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Global Roundup: Senegal “First Lady” of Graffiti, Protest vs BBC Transphobic Coverage, South Korea Court Dismisses Landmark LGBTQ+ Rights Lawsuit, Gender-fluid Fashion, New Zealand Feminist Playwright
Compiled by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
‘A wall is a bigger surface for expression’: Dieynaba Sidibé, AKA Zeinixx, in her studio in Dakar, Senegal. Photograph: Guy Peterson/The Guardian
Zeinixx is Senegal’s first female professional graffiti artist and a core member of its male-dominated hip-hop scene. She is also a slam poet, singer, and entrepreneur. In August, she launched Zeinixx Entertainment, organizing visual arts workshops for young people. She is a big advocate for empowering girls to pursue their interests.
When she was 17, she saw people doing graffiti on TV and realized it was her calling. She sought out Senegal’s budding graffiti community despite her parents wanting her to focus on her studies.
My refrain is to tell young people: ‘Don’t let others choose for you what you would like to do tomorrow’. For me, it’s essential to be able to make your own decisions. - Zeinixx
Senegal has a long history of art, music and poetry. Traditionally in this part of west Africa, the artistic caste of griots were responsible for storytelling through music, spoken word, and dance. Graffiti, one of the four main elements of hip-hop culture, is more accepted in Senegal than in some other countries. The graffiti often has social messages – Zeinixx’s messages are often for and about women.
… tell the girls to be focused on what they want to do, what they want to become … to set goals that they will achieve. Don’t ask, ‘Can I do it?’ When in your head you say, ‘I’m going to do it,’ normally you can.” - Zeinixx
Photo: Twitter [@_scowny]
In a demonstration this weekend, LBGTQ+ people and allies stood outside the BBC’s London headquarters to object to how the BBC has recently depicted transgender and other minority communities. Many protesters held trans Pride flags and placards that read messages such as “The BBC’s bigotry is putting trans folk in danger,” and “Transphobia is not unbiased.”
It was at least the fourth protest in the last three months after the outlet published Caroline Lowbridge’s article about lesbian women allegedly “being pressured into sex by some trans women.” Since then, it has been revealed that Lily Cade, a lesbian porn star interviewed for and featured prominently in the story, had been calling for trans women to be “lynched” – which was not mentioned when the article was first published.
Felix F Fern, one of the protest’s organizers, said that BBC is “yet to take accountability or apologize for this outright dangerous article,” despite more than 20,000 people signing a letter calling for it to do so in late October.
This is just the latest significant example of a continuing downward spiral of problematic coverage of marginalised groups by the BBC, which has in recent years turned the spotlight on the trans community. In doing so, they are little better than the rest of the mainstream UK media. - Felix F Fern
Organizers of the event are adamant that they will continue to raise these issues until they see improvements and justice is achieved. They will also closely monitor BBC’s content now.
Pride in Seoul, South Korea. (ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
The Seoul Administrative Court dismissed a a landmark lawsuit filed last year by So Seong-wook, 30, against the country’s National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) that sought to bolster LGBT+ rights by enshrining equal access to healthcare benefits.
NHIS withdrew Seong-wook’s ability to receive spousal benefits under the employer of his partner, Kim Yong-min. The court said it had no legal basis to change the definition of marriage, which would be needed to restore the couple’s coverage. Seong-wook and Yong-min are not legally married as marriage equality is not recognised in South Korea. They plan to appeal the decision.
Even though the court has left it as a matter of the legislative branch, we will continue to fight until the day our relationship is recognised. I believe that love will eventually win. - Kim Yong-min
The growing visibility of LGBTQ+ South Koreans has triggered opposition from powerful conservative Christian groups, often preventing proposed pro-LGBT+ laws in the process.
Even as domestic public opinion warms to LGBT rights and neighbouring governments take steps toward LGBT equality, however, South Korea’s government has failed to make meaningful progress, citing intense religious and conservative opposition to justify inaction. – Human Rights Watch report
The results of this lawsuit are incredibly disappointing. Health care is a basic human right and should be accessible to everyone, but people in the LGBTQ+ community continue to face additional barriers.
Gender-fluid fashion should bring about a renaissance in how people dress, says Alok Vaid-Menon, centre, the advocate behind the #DeGenderFashion movement. At left and right, models wear clothing by Toronto designer Mic Carter. (Mark Binks/Desmond Picotte)
Alok Vaid-Menon, the author, artist and activist behind the #DeGenderFashion movement, says a truly gender-fluid approach to dressing could allow room for a much more expressive, flexible and even flamboyant wardrobe.
Gender-free is not actually about ... the death of fashion. It's about the renaissance of it. When we remove this stringent idea of 'Am I making clothes for men or women?' we begin to actually dwell on the fabrics, the colours, the sense, the feeling, the affect that often gets lost when we're just regurgitating gender stereotypes. - Alok Vaid-Menon
Vaid-Menon also notes that what mainstream culture considers feminine or masculine is centered in a Euro-American perspective. However, they grew up with men who wore many vibrant colours, accessories, and skirts, as their parents are Punjabi. They began challenging typical gender divides in dressing on stage in the drag scene. Soon they realized that such experimentation was only acceptable on stage.
However, today there are many designers working to expand what everyday people can wear. Mic Carter is a genderqueer Toronto fashion designer who creates collections for his company L'uomo Strano. He wants to empower non-binary people to "feel like their truest sense of self" through clothing.
When I started the L'uomo Strano, there were rumblings of androgyny or gender-neutral fashion, but often what that would look like would be kind of these sort of boxy, drab, uniform things, offerings that really kind of gesture towards the masculine side of gender-neutralness. And that was not what I was looking for. I was looking for sequins and sparkles and, at times, like a well-placed ruffle. - Mic Carter
Renée, 92, sits underneath a painting of herself via Stuff
Stuff spoke with celebrated lesbian playwright and feminist writer Renée ahead of her national Read New Zealand Te Pou Muramura pānui at Wellington’s National Library at the end of last year. Titled If you don’t get your head out of a book, my girl, you’ll end up on Queer Street, Renée says she named the event after something her own mother said to her when she was about 11, and because of the double meaning of queer.
Renée, of Ngāti Kahungunu, 92, chose to go mononymous as it is the only name that is hers. It also removes the barriers of people having to address her as Mrs, Miss or Ms.
When Renée was four her father, who was Pākehā, shot himself. After the incident her mother, being Māori, became a target for journalists and Renée still remembers racist headlines and people blaming her mother for her father’s death. Being from a working-class family and not having a lot of people helping or supporting them came with many challenges for her growing up. She had to leave school and begin working at the age of 12.
She wrote her first play, Setting the table, with four lesbian characters as the heroines, in 1981. She went on to write several plays which featured women, and Māori women, in leading roles, and humanized working-class people. Renée wants queer people to feel safe and not alone. Some of her other well-known works include Wednesday to Come, Pass It On and Jeannie Once.
She wants people turning 50 to know it will be the best decade of their life. “It’s better to be old now than it ever was before. There are more opportunities. People do not expect you to sit and knit until you drop off the chair.” A ball of red yarn and a pair of knitting needles are on her bed.
When Renée took her musings on tour she had women-only nights and mixed nights. Once in Reefton, a woman in a front row sat with tears running down her face hearing Renée’s discourse on feminism and queerness. On another night, four nuns came. “We were talking about rape, church, religion.”
Renée has been an activist for the queer community for several years and many people are inspired by her coming out later in life.
I don’t think I was radical either. I just think I was honest. People were not used to that – saying, ‘alright, I’m queer, so f... off, who cares. - Renée
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.