Global Roundup: Digital Transactions for Trans Indian Panhandlers, 1st Latina Superhero Team, Iranian Women Music Compilation, P!nk Gives Out Banned Books in Florida, Fathers of Trans Kids Documentary
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
Ayesha Sharma, a transgender beggar in Delhi, India, uses digital payments [Rohit Lohia/Al Jazeera]
The rise in digital transactions and instant payments have benefited individuals around the world in different ways. In India, digital apps have helped marginalized communities, including trans funerals, to avoid discrimination.
Ayesha Sharma is a 29-year-old trans woman who has been a beggar on the streets of New Delhi since 2006. Over the last 17 years, she has frequently experienced discrimination and prejudice because of her identity. Many trans beggars have reported multiple instances of discrimination and abuse.
To combat this, trans beggars have started to carry their cell phone with them on the streets, holding up a unique QR code on the screen. Individuals who walk or drive by can instantly scan the code and deposit 10 rupees, or $0.12 USD, into their accounts. This way of panhandling also encourages people to give money even when they do not have small change. Sharma says that around one quarter of her earnings are thanks to digital transactions.
It is so much easier now. Even though people are not always carrying cash, they can still donate to us by just scanning this code. We may be beggars, but we should still be treated with respect and decency. – Ayesha Sharma
In November 2016, the Indian government introduced a demonetization policy, which wiped out around 90 percent of the cash in circulation, and led to an immediate spike in the use of payment apps. The pandemic also helped push digital transactions, and many of those habits have continued to coexist with cash, which is still the preferred mode of payment in the country.
Some apps link to a person’s bank account and money is immediately withdrawn from their account when a payment is made. Other companies have created apps that link the user’s account, operating like a prepaid card and giving users company offers. Although it is a great alternative, it is not a perfect solution. Many trans people in India have struggled to open bank accounts or update their gender identity on existing accounts, despite India’s central bank issuing a directive in 2015 that recognized a third gender. With many trans people not having regular bank accounts, some companies are now asking customers to provide national identification which will pose a challenge to trans people in India.
One such option is to live in a commune with trans people, just as Leeza Khan does. The 30-year old trans beggar gains at least 20 percent of her daily income through digital transactions, but as she does not have her own bank account, the QR code she uses is linked to the head of the commune, to whom she pays a commission from her earnings. For now, however, digital transactions and payment apps have given trans beggars a chance to earn money in a safer and more effective manner.
It has become essential for their wellbeing to have a mechanism in place to keep and manage their money … [But] the challenging part is having a bank account and meeting the qualification criteria for the service. – Rudrani Cherri, founder of Mitr Trust, an organization that works with trans people in India
In the graphic novel A La Brava, written by Kayden Phoenix, the first Latina superhero team in comic book history is introduced. This writer and director is passionate about women’s rights and equality and chose to centre her characters around specific social injustices.
Batman saves Gotham, Superman saves Metropolis, but no one ever wants to save a girl. Unless it’s the girlfriend, right? Unless you’re Mary Jane or Lois Lane. Otherwise, who saves girls? And the answer is nobody -- not in media and not in real life, which is unfortunate. And so my characters, they’re different in that aspect. – Kayden Phoenix
Latinas of different upbringings fight injustices against women in this superhero universe. Each book tells the origin story and social cause of one character, and the Latina superheroes meet in the end to form the team “A La Brava”.
Jalisco is a folklrico dancer with blades that she can control in her dress, and she takes on femicide in Mexico. Santa has divine strength and deja vu and faces her opponent Iliana Chavez Estevez, who is personified as ICE, during her mayoral campaign. Ruca is an East LA Chicana whose cause is human trafficking, fighting to bring stolen children home. Loquita is a supernatural teen detective who fights demons, and tackles gun control within schools as well as teen suicide. Lastly, Bandita is a gunslinger who can ricochet bullets off walls, and she combats domestic violence.
At least they can shine light on it and bring justice to the girls that aren’t being saved…If you go 'A La Brava,' you have two boxers who are going all out until somebody falls. And I think that reflects being a woman, being a marginalized woman in particular in society. We live in this land of very patriarchal oppression; we have to go all out. – Kayden Phoenix
Phoenix has also created a series of Latina Princesses who come together in her upcoming book to form the Majestics, modern-day princesses who do not have a prince that comes to save them. Phoenix was also recently hired to write Lip Stick Cliqa, which is a three-book series that will be made into a feature film by Sony.
I'm a storyteller, and storytelling reflects democracy, so if you read about it, you're like, 'Oh, I can be a superhero. I can be a princess. I can be something more than a maid or anything else.' Then great, you can. Go and do it, – Kayden Phoenix
Aida (left) and Nesa Azadikhah. Photograph: Apranik Records. (The Guardian)
More than a year after the protests began in Iran following Mahsa Zhina Amini’s death, the chants of “Zan, Zendegi, Azadi” (“woman, life, freedom”) have seeped from the streets of Iran into the musical works of Iranian women electronic artists, curated by Aida and fellow producer Nesa Azadikhah.
“Intended Consequence” released in August of this year, via Aida and Azadikhah’s label Apranik Records, was a sequel to their January compilation entitled “Woman Life Freedom.” One of the tracks on Intended Consequence is “Azadi,MP3”, which is an empty platform that is filled with chants from protests over the last year, mixed in with heavily percussed beats. Tracks made by Aida and Azadikhah are also featured on the compilation.
