Over the last few years Laverne Cox has become a household name. She is one of Hollywood's most outspoken transgender celebrities and has done a lot in the way of visibility for trans people.

Billboard recently reported that Laverne opened up about the fact that she has contemplated suicide in the past. She said she even planned out her note, in which she specifically detailed her name and preferred gender pronouns.

She also said that being misgendered or deadnamed would've been a great insult to her, so she has taken to Instagram, posting a letter addressing the countless cases where police misgender or deadname trans people in reports. 

Many years ago when I was contemplating suicide, I was planning to have a note in my pocket at the time of my death and several other notes in my home which would state my name, preferred gender pronouns and that I should be referred to as a woman in my death. My note would be clear that I should not be referred to as Laverne Cox only not any other name.  Being misgendered and deadnamed  in my death felt like it would be the ultimate insult to the psychological and emotional injuries I was experiencing daily as a black trans woman in New York City, the injuries  that made me want to take my own life. I used to share a lot more on social media about the murders of trans folks. I don't as much now because its retraumatizing for me to constantly live in this space of death, murder and the injustices that lead to these deaths. As I read this report from ProPublica I sobbed  and wept for all the trans people who have been murdered and those experiencing direct, cultural and structural violence. I wept because I haven't been allowing  myself to. I wept for all of the violence I have experienced in my own life. I am angered, saddened and enraged that the police in Jacksonville, Florida and other jurisdictions don't have policies in place to respect the gender identities of  trans folks when they have been MURDERED.  This misgendering and deadnaming also impedes the investigations into these  murders. Injustice on top of injustice! I have been saying for years that misgendering a trans person is an act of violence. When I say that I am referring to cultural and structural violence.  The police misgendering and deadnaming trans murder victims as a matter of policy feels like a really good example of that cultural and structural violence.  Thank you ProPublica for this in depth report on this issue. Please read and share and join with local trans organizations demanding that police do better on this issue and many others. Link in bio and here: https://www.propublica.org/article/deadnamed-transgender-black-women-murders-jacksonville-police-investigation/amp?__twitter_impression=true

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Addressing the needs of queer students in SA

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More SA universities are now embracing their queer students' needs. Unisex toilets and considerations really do herald the idea of a gender-inclusive South Africa and it is exciting.

It's important that universities with a community of students of different races, orientations, and backgrounds make campus life as accommodating as possible to every individual. And it's encouraging when universities commit to creating safe spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Wits has opted to use the gender-neutral title 'Mx' in order to be more inclusive of their LGBTQIA+students. We spoke to Tish Lumos, their programme co-ordinator for sexual orientation and gender identity advocacy at the Transformation and Employment Equity Office, who clarified that they have "removed titles for communications with students. Any student may now elect to change their title to Mx, Mr, Ms, Mrs, etc. Whilst one may choose the title Mx, it is by no means the default."

Additionally, the University of Johannesburg has added gender neutral bathrooms on particular parts of campus, following in the footsteps of Wits University; contributing to the ways in which LGBTIAQ+ people are acknowledged and welcomed.

People in our continent are subject to horrific treatment - often sanctioned by state. There has literally never been a better time to implement these kinds of programmes.
Tish Lumos

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The changes that universities are making might seem small but they are incredibly significant. When a particular community has been previously disregarded and ostracised, changes like this are not only necessary for creating awareness for LGBTQIA+ concerns, but they are also revolutionary in creating a world that recognises gender diversity. "The moves in creating constantly evolving safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ folk is a deliberate move from affirmation of LGBTQIA+ folk to their belonging," Tish says. "This change offers yet another commitment to our students who should never feel that they don't belong at Wits." 

The term 'university' itself emphasises diverse bodies coming into one whole body and a few of them are now setting the bar for the country as a whole. "People in our continent are subject to horrific treatment - often sanctioned by state. There has literally never been a better time to implement these kinds of programmes," Tish says. 

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We need to create more safe spaces for the people who need them most as Tish lists

  • where being LGBTQIA+ is normal
  • where gender neutral toilets are everywhere
  • when children are no longer kicked out of homes after coming out
  • when hate crimes no longer occur
  • when representation in every facet of public life is accessible to LGBTQIA+ people
All institutions need to ... work with LGBTIAQ+ folk in order to collectively create an environment LGBTIAQ+ people will be proud to participate in and represent.
Tish Lumos

We still have a long way to go, but it's the small changes and actions that make a huge difference. "We need to challenge spaces where anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric and crimes are commonplace," Tish suggests. "All institutions need to invest in their staff and constituents. It means being deliberately proud of your LGBTQIA+people - create progressive policies, have awareness training, install gender neutral facilities, make admin around changing names and titles easy to navigate and work with LGBTQIA+ folk in order to collectively create an environment LGBTIAQ+ people will be proud to participate in and represent."

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"Advocacy should always be led by or in partnership with LGBTQIA+ people. We have a long way to go and we have to acknowledge the relative privilege folks have who are the spokespersons or gatekeepers," says Tish.

"Our mandate should always be led by default by or with consultation with LGBTQIA+folk who are hardest hit by hate crimes, familial rejection, hate speech, limiting legislation, access to affirming healthcare and representivity. We can't afford to have conversations without all of us at the table to address these factors."

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