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Global Roundup: Quinceañara for Trans Mexican Abuelas, Filipino Women Fighting for Divorce, Theatrical Play on Gender and STEM, Parenting Book for Queer Parents, Iceland Conversion Therapy Ban
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
Credit: Facebook/ Guillermo Perez (BELatina)
A quinceañara is a coming-of-age celebration typically held for young Latinas turning 15 years old. Growing up, many trans Latina women were denied the opportunity to have a quinceañara because of societal norms, but a group of trans abuelas (grandmothers) in Mexico recently celebrated their long-awaited quinceañaras.
For years, this group of abuelas faced discrimination, rejection, and societal prejudice. Their journeys have been unapologetic, and serve as an inspiration for many others.
This is a dream that we have always had. We used to look at these parties with excitement when we attended them, and we wanted to wear a quinceañera dress ourselves, but it never happened. – Denisse Valverde, activist and organizer of the event
The event celebrated 18 trans women between the ages of 55 to 72, giving them the opportunity to celebrate their womanhood in a way they never could before. The abuelas wore elegant dresses and were surrounded by loved ones, friends, and supporters, singing and dancing all evening. In addition to the celebrating, a Catholic mass was held. The event was a testament to their resilience, strength, and the enduring power of love and acceptance.
This quinceañera serves as a powerful symbol of progress and inclusion within Mexican society. Challenging societal norms, these women have offered an inspiration for the trans community in Mexico and beyond.
In this photo taken on February 14, 2023 shows pro-divorce protesters taking part in a demonstration on Valentine's Day in front of the Senate Building in Pasay, Metro Manila. The Philippines is the only place outside the Vatican where divorce is outlawed, with the Catholic Church -- which holds great influence on Philippine society -- opposing the practice as against its teachings. AFP/Jam Sta. Rosa (Phil Star Global)
In the Catholic-majority country that is the Philippines, divorce is currently illegal. Couples can apply for a court annulment or a declaration invalidating their nuptials, but this can take years and the government can appeal any of these decisions. This has resulted in numerous women being forced into unhappy marriages, but unable to do anything to support themselves or remove themselves from these situations. Now, Filipino women are protesting for their right to divorce, arguing that divorcing their partner, if they are unhappy or unwilling, is a human right.
The legal process for a divorce in the Philippines can be timely and costly. Divorce cases can cost $10,000 or more, with no guarantee of success. Many individuals have also been victim to online scams, which causes even more precarity in a country that is overrun with high rates of poverty.
I don't understand why it has to be this difficult…Why are we, the ones who experienced suffering, abandonment and abuse, being punished by the law? All we want is to be free. – Stella Sibonga
Stella Sibonga has spent the last 11 years trying to get out of a marriage she was forced into after she became pregnant. Her legal battle began in 2012 when she applied to a court to cancel her marriage on the basis of her husband’s alleged psychological incapacity. After five years and $3500 in legal fees, a judge agreed, but then the Office of the Solicitor General successfully appealed the decision in 2019. Sibonga has asked the Court of Appeals to reverse its ruling, but she is still waiting for an answer.
The Philippines is home to a large Catholic population, with 78 percent of the 110 million people practicing the Catholic religion. This has made discussions about divorce, abortion, and contraceptives very difficult and it has been challenging to implement legislation to support the millions of women and people who need access to these rights. However, the country saw a controversial birth control law passed in 2012, as well as a divorce bill approved that was later stalled in the Senate, which is the furthest that such a proposal has ever gone. Attitudes in the Philippines are changing and women and individuals suffering in their marriages are demanding equal rights to their lives.
People think that because I am still technically married, I'm a sinner. They really believe that what God has united cannot be separated. Really? Even if your husband is trying to kill you, even after everything he's done, divorce is still not allowed?... I told them they can cohabitate and have as many children as they want, but I won't ever consent to them getting married. I just don't want them to end up like me. – Stella Sibonga
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Source: StageCraft (Feminism in India)
“I Am Still Here” is a play that highlights the gender bias within STEM. Developed by the student-driven theatre conglomerate from the Bangalore Life Science Cluster, StageCraft, this play showcases narratives of women navigating STEM where certain scientists or people make it difficult for them to succeed because of a gender-biased worldview.
