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Global Roundup: Timor-Leste LGBTQ Activist, Mexico City Mausoleum for Trans Women, Women’s-Only Train in Malaysia, Hong Kong Lesbian Couple Court Case, Trans-Inclusive Fertility Clinic
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
Bella Galhos. Photo supplied. Green Left
Bella Galhos is a former political exile, LGBTQ activist, and presidential advisor from Timor-Leste who now supports women and LGBTQ+ people. She became a powerful symbol within and of the international solidarity movement, after fleeing her home and relocating to Canada, and then returning to Timor-Leste many years later.
Galhos was only three years old when Indonesia invaded Timor-Leste, exposing her to military violence from a young age. In her teenage years, she followed the path of activism and later survived the Santa Cruz massacre in November 1991. She then escaped to Canada via an exchange program, where she began a tireless five-year solidarity-building campaign. Galhos returned to Timor-Leste in 1991, where she began engaging in work to support women and the LGBTQ+ community.
Since returning to Timor-Leste in 1999, she opened the Leubrora Green School in Maubisse, which teaches children sustainable agricultural practices and good nutrition, as well as a women’s cooperative farming group and flower garden. Galhos also founded Kantina Matak, a cafe that serves 500 free meals a day to neighbourhood kids in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, and also employs and serves as a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. She also founded the organization Arcoiris (Rainbow) Timor-Leste, which offers shelter for members suffering from violent situations and defends the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
When I came out it was a process of being vilified over and over again, falling down on my knees…I was meant to be a minister in the government but because of my sexual orientation I was removed. My own family, my own brothers have tried to kill me…but it hasn’t stopped me…Being an activist is a privilege, and it is my responsibility of speaking out for others. – Bella Galhos
cw: gender-based violence
Mexican trans rights activists Andrea Luna, left, and Kenya Cuevas visit the grave of their friend Paola Buenrostro, a trans woman who was murdered in 2016, during a visit to the newly opened mausoleum for trans women in Mexico City, Thursday, Sep. 14, 2023. AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo/them
Mexico City has dedicated a new mausoleum to trans women, which is the first of its kind in the country. Organized by Casa de las Muñecas Tiresias, an organization dedicated to helping trans people and sex workers in Mexico City. The mausoleum opened last Thursday in Iztapalapa, Mexico City’s most populous borough, with an inaugural celebration.
Many of the women who are being honoured in the mausoleum were victims of hate crimes, whereas others died of natural causes or their bodies were never claimed by relatives. The first woman who will be moved to the mausoleum will be Paola Buenrostro, who was killed in 2016. The mausoleum will have space for 149 women in total.
Thank you Paola, because in your name we were able to reach an important milestone for the trans community. – Kenya Cuevas, activist founder of Casa de las Muñecas
Kenya Cuevas, the founder of Casa de las Muñecas, expressed a desire to create a dignified final resting place for all of the women, regardless of their cause of death. Cuevas became an activist out of “pure rage”, and is one of Mexico’s most well-known activists who assists trans people and sex workers.
Now they will have a beautiful and colorful place where they will be respected after everything they lived through. – Kenya Cuevas
cw: sexual harassment
Karen Lai from the Women’s Centre for Change says the women-only coach idea is a ‘low-hanging fruit’ that many countries have adopted because it has a relatively low implementation cost. (Rapid KL pic). Photo via Free Malaysia Today
At the end of the month, Malaysia will be implementing a trial run for women-only coaches on trains travelling on the Kajang MRT Line. Each coach can accommodate more than 100 passengers. Many Malaysian women do not feel comfortable on public transport, especially when it is crowded during busier hours.
Malaysian transport minister Loke Siew Fook described the women-only trains as necessary considering the increase in sexual harassment on trains. However, some activists are still skeptical about the success of the initiative. Karen Lai, for example, from the Women’s Centre for Change described the initiative as a “low-hanging fruit” that many countries have begun to adopt due to its cheap cost and immediate implementation. Lai and Lilian Kok from the All Women’s Action Society have said that public transport providers should consider other long-term approaches that will help women feel safer in public spaces.
