As a trans and gender diverse focused human rights organisation, Gender DynamiX is painfully aware of how society continuously seeks to marginalise, exclude and violate the bodily and psychological integrity of trans and gender diverse persons. Discriminatory laws, policies, regulations, institutional structures and practices are key driving forces in facilitating and maintaining the levels of systemic violence, indignity and oppression we experience. With governmental departments and leadership slow at responding and in many cases lacking the necessary commitment, we highlight our continued struggle for socio-economic and politico-legal justice for trans and gender diverse persons in all spheres of society, including in all state facilities.

Together with our partners, the Legal Resources Centre, Lawyers for Human Rights and all trans-focused human rights organisations, Gender DynamiX continues the fight for dignity, equality and freedom for all trans and gender diverse persons, particularly our right to be free from discrimination and inhumane treatment on the basis of our gender identity and gender expression. As amicus curiae represented by Legal Resources Centre in the case of September v Minister of Correctional Services, to be heard on 26 November 2018, Gender DynamiX salutes Jade September for her courage in taking the Department of Correctional Services to task for denying her the space to express her gender identity and for preventing her from exercising her rights to dignity, equality and freedom of expression in detention facilities and prison.

As a transgender woman, she has been subjected to misgendering, harassment, verbal abuse and inhumane treatment in prison facilities. This is the result of the enforcement of rigid, discriminatory rules/practices regarding gender expression and a lack of awareness on the part of the Department of Correctional Services and its officials regarding gender diversity. These forms of violence perpetrated against trans and gender diverse persons must end. Just because one is imprisoned does not mean that one loses one’s right to be treated with dignity and one’s rights to bodily and psychological integrity. Trans and gender diverse persons have the right to dignified detention in facilities where they feel safe and can express their gender identity without fear of persecution. The Department of Correctional Services and every other government department have to transform their policies and practices to ensure that they are inclusive of the needs and lived realities of trans and gender diverse persons, and promote and protect the full realisation of their rights.

This case against the Department of Correctional Services comes after a Western Cape High Court judgement in 2017 (KOS v Minister of Home Affairs) that saw the Department of Home Affairs’ actions declared unlawful and inconsistent with the Constitution after it had coerced married couples involving a transgender spouse to divorce before allowing the trans spouse to change their legal gender marker. South Africa has a gender recognition law that allows you to change the gender marker on your identity document under certain (very restrictive) conditions. However, it is a fact that many trans and gender diverse persons across South Africa have been unable to access legal gender recognition because of legal and administrative injustice and lack of commitment and understanding on the part of the Department of Home Affairs and its officials. This has far-reaching consequences for every aspect of our lives, including access to employment, education, healthcare, social services, justice, gendered facilities and our safety in society. In the case of Jade September and many other incarcerated trans and gender diverse persons, the lack of access to legal gender recognition is the fault of government, yet government uses this lack of access to further discriminate against persons in state facilities by refusing their right to express their gender identity.

Gender DynamiX has been consistently arguing that South Africa’s gender recognition law, the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act, No. 49 of 2003 (Act 49) must be reformed in line with the Yogyakarta Principles and international best practice for changing gender markers in identity documents. This would entail removing the Act’s current highly exclusionary medical requirements and replacing it with a gender self-determination model that allows people to change their legal gender marker through self-declaring their gender identity in a simple and quick administrative procedure, with the option of leaving gender unspecified or blank, should an individual wish to do so. This will result in significantly more trans and gender diverse persons being able to obtain legal gender recognition, and will make provision for persons whose gender identity is nonbinary or fluid, or who do not wish to have a specific gender assigned for their own safety. It would also assist in creating more awareness in society about the diversity of gender identities and gender expressions that exist, and lay the foundation for more inclusionary policies and practices, including in state facilities like correctional centres.

Although Jade September’s case relates to an individual’s struggle to obtain gender recognition under a particular state department’s policy framework, the matter extends well beyond this by putting the spotlight on national government and its degree of commitment to effectively recognising, protecting and integrating trans and gender diverse persons and communities into society to live with dignity, equality and freedom.