The history of the Iranian electronic music scene dates back to the 1970s, but it was held back by the revolution of 1979 which emphasized tradition. However, the genre has slowly developed again in this century via new artists both living in Iran and in the diaspora. Newer artists include Sote, Kasra V, and 9T Antiope, as well as DJs including Paramida. Another example of an Iranian Collective is “Only Voice Remains”, who created a one-hour sound piece composed of voice notes, poetry, music, readings, reflections, protest sounds, and speeches, which was then broadcast on London’s NTS Radio.
When the protests began last September, Azadikhah was on tour outside Iran, and did not visit her home in Tehran until seven months later, which she said was a completely changed and revolutionized city. She saw women and girls not wearing the hijab, and men protecting those women who were protesting. And, individuals across Iran continue to protest to this day, despite the lack of media coverage.
Aida referred to the chants on the streets as “condensed expressions of generational trauma”. Due to the longstanding relationships that Iranians have with poetry, she says that those chants were a rhythmic and poetic reflection of a changing culture in society.
Many of the tracks on Intended Consequences are nonverbal. Aida says that instrumental electronic music is highly flexible, which helps transmit manifestations of emotion through sound. This genre of music also allows others to understand what it might have felt to live in Iran during the height of these protests. Azadikhah says that this might have helped those artists who were outside the country and could not be on the streets to process their feelings.
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Christian Petersen/Getty Images. (them)
P!nk, the singer based in the US, announced that she would be giving away 2000 banned books at the Miami and Sunrise, Florida stops of her “Trustfall Tour”. In partnership with PEN America, a nonprofit that “stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression”, concertgoers will be able to get their hands on books that have been banned and censored in Florida due to the LGBTQ+ content.
Books have held a special joy for me from the time I was a child, and that’s why I am unwilling to stand by and watch while books are banned by schools. It’s especially hateful to see authorities take aim at books about race and racism and against LGBTQ authors and those of color…We have made so many strides toward equality in this country and no one should want to see this progress reverse. This is why I am supporting PEN America in its work and why I agree with them: no more banned books. – P!nk
Four different books that have appeared in PEN America’s Index of Banned Books were given away at P!nk’s shows on November 14 and 15 including: The Family Book by Todd Parr, The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman; Beloved by Toni Morrison; and a book from the “Girls Who Code” children’s series, which was inspired by Reshma Saujani’s nonprofit of the same name.
This announcement came after book bans and censorship continuously swept across the country. Most of the books have been singled out for being LGBTQ+-related, and Florida currently leads the charge with 40 percent of all US book bans in the state alone. In August, the Collier Country School District, which serves over 50,000 students, removed over 350 books from libraries and teachers’ collections for fear of violating the extremely vaguely-worded Floridian House Bill 1069. Titles range from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood to If I was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.
Banning books is just one arm of a larger, organized campaign to target and harass LGBTQ youth nationwide. There’s no separating book bans from ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws, attacks on healthcare and sports for trans youth, and the hundreds of other bills and policies that put LGBTQ youth at the center of a target built by extremist groups and politicians. Everyone deserves to see themselves represented in books and other forms of media, and the targeting of LGBTQ youth through book bans and other anti-LGBTQ school policies must end. – Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO
Courtesy of Netflix. (them)
A new documentary short shines a unique light on the fight for trans rights in the US through the perspective of fatherhood. Directed by Luchina Fisher and executive produced by Dwyane Wade, and featured on Netflix, The Dads follows five fathers of trans kids who embark on a weekend fishing trip in Oklahoma.
The parent and child duos are accompanied Dennis Shepard, the father of Matthew Shepard who was murdered in 1998 and whose death opened the eyes of many to anti-LGBTQ+ violence in the US. Matthew Shepard’s death was also what led to the passage of federal hate crime legislation. Over the course of the 11-minute documentary, the six dads bond over their shared love for their children and the role that they play in fighting for their rights.
I am incredibly proud to be joining Luchina Fisher and the entire team on this journey to bring awareness to a cause that is so close to my heart. The Dads shows us the power of fathers loving and supporting their LGBTQ children, breaking through the barriers of prejudice, embracing diversity, and coming together to have these important conversations. I look forward to providing an additional voice to amplify this important conversation so that all kids have unconditional love and acceptance for who they truly are. – Dwyane Wade
Shepard is joined by Stephen Chukumba, father of Hobbes; Frank Gonzales, father of Libby Gonzales; Jose Trujillo, father of Dan; and Wayne Maines, father of actress and activist Nicole Maines. The six dads go fishing, and then cook together and hang out and share a bit about their journeys.
It wasn’t about fishing, it was about sharing. A chance for them to escape for a little while. So many trans families don’t make it because the dads aren’t on board. They gotta fight and figure out why they’re afraid. – Wayne Maines
From this short amount of time spent together, these fathers created lifelong bonds and support systems. Fisher says that this film is a love letter from fathers to their trans kids.
I’m aware that I cannot do it alone. As much as… you put on your cape, and you do what you gotta do, the reality is that we cannot survive in isolation from one another. Finding you all saved my life. – Stephen Chukumba
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.