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Global Roundup: Butch Women Bikers Protect Ontario Drag Event, Indonesian Women Preserving Juicing Tradition, S. Korean Lawmaker’s Protest, Drag Isn’t Dangerous Telethon, LGBTQ Case at Eswatini Court
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
The motorbike group, named the Wind Sisters, stood outside the library in counter-protest to the anti-LGBTQ+ activists. (Getty). Photo via Pink News.
In Parkhill, Ontario, Canada, a butch women’s motorbike group, the Wind Sisters, stepped in to protect a drag event at Middlesex County Library from anti-drag protestors who were blocking attendees from entering the library.
The Wind Sisters stood outside the library with arms linked, protecting the event and standing in solidarity with all drag performers. The women’s-only biker group has thousands of members across North America, promoting itself as a group where young bikers can be themselves, connect with others, and ride together.
Over the past several months and particularly in North America, a number of drag events have been protested by different anti-LGBTQ+ groups; this coincides with a number of U.S. states implementing anti-drag and anti-trans legislation.
Historically, a butch – like myself, and I’ve been one for 50 years now – our role in the community has always been one of the great protector. Today, we wanted to come here and show protection and help the community celebrate all of our inclusivity. – Patricia Ginn, Wind Sisters member
The biker group was also joined by other members of the LGBTQ+ community – including the local organization, the Rainbow Optimist, and Strathroy Pride organizers – who sought to show support with drag performers in this small town in Ontario, Canada.
I feel for the children who had to walk through that. We want to be supportive to everybody that’s brave enough to come to these events. – Frank Emanuele, Strathroy Pride director
Nyimas Laula. Photo via Vogue.
Indonesian women are keeping an ancient and traditional practice alive, known as jamu. Jamu is the general term for traditional herbal drinks which can support and improve one’s digestion and overall health. This juicing practice is a vital aspect of Indonesian culture and history, and many women throughout the nation are keeping the practice alive.
There are thousands of variations of jamu between the regions of Indonesia, but there are a few variations of jamu that all Indonesians know. Examples include kunyit asam, made from tamarind; coconut sugar; salt; turmeric, which is anti-inflammatory, and temulawak, which is made from Java turmeric and supports everything from good digestion to liver health.
For many Indonesian women, concocting and selling jamu is a way of ensuring their financial independence and economic empowerment for women entrepreneurs. It is a practice which is typically passed down through generations, and it has transformed the lives of many women. At the peak of western medicine, jamu’s popularity began to waver; however, with the rise of wellness, especially traditional wellness, jamu has resurfaced as a popular drink in Indonesia to support one’s immune system in a natural and traditional way.
Togetherness is so important, and the tradition itself is handed down through women…That’s the story of the community, how we trust, believe, and support each other. – Metta Murdaya, founder of jamu-based beauty line Juara and author
Most of the women make jamu early in the morning before dawn and then head into town to sell their product via house visits, streetside pop-ups, or stalls at a local market. These women are known as “jamu gendongs”. Traditionally, jamu gendongs would carry up to 12 glass bottles in a bamboo basket, at a time, and then strap it to their back and walk for hours, selling their homemade jamu. Although many women still engage in this traditional practice of carrying the bottles on their backs, others have opted to use motor scooters to maximize their mobility and their range of distance.
I want to fight for jamu so that it doesn’t disappear. I want it to last for generations to come…They’re role models, a symbol of strength that empowers other women. They make sure that the story and the spirit, the culture, and the heritage are preserved. - Suwarsi Moertedjo, 74, the unofficial godmother of the Nguter Jamu Market and founder of Koperasi Jamu Indonesia (KOJAI), a cooperative dedicated to serving the jamu community.
Photo via Yahoo News.
Last week, a South Korean lawmaker took a stance against the increasing amount of “no kids zones” in the nation during a press conference, while holding her almost 2-year-old son in her arms. Representative Yong Hye-in, member of the minor Progressive Basic Income Party in South Korea, spoke about the need for a society that embraces parents and children in public spaces, rather than alienating them.
Everyday life with children is not easy. Even so, our society must be reborn into one where children are included. – Yong Hye-in, member of the minor Progressive Basic Income Party in South Korea
“No kids zones” first began to appear in Korea around 10 years ago; the purpose of these zones was to keep public spaces – such as restaurants, cafes, and libraries – quiet and essentially free of noisy and disruptive children. These zones prohibit children under the age of 16 from entering establishments, unless they have explicit written permission. This policy was introduced after a number of complaints were posted to online forums about the disruptive nature of children in public spaces.
