Before I became a part of the J-FLAG team, I used to hear persons complain that the organisation had almost completely ignored and invisibilised lesbians and bisexual women.
I believed it.
And I got angry too.
I tried to analyse it but had very little information to make a decent analysis.
Then with more information came enlightenment.
I revisited my anger and reflected a bit on a J-FLAG-facilitated training in which I participated several months prior to becoming a part of the team. The training session had a few more women than men, if not evenly spread.
But then all the talk about buggery and the Offences Against the Person Act in the media had me playing tug-o-war with my views on J-FLAG’s androcentrism. At the time, I too was guilty of all that buggery talk. I realised, however, that there were more structural and social barriers to the livelihood of gay men, bisexual men, transgender women, and transgender men than lesbians and bisexual women. So while lesbians and bisexual women were indeed affected by these barriers, things were just a little bit harder for the rest of the LGBT community.
JFAG – as it was (is) affectionately(?) called by some – had a bag ah man ah wuk fi dem. I suspect this was also a determinant of the programmatic focus of the organisation. Furthermore, much of the discourse on LGBT issues was wrapped into the public health garb – maybe code for HIV. As we all now know (if we believe the statistics), HIV prevalence is high among men who utilise the sexual function of the anus and that’s where the mighty funders wanted to put their monies in order to reduce this high rate. Thankfully, we are slowly but surely moving away from that restrictive thinking and realising that all sorts of stigma and discrimination exist out there, and LGBT advocacy organisations that invisibilise women are perpetuating a different kind of discrimination and exclusion, but it’s still discrimination and exclusion.
Sadly, there are still some advocates who believe that women should remain invisible, but I am thankful that J-FLAG has recognised that it can no longer perpetuate the old status quo. Over the past two to three years more ahn more ooman ah full up de organisation ahn ah speak up more fi de ooman dem. It’s still not where it should be, but things are changing.
Now, why am I annoyed? I am annoyed for two reasons:
- It seems as if some of us believe that to our own detriment we must hold on to the old J-FLAG and ignore any and every incremental steps it has taken to be more inclusive in its programmes and initiatives.
- Some women are still refusing to get involved in their own advocacy. Wi cuss de man dem sey dem tek ova de ting ahn nuh business wid wi, yet we fail to realise that by not seizing every opportunity, and multiplying those opportunities, we are leaving it in the hands of the same men to forever monopolise the LGBT movement.
I could use some lines to talk about how J-FLAG has been transforming its programmes and initiatives and making them women-inclusive, but mi know nuff people nuh buy de disclaimer up top and will think this bit of blogging is all about defending and promoting the organisation. So I will just advise you to do your own little research and make informed claims.
Wi cyah jus cuss, cuss, cuss, every day and expect that we will begin to make more than incremental steps. Everybody in the LGBT community needs support, and all of us need to support each other. We won’t all get it right all the time, or at record pace, but that doesn’t mean we can’t engender change for ourselves.