We are not freaks, when is it ever ok to discuss people’s genitals on the radio?” said Adrienne Visser, a transgender women from Johannesburg. She was talking at a tribunal at the Broadcast Complaints Commission on 5 May 2012.
Her complaint was directed at Highveld stereo DJ Anele, who recently called transwoman Jenna Talackova (Ms Universe pageant contestant), an “it” and mused about Jenna’s genitals on air.
“….well good luck and balls to the wall to it” Anele said as the insert went to a cheerful 94.7 Highveld stereo jingle.There was a large contingent of trans people to support complainant Adrienne Visser, including transgender activists and two representatives from human rights organisations devoted to transgender activism.
Ms Visser earnestly told her side of the story and defended Jenna Talackova’s gender identity. She highlighted the reality that research indicates high rates of homicide of transgender women due to stigma. She compared her own life to Jenna’s and reminded the Highveld stereo representative that she too was part of the Highveld stereo community. It was hurtful and alarming to be represented in such a manner. Millions of Highveld listeners heard the dehumanising comments regarding the Ms Universe contestant, which adds to the misinformation and ignorance surrounding this social reality.
Robert Hamblin, artist and transgender activist from Cape Town, contextualised the discussion in the local South African milieu. He explained to the panel that the typical transgender person in South Africa is highly vulnerable. Due to a lack of access to health care, local trans people are highly visible and subject to targeting especially in socio economic challenged communities, which makes up the bulk of South African society.
South African trans people often live in conditions of poverty becausetheir gender presentation is a challenge to society and they are thus excluded from opportunities to thrive.The BCCSA panel questioned Mr Hamblin's position that disenfranchised youth respond with violence to trans people in townships.
Craig Matu, transman and transgender activist from Soweto,who is a board member of transgender human rights organisation, Transgender Intersex Africa, confirmed that Anele's ignorant statement validates the perception that gender is
located in the genitals. He stated that this puts trans people at risk. If a popular DJ jests about transgender people being searched to examine their genitals, it positions this as acceptable behaviour.
The message sent out is that transpeople lack human qualities, and that it is permissible to be violent towards them.
Prominent gender activist Sbu Keswa, who is the advocacy manager for Gender DynamiX, a transgender organisation in Cape Town, was visibly angry. He spoke of people in townships being killed for variant gender expression and called for an acknowledgement that hate crimes on LGBTI people were not necessarily about their sexual orientation, but about gender variant expression.The representative from Prime Media responded by stating that the radio station had approached Anele immediately upon receiving the BCCSA complaint. Prime Media acknowledge that the statements were made in bad taste and are in conflict with the radio station’s values. The representative said that Anele has not yet publicly apologised because it is company policy to follow due legal process and abide by the recommendations of the BCCSA and the outcome of the tribunal. The radio station denies that the comments amount to hate speech, and strongly disagreed with the arguments from the transgender activists on this point. Members on the panel of the commission reflected on other cases and enquired from the trans people present what outcome they would want from the tribunal. The panel were reluctant to label the statement as hate speech, as they were unsure that the utterances met the legal standard definition of incitement to violence. Transgender participants expressed that they wanted an apology and an opportunity for right of reply on Anele's show, in order to educate the public about real lives of trans people in South Africa, and destabilise mythology around this.
Transman Sbu Keswa stated that the apology from Prime Media should be broadcast to the public, and not limited to those present in the board room or those privy to the response document that Prime Media submitted to the commission.
The Prime Media representative assured the BCC that there was a possibility that this could happen and said that she would propose this to the radio station.
The BCC chairman engaged earnestly with the topic, and agreed that the processes of the BCCSA are transparent and they will release judgment that takes all positions into account. He went as far as to make jokes about the term 'it', and was very responsive to the concerns of the trans activists present.
For more information please contact Adrienne Visser at firstname.lastname@example.org