Updated: Jun 18, 2018

It gives Gender DynamiX great pleasure to announce Liberty Glenton Matthyse, a vibrant, young, respected, qualified and experienced trans non-binary activist as the new Executive Director of Gender DynamiX. Through visionary leadership Gender DynamiX continue to break barriers and overcome the structural and systemic issues facing trans and gender diverse persons through its high level regional advocacy and interventions within health, law and education, amongst others. Gender DynamiX remains persistent and consistent in achieving its vision of a Southern African region in which all trans and gender diverse persons, binary and non-binary alike, are able to live with full dignity, autonomy and agency.

After a very rigorous process of finding a suitable candidate to fill this position, Liberty/Glenton proved to be the best fit based on her/his/their embodiment and understanding of the politic of the organisation, qualification, experience and characteristics.

Born to a poor working-class single mother and brought up in the dusty rural roads of Darling, Liberty/Glenton fought against social, economic and political marginalisation to obtain her/his/their Master’s Degree in Law (cum laude) focusing on transgender human rights pertaining marriage law and is currently pursuing a cross-discipline PhD in community health sciences and law focused on the needs of trans and gender diverse persons. She/he/they previously worked as the National Advocacy Officer for Gender DynamiX.

Liberty/Glenton has a history in programmes at the University of the Western Cape where she/he/they ensured the implementation of projects across six student programmes focusing on LGBTI human rights, food security, critical writing and publishing, women’s rights, children’s rights as well as the rights of persons with disabilities (differently-abled persons). She/he/they have a history in student activism fighting for the rights of trans and gender diverse persons. As someone that supports and embodies post-structural and post-modern feminism Liberty/Glenton also has an in-depth understanding of the theory of intersectionality in practice.

Liberty/Glenton’s experience as a critical leader in human rights and social justice activism, community work, member of the African Key Populations Expert Group, experience in security and health, position on diverse human rights and social justice focused committees and task teams, background in law, their history in higher education as well as work in basic education systems will serve the organisation well in understanding and addressing the diverse lived realities of trans and gender diverse persons. With a number of academic and popular media publications as well as authoring of a self-published book ‘A Darling’s Journey to Liberty: A compilation of experiences of a young gender non-conforming (fluid) person’ she/he/they have showcased their intellectual astuteness.

As a young trans and gender diverse leader, Liberty/Glenton joins a dynamic team of experienced activists with a wealth of knowledge and expertise. With commitment, passion and drive Liberty/Glenton promises to take Gender DynamiX to new heights in the tenure to come. She/he/they bring with them extensive networks across multiple disciplines and sectors. Embodying the necessary respect for accountability and transparency, integrity, human dignity, a strong belief in the visibilisation, development and nurturing of trans-talent and trans-led spaces Liberty/Glenton promises to lead Gender DynamiX effectively and efficiently towards contributing to the regional trans-discourse for purposes of securing change for a better world for trans and gender diverse persons in Southern Africa.

The Board of Gender DynamiX is looking forward to working with Liberty/Glenton. Her/his/their wisdom and maturity stood out during the interviews. She/he/them is driven and enthusiastic and we have all the confidence that she/he/they will lead Gender DynamiX to have even a greater impact in the world, seeking justice and equality for trans and gender diverse people. We are excited and we wish her/him/them well.

Chris/tine McLachlan

Board Chairperson

Truth be told the old apartheid slogan still rings true today. When we hear ‘separate but equal’ it triggers thoughts on the hierarchies that undeniably continue to exist within South Africa. It stands in stark contradiction to the vision of a society in which all citizens are free, equal and able to live with dignity. Today we experience a society where certain social identities continue to matter more than others resembling notions of our not too distant oppressive past. It is strange how history tends to repeat itself in principle and so the cycle of oppression continues. The dawn of democracy brought hope to many including queer, and in particularly transgender persons, who were at the forefront of many, if not all, the major marches across the world for Queer liberation. Yet, here we are again at the gates of segregation in a nation that promised us our liberation.

