Global Roundup: Armenia LGBTIQ Activists, Zimbabwe Art Competition, Egypt Feminist Podcasting, 2SLGBTQ+ Estheticians, Queer South African Photographer
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Activists, community members and parents of LGBTIQ children at Pink Armenia’s Rainbow Forum, 28 October 2022. Pink Armenia via Open Democracy
Armenian activists gathered at the end of October to discuss ways to strengthen the country’s LGBTIQ movements, six weeks after Azerbaijan’s September 12 attack on Armenia. Activists who are fighting for human rights feel discouraged and hopeless as the conflict continues. Azerbaijan’s September incursion was one of the most violent since the Second Karabakh War in 2020.
In the end, more than 140 people registered for Pink Armenia’s three-day Rainbow Forum in the capital, Yerevan. Supported by the Swedish government, it was the seventh annual forum and it attracted attention and much-needed expressions of support. Pink Armenia is an NGO founded 15 years ago to support the community, protect human rights and advocate for public policy changes around LGBT issues.
The Rainbow Forum discussed the country’s lack of progress in terms of attitudes towards LGBTIQ people. Discussion panels also included women’s and LGBTIQ issues during the war, burnout, security threats, and visibility challenges facing gay and trans people in Armenia. Panelists said the conversations were often emotional.
Pink Armenia activists reminded the audience of its 24-hour hotline and the psychological, social and legal resources available for LGBTIQ people and their parents. Acknowledging that most portrayals of LGBTIQ people in Armenia are negative, Pink Armenia also attempted to introduce lighter moments. The opening ceremony featured photos of previous Rainbow Forum meetings and a drag performance of the 1980 Diana Ross song ‘I’m Coming Out’.
One audience member said the forum had helped him feel “this big power” from being surrounded by members of the LGBTIQ community.
Jindi Mkhokha, a villager from Matopos taking part in the My Beautiful Home competition. Photograph by Jonny Cohen
My Beautiful Home is a project in Zimbabwe that seeks to rekindle the ancient art of decorating and beautifying rural homesteads using materials, colours and pigments gathered from the earth. Winners receive practical and useful items such as shovels, rainwater tanks, three-legged iron pots, day-old chicks, and even a hive and beekeeping course for regional winners.
Everyone is an artist. We just need to learn how to see. -Peggy Masuku, winner of 2019 competition
Every autumn, as the morning air gets colder and the final harvest of corn and sorghum is stashed in the rafters of the round clay houses, called rondavels, hundreds of women from across this region begin decorating. With pigments mixed from different muds, and a watery clay solution applied to the walls, it takes about two to three months to complete a small home inside and out.
The process has deep ancestral roots that go back thousands of years. Many art historians believe the foundations of the cubism movement drew on the geometric shapes, motifs and textures used in everyday rituals across Africa.
The art aside, this competition is all about community spirit – each woman inspires and supports the next. You can see it in their daily lives – . Life is hard. They clean and cook, gather water, plough fields, and yet they still find time to work on beautifying their homes and encouraging one another. It is inspiring to see the joy it creates. It’s also really exciting to see how many more young women are involved. Culture is becoming cool again. -Patience Sarif, local coordinator
Kim Fox, a Professor of Practice in Journalism and Mass Communication at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, designed a research study to focus on feminist-leaning podcasts and Egyptian women podcasters. Fox and her co-author Yasmeen Ebada wanted to learn how the students adopted their knowledge of feminism, about the development of their feminist identities and about how podcasts were used for digital activism.
Fox discusses how feminism in Egypt is not a new phenomenon. There have been feminist activists throughout the decades. More recently, college student Nadeen Ashraf reignited the feminist activist flame in 2020 when she used Instagram to document the sexual harassment and assault cases of a predator. Her case garnered international attention and prompted authorities to react swiftly.
Fox and Ebada’s research was built on a sample of four publicly available podcasts produced by female students at The American University in Cairo. They took a qualitative critical analysis approach to examine narration, sound bites from interviews, music and other podcast production elements. Among the topics of the narrative nonfiction podcast episodes were stories of family involvement in matchmaking to get young women married into a well-off family. Another podcast addressed women’s participation in the 2011 Egyptian revolution.
Our podcasters embodied diverse feminist perspectives, displaying multi-dimensional feminist origins. These included black, western and post-colonial feminist views. Their lived experiences are a welcome contribution to the Egyptian digital sphere as they provide a counter-narrative to traditional patriarchal norms. -Kim Fox
This research is an important look into the power of podcasts as a tool for digital activism.