All of us were children at one point, and in the first moments of our lives, we were slow and clumsy. Let’s create a society where the slow, clumsy, and immature are accepted…I hope that today’s somewhat uncomfortable and noisy press conference can help us recognize that we can live a life where children can be included. – Representative Yong Hye-in
Yong admitted that prior to having a child, she did not realize how many of these spaces existed. After becoming a mother, she realized that most of the public spaces she once enjoyed were off-limits to her and her child. She believes that implementing policies that support the growth and education of children will propel South Korean society forward, as well as the nation’s very low birthrate.
What we want is a society that embraces not only the fast and the competent, but also the slow and the inexperienced. In order to overcome one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, we must overhaul the society that rejects children and the elderly. – Representative Yong Hye-in
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Photo via Gay Times.
Drag Isn’t Dangerous is the largest fundraising collective in the U.S. to combat anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. During a one-night-only telethon on Sunday, May 7, Drag Isn’t Dangerous raised more than $500,000 to fight the many anti-LGBTQ+ laws that are or have been implemented in the U.S. recently.
The livestreamed event was hosted by comedian Justin Martindale, director/choreographer Adam Shankman, and Drag Race stars Peppermint and Alaska 5000. The telethon included a number of live and pre-taped performances, and appearances from some of the most famous drag stars in the world, such as Jinkx Monsoon, Trixie Mattel, Kelly Mantle, Kerri Colby and Laganja Estranja, and more. LGBTQ+ entertainers, such as Margaret Cho and Frankie Grande, and allies, including Melissa McCarthy and Charlize Theron, were also in attendance to show their support for the cause.
Drag brings hope, truth and laughter to a community that desperately needs it. We need to fight for drag rights because we need to fight for gay rights. For our rights. – Margaret Cho, comedian
All the proceeds from the telethon will be divided amongst approved charities that support LGBTQ+ causes and drag performers in need, especially in states with bans in place. The charities include GLAAD, GLSEN, Headcount, Black Queer Town Hall, The ACLU Drag Defense Fund, Trans Justice Funding Project and Victory Fund. Just in 2023, more than 540 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced across 34 US states. In states like Tennesee, Texas, and Florida, more than a dozen bills seek to restrict or ban drag.
We need to be telling the people who are not engaged and don’t see how it matters and are not connecting those dots, who are seeing the drag bans as something that’s not really a big deal because they still aren’t connecting the dots to why it is. That’s what needs to be vocalised. We’re not going to change the minds of people who hate us. We’re not going to change the mind of people who already agree with us and we don’t need to, but we are potentially going to change the mind of all those people in between who just don’t see that it’s a big deal. – BenDeLaCreme, Drag Race legend
Members of the Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities, an LGBTQ and intersex rights group, after the Eswatini Supreme Court on May 5, 2023, heard arguments in their case in support of legally registering in the country. (Photo courtesy of Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities). Photo via Washington Blade.
The Registrar of Companies in 2019 first denied Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities’s request on grounds the organization advocates for LGBTQ and intersex rights that are illegal.
Consensual same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under common law, which criminalizes sodomy. The law, however, has never been enforced, but Emaswati who identify as LGBTQ or intersex still face discrimination.
After losing their first battle, the Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities approached the Supreme Court with this case in 2020. The case was dismissed in 2022, but the group appealed the ruling, and deliberations ended last week, on May 5. The supreme court has not said when it will issue its ruling, but the Eswatini LGBTQ+ community is hopeful that there will be a change in the nation soon.
There is no law in Eswatini that prohibits the LGBTI+ community from identifying. Nothing is criminal about that. Don’t we have in this country an association of ex-prisoners? Isn’t the Registrar not scared that the ex-prisoners association includes rapists and murderers who will share ideas but is afraid of the LGBTI+ community? How is that association legal and ESGM is not? Homosexuality was not outlawed by the constitution and therefore the refusal to register ESGM is clearly a rights infringement. – Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities’ statement
The Eswatini government has permitted pride events since 2018, which makes activists inclined to believe that change is on the horizon.
Inaara Merani (she/her) recently completed her Masters degree at the University of Western Ontario, studying Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a specialization in Transitional Justice. In the upcoming years, she hopes to attend law school, focusing her career in human rights law.
Inaara is deeply passionate about dismantling patriarchal institutions to ensure women and other marginalized populations have safe and equal access to their rights. She believes in the power of knowledge and learning from others, and hopes to continue to learn from others throughout her career.