The play was originally written by Rohit Dey, Manal Shakeel, and Aditya Vijaykumar, and directed by Manal Shakeel and Rohit Dey. Aditya Deshpande and Sruthi Unnikrishnan also helped with crucial aspects of the play. The play chronicles three narratives that women in STEM are all too familiar with.
The play begins with a common narrative, where a young girl takes a train from her small town to study in a big city at a prestigious institute of science. Upon arriving, she is shocked to learn there is no place for women, beginning a story of self-awareness, struggle, and resilience. The other two narratives explored in the play are the lack of structure to address harassment within institutional spaces and the trade-off that women have to make between their families and their careers. The play shows audience members that although science can be connected to progress, certain individuals should be criticized and held accountable for their actions.
The play sheds light on issues that are often brushed under the rug for the sake of upholding progress in a field that has historically excluded women. It also focuses on gender dynamics in different stages, whether it is someone who has just graduated college or someone who is married and looking for a job. ‘I Am Still Here’ showcases women confronting a system that does not always acknowledge or accept their contributions, reminding individuals that everyone has a different path in the pursuit of scientific advancement, and we should celebrate and uplift every woman who enters this field.
The first-ever mainstream queer parenting book has just been published in the UK. The Queer Parent: Everything You Need To Know From Gay to Ze is written by Stu Oakley and Lotte Jeffs, and provides parents with advice on the journey to queer parenting, with advice about topics such as fostering, fertility treatments, dealing with homophobia, and creating a home. This will be a landmark publication for queer parents, something which has not been previously available.
Oakley and Jeffs first co-hosted the podcast “Some Families”, which was the first UK podcast to solely focus on queer families. They learned a lot about each other’s different journeys to parenthood as well as many other individuals who started families in different ways. The common denominator between these discussions was that everyone had their own LGBTQ+ experience that made them unique, and they felt it was important to write a book that helped queer prospective parents and families, which also provided fun and entertainment for the individuals without kids or who never want kids.
This book marks the first time a major publisher has published a book on queer families. It is not so much a guide to the different ways to have children as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, as it is an amalgamation of important discussions that affect queer lives every single day, such as mental health, schools, holidaying as a queer parent, gender impact on families, race, the impact of gay shame on parenting, and parenting solo.
The Queer Parent is an example of what inclusion and understanding can look like, in a world where queerness is judged and misunderstood by people. Highlighting that no one’s experiences are identical, Oakley and Jeffs have created something revolutionary which will likely benefit generations of queer parents.
Iceland ranks highly for LGBTQ+ rights on the Equaldex global index. (Getty Images/Pink News)
The Icelandic parliament has just passed a law banning conversion therapy practices on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity. In a landslide majority on Friday, June 9, the Nordic country voted to ban harmful conversion practices, joining countries like Canada, Brazil, Ecuador, Spain, Germany, France, Malta, and New Zealand.
As proposed by parliamentary party chair Viðreisnar and Reform Party MP Hanna Katrín Friðriksson, not a single representative voted against the bill, with 53 individuals voting ‘yes’, and three abstaining. Friðriksson had previously spoken out against conversion practices, stating that these practices are based on ignorance and there is no place for such harmful practices in Icelandic society. Even after transphobic attempts to strike this bill down, the overwhelming majority vote is a testament to the Icelandic parliament showing a willingness to support queer and trans people.
The legislation had cross party support in parliament, despite attempts from known anti-trans hate groups under English influence to oppose it, and wrongfully claiming they managed to ‘kill the bill’. Their arguments were dismissed as anti-scientific and anti-trans rhetoric. – Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir, a writer and expert on LGBTQ+ issues in Iceland
In 2009, Iceland became the first country in the world to have an openly gay head of government, after Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir was appointed as Iceland’s first queer female prime minister. The country currently ranks 90/100 on a global LGBTQ+ rights index, Equaldex, which will likely increase after the comprehensive conversion therapy ban takes effect.
This ban on all conversion practices is an important reminder that vital legal progress for all LGBT+ people isn’t a controversial issue for those that centre justice and compassion in their politics. During what can only be described as a concentrated backlash against trans rights and LGBT+ in general in sends a strong message that progress can be achieved, and that in the end justice will prevail over prejudice. – Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir
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.