(Creating a safe space for women) is not something you solve overnight with segregated services. It requires a sustained effort, and it needs to be focused on transforming social behaviour. – Karen Lai
Lai and Kok suggested implementing a fast and easy way for people to report cases of harassment, such as a helpline, an app, or an emergency button on public transportation, as well as mechanisms to hold perpetrators of violence accountable. Both activists have also urged the government to produce an impact assessment report, after the trial run, to determine from commuters if resources had been appropriately deployed in cases of harassment.
It’s very important to strike a balance between providing a safe space for female passengers and ensuring the efficient use of public transportation resources. Do women feel safer (in women-only coaches)? As for the greater public, is it efficient when we close down one coach just for women during peak hours? – Lilian Kok
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A married lesbian couple in Hong Kong have won the right to both be recognised as their child’s parents in a legal victory. (Getty Images). Photo via Pink News.
A Hong Kong court has sided with a married lesbian couple who fought for the right to both have parental status over their child born through reciprocal IVF. Reciprocal IVF treatments for many lesbian couples enable both women to participate in the pregnancy, with one woman supplying her egg and the other carrying the child. The couple underwent reciprocal IVF in South Africa to have their child and later returned to Hong Kong.
In 2022, the Hong Kong government only recognized one of the mothers as the legal parent to their son, which prompted the couple to launch a legal challenge. Same-sex marriages and civil partnerships are not recognized under Hong Kong law, therefore same-sex couples are usually not afforded the same rights as straight couples.
On Friday last week, Judge Queeny Au-Yeung wrote in her ruling that legally recognizing the child’s other mother as a parent would align her status with reality. The judge ruled that the government’s non-recognition was a form of discrimination against the child, marking the first time that a Hong Kong court expressly stated that the children of same-sex couples are discriminated against by current legislation.
The court should be astute to the changing world where people build families in different manners other than through a married or heterosexual relationship. – Judge Queeny Au-Yeung
Support for same-sex marriage is at an all-time high in Hong Kong; around 60 percent of people now believe the laws should be amended. Also this month, Hong Kong’s top court discussed the possibility of legally recognizing same-sex relationships but stopped short of demanding full marriage equality.
Gender Spectrum Collection/them
As early as next spring, a trans-inclusive fertility clinic will be opening in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The healthcare facility will offer sperm and egg donations, surrogacy services, in vitro fertilization, hormone therapy, and more. The clinic signifies a partnership between the Allegheny Reproductive Health Centre (ARHC), a reproductive healthcare organization, and Mate Fertility, a startup that provides fertility treatment to underserved communities.
Although most people think that trans-specific healthcare only includes hormone replacement therapy and/or surgery, it also includes the need for trans-family planning services. Startups such as Legacy and Kindbody focus on making family-planning services more accessible by providing resources and significantly lowering the cost of services such as sperm banking and egg freezing. Although it is still costly to undergo these procedures, the prices through these startups are much cheaper than at a traditional fertility clinic.
Our goal is to make this extremely accessible for people no matter where you’re coming from and what your financial picture is. We know when we center the folks that aren’t able [to access] these services, everyone then gets the best care. – Dr Sheila Ramgopal, OB-GYN at ARHC
The clinic will also offer services between one-third to one-half of the cost of other fertility centres’ services. Male Fertility CEO Traci Keen emphasized that improving reproductive healthcare for trans people will ultimately help everyone in the end, including cis people who are beginning hormone therapy treatments. Keen says that she has encountered cis men and cis women who begin hormone therapy without first consulting a medical professional about fertility preservation.
There’s a lot of different things that people aren’t getting educated on. I think that there are some real luminaries in the field right now that do a good job of providing more access to high quality information. What we really want to be is that beacon for people where they can get information that’s tailored and appropriate for them. – Traci Keen
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.