June 15 = Malawian Trans-Gay Unity Day;
NYC, Pretoria, SF: Free Tiwonge & Steven!
NEW YORK CITY, PRETORIA AND SAN FRANCISCO (May 28) -- Human rights activists across the world have declared Tuesday, June 15 The Malawian Trans-Gay Unity Day. On this day, people across the globe will demonstrate against the homo- and transphobia demonstrated by the Malawai courts and government in sentencing Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza to 14 years of hard labor. The judgment came after months of imprisonment, stemming from an engagement party the couple had in this traditionally homophobic country.
Since the couple was placed in prison, people throughout the world have vigorously condemned their treatment. Thus far, groups in three cities -- New York City, Pretoria, South Africa and San Francisco -- have planned protests to support the couple. Other cities are expected to hold similar demonstrations on Malawian Trans-Gay Unity Day. Protesters are demanding that the Malawian government immediately free Tiwonge and Steven from prison.
The presiding judge, Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa, condemned Tiwonge and Steven's love when he handed down the 14-year sentence to each: “I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public will be protected from people like you, so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example. We are sitting here to represent the Malawi society, which I do not believe is ready at this point in time to see its sons getting married to other sons, or conducting engagement ceremonies.”
The logistics of the first three June 15 protests are:
City: New York, NY
Location: Malawian UN Mission
Address: 866 United Nations Plaza, at E. 49th St.
Time: 12 noon - 1:00 pm
Contact: Brendan Fay
City: Pretoria, South Africa
Location: To be announced
Address: To announced
Time: 12:00 Midday - 14:00
Contact: Tombi Rautenbach (Pretorius)
Phone: +27 83 4600 327
City: San Francisco, CA
Location: UN Plaza, Malawian Pillar
Address: Market Street, Btwn 7th and 8th Streets
Time: Noon - 12:30 pm
Contact: Michael Petrelis
"The miscarriage of justice suffered by Tiwonge and Steven has drawn outrage from all over the world," said Petrelis, co-organizer of the unity day. "The eyes of the world are on Malawai, and the voices of millions have joined together to demand freedom for these people whose only crime is to love one another. We will not allow the sentence against them to stand."
Organizers are hoping that the Malawai courts will hear an appeal to the sentence very soon. Longtime global gay advocate Peter Tatchell has been in touch with the Malawian couple and their lawyers for months now, and has campaigned on their behalf. Tatchell expressed the crucial need for global actions in this case. "The latest advice from Tiwonge and Steven's lawyers is that they expect a fast-track appeal. It could be heard by the High Court as early as the end of June. So, global protests need to happen before then, in order to have an impact in the crucial time-frame leading up to the appeal."
Now, even though the couple have been pardoned & released, perhaps an intentionally focused Trans-Gay Unity Day would still be a good thing.
As a trans man, I've seen, heard, and felt a lot of hateful pushback from mainstream gay male culture against trans folks. Everything from consistent use of trans slurs to writing us out of history. Last year, a gay historian at a local workshop tried to insist there was no proof trans people were at the Stonewall Riot!
Maybe we do need a day when Trans and Gay people come together intentionally to talk, celebrate and actually SEE each other.
We're all people. Not soundbites or human interest stories we can sell to politicians. :-)
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