Speaking about their experiences and opinions allows young Egyptian women to exercise an otherwise muted voice in society. Podcasts are a vehicle for this. -Kim Fox
Photo: Julien Grey / Instagram (@greyareawaxing)
Julien Grey is an openly trans esthetician in Halifax, Canada, and they have made a point of rallying for gender-inclusive services—from haircuts to Brazilian waxes—within Halifax’s beauty industry.
People shouldn’t be denied services for the body parts they have, especially if it’s irrelevant to the situation… I want spa owners and waxers to feel uncomfortable and question themselves, why they aren't more inclusive than they are. And it's working. -Julien Grey
In their four years as a practicing esthetician, Grey has built a reputation as a beacon within a growing—and oft-overlooked—segment of Halifax’s population: the region’s transgender and non-binary community. They say they have seen far too much discrimination against clients seeking gender-affirming services that others take for granted.
Pride Beauty Lounge owner Tori Yeomans says finding trans- and non-binary-inclusive beauty services—be it hair salons, wax bars or makeup studios—can prove challenging. Yeomans opened their 2SLGBTQ+ friendly beauty salon last June. Their salon’s public mission statement is to provide a space that is “comfortable, free from bias and discrimination” and focusing on the “queer community, BIPOC folks and the disabled community.”
I want clients to know they can come here and we will respect their pronouns, we will support them in their accessibility needs, we won't deny services to them because of their gender or genitals; they will be welcomed here with open arms. -Tori Yeomans
Beauty services are more than a luxury for trans people; they can also be life-saving. Numerous surveys of trans people, both in Canada and abroad, have found that they experience more gender-based violence and unwanted sexual behaviour than their cisgender peers. A brow wax or facial hair tinting can help a trans person avoid unwanted—and wholly unnecessary—scrutiny that, in the wrong environment, could put them at risk of harm.
Gender-affirming care has also been shown to lower suicide rates among trans and non-binary youth. Still, Grey says, they hear of trans people getting turned away from haircuts and brow waxes all the time at other salons.
November is a big month for both Grey and Yeomans. Grey has moved into a new studio space with two other friends, which they describe as a “workers’ co-op sort of environment. Yeomans says Pride Beauty Lounge will be expanding its studio space to open a hair salon.
Mother and Daughter from the series Jannah Lies at the Feet of Thy Mother by Haneem Christian © Haneem Christian via i-D VICE
For the annual Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, queer South African photographer Haneem Christian submitted works from two separate series that explore the Black and brown LGBTQIA+ community, compounded by themes of chosen family and empowerment.
One photograph, “Mother and Daughter,” features two trans artists, Cheshire V and Autumn May with beautiful coral-colored hair and shimmering makeup, gazing directly into the camera against a sparse cloth backdrop. The second, from the series Rooted, features a topless tattooed figure lying back confidently against a fallen tree trunk, gazing sidelong into the camera and backgrounded by a lush forest.
Photograph by Haneem Christian
i-D spoke to Haneem about making work for one’s community, evolving ideas of selfhood, and the way nature’s spectrum matches the gender spectrum.
Haneem says they were drawn to photography during the Fees Must Fall movement, a student-led protest in South Africa in 2015 that petitioned the government to stop rising student fees and increase university funding. It made them realize how important photography is as a tool for being heard and seen. Haneem recognizes the importance of telling and archiving the stories of those who exist on the margins of society.
Centring queer and trans people in our telling of history offers necessary perspective. There is no such thing as “the truth” or “one truth”… people of different intersectional identities have different truths. But seeing your truth reflected in the world around you offers a feeling of belonging and that, in and of itself, is one of the most powerful things we can offer ourselves and each other. -Haneem Christian
Haneem says they make work for their community, their ancestors and those who need it. They do not have any hopes or expectations for viewers who are not familiar with queer identities.
I hope these images remind my Black and brown queer and trans siblings that we belong everywhere we desire to be, exactly as we are. I hope these works, in this space, remind us that our voices are important even in spaces that don’t necessarily center queerness. -Haneem Christian
Samiha Hossain (she/her) is a student at the University of Ottawa. She has experience working with survivors of sexual violence in her community, as well as conducting research on gender-based violence. A lot of her time is spent learning about and critically engaging with intersectional feminism, transformative justice and disability justice.
Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She refuses to let anyone thwart her imagination when it comes to envisioning a radically different future full of care webs, nurturance and collective liberation.