Global Roundup: Healing Through Dance in Peru, Indian Women Saving Endangered Storks, All-Trans Hockey Team, First Brazilian Drag King Contest, Transfeminine Peer Support
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
Women of different generations learn, remember and heal while performing in the Buenas Noticias (Good News) dance programme in Mazamari, central Peru. Photograph: Dan Collyns/The Guardian.
In the 1980s and 90s, the communist guerilla group Shining Path—Sendero Luminoso-=-fought to overthrow the Peruvian government. Nearly 70,000 people were killed in Peru between 1980 and 2000. Shining Path was responsible for more than half of the deaths, according to Peru’s truth and reconciliation commission. Many Amazonian indigenous people trapped between the insurgents and the Peruvian forces were forcibly recruited by the rebels and between 8,000 and 10,000 were violently displaced. About 50 communities disappeared and mass graves were discovered subsequently.
Yolanda Rivera Charete fled her community, Centro Tsovameni, in 1989 after Shining Path fighters tortured and murdered her cousin and village leader, Isaias Charete. She fled with eight other children from her village. Today, she is healing with dance and movement through the Buenas Noticias programme. Created by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), this initiative connects women with others who suffered during the Shining Path insurgency.
The dancing group was created by Buenas Noticias in 2019 for women of Peru’s largest indigenous Amazon group, the Asháninka, to celebrate resistance and mourn those lost during the Shining Path rebellion. It also provides young women the opportunity to learn indigenous traditions and practices from their mothers and grandmothers, one of which is dancing.
I feel now that I am forgetting what happened to me. I feel calm, there is not too much worry. – Yolanda Rivera Charete
The dances include a variety of movements and techniques, such as slashing with a machete, casting a fishing line, and weaving. The movements in the dances these women perform reflect the common practices involved in the lives of the Asháninka women.
We can’t forget. There are some of us who have suffered a lot…For the girls who don’t know what trauma is, the terror that happened to us, they will understand [now] so that it doesn’t happen again. – Luzmila Chiricente, former leader of the Cushiviani community and founder of Fremank, Peru’s first indigenous women’s organization
Mónica Silva, associate professor in performing arts at Peru’s Pontifical Catholic University in Lima, has been a choreographer on the Buenas Noticias (Good News) programme since October. She says the initiative helps women connect with others who suffered during the insurgency and allows younger women to understand and support mothers and grandmothers.
To touch and hold somebody, it’s not just about affection, it’s saying we are together…The young never lived the violence. This moment is the chance for the mum to talk about it. It’s not just about the dance, it’s about what happens in between the dancing. - Mónica Silva
Luzmila Chiricente, 68, is the founder of Peru’s first indigenous women’s organisation, Fremank (the Regional Federation of Indigenous Asháninka, Nomatsiguenga and Kakinte Women of the Central Jungle), and says it is vital that women support each other.
For the girls who don’t know what trauma is, the terror that happened to us, they will understand [now] so that it doesn’t happen again. - Luzmila Chiricente
Via The Guardian
Over the last decade or so, more than 10,000 women have been mobilized in rural Assam, India to protect one of the world’s rarest storks: the greater adjutant or “hargila”, meaning “bone swallower” in Assamese. These women were mobilized by Dr. Punima Devi Barman, recent winner of the UN Environment Programme’s Champions of the Earth Award.
The greater adjutant was once abundant throughout south Asia, but its appearance and distinctive features cast fear in the eyes of many. The stork was eventually seen as a bad omen and carrier of disease, and locals would kill them with stones, cut down trees they lived in, and burn their nests.
Today, there are fewer than 1200 adult birds in Assam, Bihar, and Cambodia. Most of the global population is found in Assam, which is why the hargila army assembled by Dr. Barman is important. She began educating villagers about the importance of the hargilas – they are nature’s cleaning crew and they should be treated with respect. She was met with hostility, which made her realize she needed to first change community attitudes and perceptions towards the storks.
She delayed her PhD to work on saving the greater adjutant stork. She organized public meetings and discussed with the owners of trees, who were mostly men, to appoint them as guardians of the trees and the storks. Since the meetings began in 2010, not a single tree has been cut down. Dr. Barman also organized cooking competitions where contestants made traditional sweets and snacks and discussed the hargilas.
During the storks’ breeding season, she held “baby showers” inspired by Hindu rituals for expecting mothers, to welcome the baby storks. By 2014, the hargila army was born and thousands of women began supporting the efforts to save the greater adjutant stork. In a number of local villages, nests have increased from 28 in 2010 to more than 250 today. As for the women involved in the initiative, they now go into other villages to raise awareness about the storks.
Joining the hargila army gave me a chance to show everyone that I could do something meaningful with my life. – Daivaki Saikia, member for five years
Mason LeFebvre and Danny Maki say they found a network of friends through Team Trans. (Ian DeGraff/Ian Steven Photography). Photo via Pink News.
