As Guyana joined the rest of the world in observance of International Transgender Day of Visibility today (March 31), support poured in from respected members of the legal fraternity, Rights Groups and Diplomatic Missions for ramped up action to ensure the human rights of persons in this minority and vulnerable community are protected.
Local rights advocacy group, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and the USAID’s Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) – Guyana Project, teamed up to host a special “Brunch Talk” with specific emphasis on transgender persons being denied access to justice.
SASOD’s Managing Director, Joel Simpson believes the stakeholder forum was particularly important following the most recent move to deny a transgender woman access to the courts in Guyana. City Magistrate Dylon Bess recently refused to allow a male to female transgender in his courtroom while she was dressed in women’s clothing.
The transgender woman ‘Twinkle’ who is a litigant in a matter before Magistrate Bess attended the event on Thursday as a panelist and shared her experience of humiliation and what she considers raw discrimination and marginalization.
The matter before the courts involves a trans-phobic attack against Twinkle while she was utilizing public transportation in Guyana and Simpson like Twinkle believes the Magistrate’s order has far reaching implications for access to justice and equal treatment.
Twinkle, who is a member of local NGO – Guyana Trans United – said she personally believes that the Magistrate’s refusal to accept her in his Courtroom as she is, results in a violation of her basic human rights, although cross dressing is illegal in Guyana.
“I hope this forum will bring about awareness of issues facing transgender people… for transgender people I would like to see our basic human rights afforded to us. We must be accepted as human beings at all levels of society and we should not be barred, or marginalized or separated,” she said.
Political and Economic Counselor at the United States Embassy in Georgetown, James Bjorkman also attended the event and weighed in on the issues affected Guyanese transgender persons and those around the world. “I have been in Guyana for two years and I am aware of the general sentiment… I think people have a right to their opinions but the danger comes when discrimination and rights are impeded based on your opinion of somebody’s moral behavior,” he said.
Mr. Bjorkman congratulated government for the support the LBGT community has received, particularly the Minister of Social Protection, Ms Volda Lawrence. “These are not LGBT rights, these are not special rights, these are human rights and every human is entitled to them regardless of their sexual orientation, their gender identity, their behavior based on gender norms,” he added.
Outspoken Attorney at Law Christopher Ram was also in support of the need for the rights of LGBT persons to be respected. He said contrary to public opinion there was no need for new laws to ensure this is guaranteed. “What we need is for places like the courts to recognize that these should enforce and protect human rights rather than raise questions and doubts about whether the rights actually exist.” Ram believes the aggrieved persons should take the issue up with the relevant authorities including the Chancellor of the Judiciary.
“As a society we cant stay in this backward state for much longer because if you start reducing and denying rights for one set of people then we are at a peril,” Ram added.