South Africa is praised throughout the free and democratic world for its progressive Constitution that provides constitutional protection for all persons, including transgender, intersex, gay, lesbian and bisexual persons. The Constitution specifically list sexual orientation (identifying as being gay, lesbian, bisexual or even heterosexual) as a ground upon which a person may not be discriminated against. With Parliament passing the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act 49 in 2003 (Act 49), gender identity also became a constitutional ground upon which a person may not be discriminated against as encapsulated under ‘other grounds’ in the equality clause of the Constitution.

Heard on 10 August 2017, KOS v Minister of Home Affairs highlights the tension that exist between government administrative processes and the adverse lived realities of transgender persons who are married. This matter concerning the forced divorces of couples initially deemed opposite-sex when the marriage was concluded, however, deemed same-sex after one spouse affirms their gender identity, has a history dating back to the early 2000s. The adverse experiences of transgender spouses however dates back to the 1970s where the State illustrated its strength to oppress by either invalidating marriages involving a transgender spouse or denying benefits accruing to transgender spouses flowing from marriages concluded in community of property.

Since 2014, Gender DynamiX (GDX) and Legal Resources Centre (LRC) have actively engaged on ways in which the judiciary can guide law reform processes in order to secure legal protections for transgender persons based on their constitutional rights. In 2014, GDX and the LRC released a Briefing Paper on Act 49 highlighting the many challenges transgender and intersex persons are faced with in the application of the Act. It emphasised the need to review Act 49, passing standard operating procedures and/or issuing directives/regulations guiding civil servants across the department nationally on how to implement Act 49 and how to engage transgender and intersex persons when legal relief is sought. It is thus with great joy that Gender DynamiX welcomes the outcome in KOS v Minister of Home Affairs. through the hardwork and dedication of LRC as legal representatives for transgender and intersex persons and the expertise, experience and support as amicus curiae from Gender DynamiX that another victory for transgender and intersex persons have been secured.

Gender DynamiX looks forward to how the case progress alongside other cases through the judicial system and eagerly awaits the response of the Department of Home Affairs whom we continue to engage around law reform and policy development in the context of gender recognition law (both in substance and process) and the effect it has on other pieces of legislation. We stand firm in our commitment to building a country that respects all transgender and intersex persons and will therefore continue working with passionate partners and allies such as the Legal Resources Centre in securing more victories in future. Henceforth, we remain resolute in holding government to account by fighting to ensure, as per the judgement by Judge Ashley Binns Ward:

  • the constitutional application of Act 49;

  • realisation of dignity, freedom and equality for transgender and intersex persons;

  • that marital status does not affect the outcome of an application to alter a person’s sex-descriptor;

  • that the applicants sex-descriptor is changed accordingly in the prescribed 30 days period;

  • that no marriage involving a transgender spouses will be deleted from the national population register under similar circumstances;

  • that the deleted marriages be reinstituted within the prescribed time-period;

  • the further monitoring of when and how the Department of Home Affairs mishandles matters concerning transgender and intersex persons and thus calling on them to account.

Gender DynamiX wholeheartedly hopes that the Department of Home Affairs will not take this case on appeal. By complying with the court order the department will showcase its commitment to a constitutional democracy in which the personal biases of civil servants and public office bearers do not restrict, limit or inhibit transgender and intersex persons from accessing their constitutionally guaranteed rights. Civil society has a keen interest in working in partnership with government to uphold the dignity, freedom and equality of all people. This is a perfect opportunity for the Department of Home Affairs to show solidarity with minority groups and invest in a pro-active approach for change.

Gender DynamiX (GDX) is the first registered Africa-based public benefit organisation to focus solely on trans and gender diverse communities. What started as a mere vision, slowly grew into a grassroots organisation. GDX has since become an institutionalised non-profit organisation (NPO) that is fundamental to the development of the trans and gender diverse movement(s) in South Africa and across southern Africa.

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Office Address: Unit 21, Collingwood Building, 10 Anson Street, Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa

Postal Address: P.O. Box 34568, Groote Schuur, 7937, Cape Town, South Africa

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