Team Trans was founded in 2019 as an international collective of trans and non-binary hockey players. The first event took place in Boston, where Team Trans played Boston Pride Hockey, an LGBTQ+ hockey team that has been around since the 90s. Team Trans has provided numerous individuals with the opportunity to play the sport they love in a safe space.
Up to that point in my life, I’d only ever played with, as far as I was aware, cis people…It was just about wanting to have that experience, to get to know other trans hockey players, because I hadn’t been able to do that. – Mason, a Team Trans player who has played hockey since they were 10
Team Trans plays in draft tournaments across North America against other all-trans teams. The organization relies on support from the National Hockey League (NHL), which financially and vocally supports and defends Team Trans from bigotry online. Since its inception in 2019, Team Trans has supported hundreds of players. Many trans people have reported that playing on cis teams can be challenging, but when the members of Team Trans come together, it does not matter that they’re trans – they can exist as people in this space.
Although Team Trans is not the first all-trans hockey team to exist, the collective has impacted the lives of hundreds of trans hockey players by providing a safe space to play a sport that all love. While many players still endure backlash and discrimination as trans hockey players, it does not stop them from continuing to show up and play.
I imagine a young trans kid who loves hockey, they could see that we as Team Trans exist and will be available to them once they turn 18 (as of our policies right now)...This negative media, as cruddy and at times hurtful as it is, will not stop me from playing the sport I love and the sport that has kept me alive more times than I like to admit. – Danny Maki, Vice President of the Team Trans Twin Cities chapter
FEMINIST GIANT is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Egon Maurice LaSand poses with a crown after winning the King of Kings contest, a drag king competition that reunites 15 artists from all over the country, in Sao Paulo, Brazil February 5, 2023. REUTERS/Carla Carniel. Photo via Openly.
For the first time, Brazil hosted an in-person drag king contest, to promote the artistry of women, trans people, and other individuals who dress in masculine attire and play exaggerated male characters. This contest was the first of its kind with 15 drag kings from around the world competing for the title.
The first competition was initially planned to be held in 2020, but was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, the collective held a virtual contest in 2021. This event was a historic moment for drag kings in Brazil and beyond.
It's historic, because we don't have a contest or an event dedicated to drag kings in Brazil…For me, drag came as a gender expression at first because I am transgender, but I didn't realize that when I was a kid. I established myself as a drag king and that was a way I found to express myself as a performer and also as a step in my discovery that I was transgender. - Lorde Lazzarus, 43-year old drag king who organized the event
Many of the acts in the show, performed by drag kings, reflect important messages about social issues that impact the LGBTQ+ community. For example, one king dyed their beard pink and blue to represent the colours of the transgender flag, and then performed an energetic song about the killing of trans women in Brazil. The performances were creative and meaningful, and shared important messaging about the need for queer allyship and support to protect the LGBTQ+ community in Brazil and abroad.
Despite the numerous rights in place to protect queer and trans people in Brazil, queer people are still murdered at alarming rates in the country. Drag kings, such as Lorde Lazzarus, want Brazilians to embrace the culture and art produced by queer people, to better understand their experiences and struggles.
Embrace LGBT culture and have more affection for LGBT artistic expressions…We (drag kings) have very little space and we are still in the country that kills the most trans people in the world. – Lorde Lazzarus
Video interview with Hinacio King:
Cat Haines says trans women and girls continue to experience high levels of harassment, discrimination and violence and this program will help them provide visibility. (Evie Ruddy). Photo via CBC.
A new peer mentorship group in Regina, in the Canadian province Saskatchewan is supporting transfeminine youth by creating a community full of support and resources for individuals affected by transmisogyny. Into the Streets was founded by Cat Haines, a community organizer and artist. She wanted to create a programme that would provide vital peer support to all the young transfeminine individuals in Regina.
I really hope that this program can be a coming-into-themselves for the girls participating…Growing up, I didn’t even know trans people existed. They were so invisible in our community. Visibility is so, so important. – Cat Haines
The collective was named after the slogan “out of the closet, into the streets,” which is a well-known saying in the queer and trans community. The group seeks to connect a young mentor, between the ages of 15 to 25, with an anchor mentor, who has leadership experience within the LGBTQ2+ community. Haines’ goal was to provide transfeminine youth in Regina with resources and life skills to support their journeys as young trans people, such as boosting employability and discussing community activism.
One of the goals is to help transfeminine youth find their voice and their power, so they can create change in their community through learning skills around community organizing and direct action and mutual aid. – Cat Haines
Local organizations help fund Into the Streets – the non-profit service provider UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, as well as a trans and non-binary-owned consulting company, Ivy + Dean Consulting. Mentors receive $1000 as compensation for their work, as well as a $200 sponsorship for any Pride events that mentors organize.
Into the Streets was formed at the end of January. Haines wants to fill the critical resource gap that exists for transfeminine youth, and provide young transfeminine youth the support they need to feel accepted and understood.
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.