photo-Exhibition will be launched on the ITDV itself, which is Monday, March 31, 2014, at the National Library’s Conference Room at 11:00 hrs. The exhibition will be housed in the lobby of the National Library from Monday until Saturday, April 5, 2014. Dr. Shanti Singh, Programme Manager at the National AIDS Programme Secretariat of the Ministry of Heath, will cut the ribbon, declaring the photo-exhibition officially open. Outspoken Guyanese trans activist and GTU member, Twinkle, will be the keynote speaker at this event.

Keynote Speaker, Twinkle (Photo Courtesy of Ulelli Verbeke)

SASOD Co-Chair, Ulelli Verbeke, is the photographer and curator behind the photo-exhibition. She has travelled around Georgetown and West Demerara to interview and photograph transgender Guyanese from all walks of life who have consented to participate in this ground-breaking activity. “I was very moved by the openness of these trans folks who shared their stories with me,” Verbeke remarked. “I’m inspired by their bravery and willingness to participate in the project, not knowing how it will be received,” she added.

SASOD’s Co-Chair, Ulelli Verbeke (Photo Courtesy of Priscila F. Pascoal)

Their participation is particularly courageous in the context of Guyana where the laws criminalise cross-dressing and there have been police crackdowns against working-class transgender women. In a September 2013 decision, Chief Justice (ag.) Ian Chang ruled that cross-dressing in public is only a crime if it is done for “improper purpose.” The learned judge did not clarify what the term “improper purpose” means nor did he indicate what improper purposes gave rise to the February 2009 police crackdown against cross-dressing. SASOD and the four trans litigants are appealing this and other aspects of Chang’s decision.

Locally, transgender Guyanese are struggling for equality and rights to live freely, without stigma, discrimination and abuse.  The  Guyana Trans United (GTU) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) aim to utilize this photo-exhibition to continue to empower transgender Guyanese to “stand against transphobia” by ‘visibilizing’ them in their own images and words.  The groups believe visibility is key to empowerment.

GTU is a collective of transgender and gender non-conforming Guyanese working to empower trans Guyanese communities to advocate for their human rights and participate as equal citizens in decision-making processes at all levels of Guyanese society.

SASOD is a local human rights organisation and movement dedicated to achieving equality and justice for all Guyanese, especially those suffering discrimination based on their sexuality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

ITDV is a day to visibly celebrate being transgender. It’s a day to raise awareness of the discrimination faced by transgender individuals and to highlight accomplishments. It is also an important day for allies and stakeholders to show their support for transgender people. The theme is “Stand Against Transphobia” for the first commemoration of ITDV in Guyana.

The “Stand Against Transphobia” photo-exhibition is being hosted by GTU and SASOD with financial support from Equal Rights Trust (ERT), the Delegation of the European Union to Guyana (EU) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS).

The public is invited to attend Monday’s launch event and the week’s photo-exhibition.

Invitation to the Launch of the “Stand Against Transphobia” Photo-Exhibition