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Guyana: Transgender group calls for inclusivity in national development

The Guyana Trans United (GTU), a group representing the interest of the transgendered here, is calling for the removal of policies that stymie the greater contribution its members can make to the country’s advancement. GTU President, Davenand Milton in an interview with Guyana Times has referred to the transgendered as a ‘hurt population’, who needs the support of their fellow Guyanese.

 

“If the policies change to be more inclusive, there can be a lot of things we can do to help to push the country forward,” he explained, noting that the group comprises members with lots of potential to make a real difference in Guyana. “When people discriminate against us, they keep us from making a meaningful contribution to Guyana’s development.”

Milton, who prefers to be addressed by his feminine expressions, has noted that despite non discriminatory work place policies, many still experience ‘subtle’ forms of discrimination, as he related a personal experience that lasted near 30 years.

“We are human beings too, we have feelings like everyone else; as transgendered we are not less in any way. Let us live as one people, one nation,” he expressed.

Milton was employed by an unnamed company as a Chemist for 28 years without being promoted, a move he saw as discrimination because of sexual orientation. He stayed knowing that it is difficult to find another job because of the same reason. Nonetheless, he was fortunate to have received the love and support of his family.

On March 29, GTU has organised ‘Trans-visibility Day’ to raise awareness to such issues. The point of it is to educate Guyanese on the differences between ‘trans’ and men who have sex with men (MSM) as well as to tell some of the positive stories. According to the American Psychological Association, transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behaviour does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.

Often, transsexual people alter or wish to alter their bodies through hormones, surgery, and other means to make their bodies as congruent as possible with their gender identities (feminine or masculine). There are others who cross-dress by wearing clothing that is traditionally or stereotypically worn by another gender in their culture. There are also other forms of transgendered such as ‘drag queens and gender queer’.

Cross dressing is illegal in Guyana, but the Court ruled in 2014 that in expression of gender ‘cross dressing’ is allowed but not for ‘improper purpose’. This case stemmed from several cross dressers being arrested and charged several years prior, one of who was the Executive Director of GTU, Quincy McEwan.

Section 153(1)(xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, Chapter 8:02 of the Laws of Guyana makes it a criminal offence for a man to wear ‘female attire’, and for a woman to ‘male attire’, in public, for an ‘improper purpose’.

McEwan informed this publication that the failure to define ‘improper purpose’ could see sex workers being arrested under the law. She argued that because of discrimination and the consequential failure to secure jobs, many transgendered are forced into prostitution as a means income.

The group is still awaiting the first hearing on the matter in the High Court since last year.

Meanwhile, he related his experiences to find a job noting that significantly he was forced to act as a ‘man’ in order to find work. It was only at the age of 30 that McEwan was able to secure a job that allowed her to fully express her gender preference—at the Guyana Sex Worker Coalition.

The group plans to have an award ceremony for those who continue to support them over the years. “In Guyana, although there is so much discrimination, some people still feel they can support us, even if it is undercover.”

 

Source: Guyana Times
Original article: Transgender group calls for inclusivity in national development

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