Are Caribbean feminisms trans* inclusive?

The conversation below is reproduced from WOMANTRA with the permission of the participants. It represents an attempt by participants to process, dialogue, negotiate and learn about trans* inclusive reproductive justice movements. It is perverse to debate into abstraction what are literally matters of life and death for some. It is healthy to admit the need to think in community and for spaces where you can share, learn and grow.


What do you think of the idea that it’s offensive/transphobic to say reproductive rights is a woman’s issue?And that ‘uterus havers’ is the only appropriate term.
While I fully understand the intentions of inclusion with this term, I’m not comfortable with terms that seem to divorce womanhood/femininity away from issues that are decidedly due to women’s oppression.
If uteri were perceived as a masculine trait, the rights of “uterus havers” would not be under attack. Lack of reproductive access has everything to do with the devaluing/control of femininity.
So while various genders stand to benefit from reproductive access, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to call reproductive rights a “woman’s issue”. Reproductive rights are not being denied because some people have uteri. They’re being denied because uteri is associated with womanhood.


I don’t know that it’s “offensive” so much as (intentionally?) not as inclusive as it could be. Reproductive rights ARE a women’s issue, but they’re not ONLY a woman’s issue, and in the quest to secure them, we are generally speaking about people who have uteri, not just people who identify as women. Not all cis women have a uterus. That doesn’t mean that they don’t get a say in the discussion.

I think it’s fine for cis women to want to talk about reproductive experiences that they specifically face, but I also don’t think it means they should have free reign to speak over or exclude other people who have uteri in all venues. Because when we talk about reproductive rights, we have been basically saying that “women should the right to decide what happens to their own bodies” but as with everything else in the feminist movement, our understanding of who needs access to those rights has expanded and when we use language that isn’t inclusive we imply that only women with uteri deserve these rights. It’s a very TERF argument to make that a small semantic change is too much of a burden imo. Unless of course, the stated goal is reproductive rights for cis women only.


Also this. I guess you can sub in “abortion” for “reproductive rights.”…/gender-inclusive…/


A Woman’s Right to Choose,” “Women’s Health,” and “Women’s Access” are all phrases that erase me and others like me.”

Well I’ve been told it’s inherently offensive and transphobic to say reproductive rights is a “women’s” issue rather than “uterus haver” issue.

I don’t understand why the semantic change is “small” and “not a burden” when pushing to exclude the term woman. But “erasure” when including it. Do semantics matter or not? If it does matter, how do we choose which to go with? Why do we have to choose one. anyway?

Sorry, I think “uterus havers” is a fine term for someone to use in conjunction with any other term but to say it’s inappropriate to mention specifically women when speaking about reproductive rights is silly. As I said, people aren’t discriminating against women because they have uteri. The main problem transmen and other non-binary people have right now is that their uteri is associated with womanhood and femininity. Arguably if that association were to cease, so would their struggle for reproductive rights.

The “uterus haver” term does not encapsulate that reality. The devaluing of womanhood/femininity is at the center of lack of access to reproductive health imo.

I understand how it validates someone’s identity, but it is short sighted and careless to dogmatically enforce that term and only that term.


I personally think “uterus haver” is a weird and clunky phrase but it doesn’t “erase women” it includes people who don’t identify as women who also have a stake in these issues because women are not the only people whose rights are being threatened here.

And I disagree that our oppression isn’t related to us having a uterus. Historically the withholding of rights to women has specifically been about the possession of a uterus. Whether it was “hysteria,” thought to be a case of the uterus wandering about the body, menstrual cycles that make us hormonal and too emotional to make rational decisions surrounding enfranchisement, or infertility that rendered a woman incapable of producing the requisite “heir and a spare” how are these prejudices not things that would also apply to trans and non-binary people who also have a uterus? Women have historically been thought to be the weaker, fairer sex BECAUSE we have a uterus, but women were also historically DEFINED as being any person in possession of a uterus. If one definition can change, why can’t the other? Why is this the one time when it’s okay to define womanhood by our physical bodies when we’ve worked long and hard to divorce the idea that sex and gender are correlated?

I don’t think anyone is saying we should ban the word women, but as I said before, our understanding of feminism has grown, and now we see that not just women have a stake in reproductive rights. And it just strikes me as really exclusive to ask trans and non-binary people to “just assume” that they are included in a struggle that refuses to name them. Isn’t that the same issue that black feminism had with white feminism? Why should we expect solidarity from people we refuse to acknowledge? And if the issue is the symbolic removal of the word “women” then why not simply phrase it to include both? “women and other people with uteri” is longer sure, but it satisfies both complaints, so it’s really up to everyone to decide which battle is more important. A knowingly exclusive name? Or the actual fight for reproductive rights?

Cis people have a very specific privilege over trans and non-binary people and the fact that we are also women does not prevent us from engaging in oppressive behaviors towards them. It’s our duty to help and protect THEM from the discrimination that they face because we are the ones with more privilege, not whine because they aren’t centering us, or demand semantic solidarity. Either we’re breaking the gender binary or we’re not.


“Women have historically been thought to be the weaker, fairer sex BECAUSE we have a uterus”

I do not agree with this analysis of the root cause of terms like “hysteria” to describe women. As you so rightly put it, at the time only women were deemed to have uteri. Women were not called crazy and mentally weak because they have uteri.They were called so because they were women. The hysteria diagnoses was just one of many medically spurious justifications for women’s mental and physical inferiority. The pathologizing of anything associated with femininity was rampant. The association with womanhood is what made people suspect uteri make people crazy, not the anatomical part itself.

It does not make sense to me to apply that analysis in 2015 to people who have chosen indentities away from womanhood. Any prejudice trans or non-binary people face because of their uteri is specifically due to it’s association with womanhood.

“Why should we expect solidarity from people we refuse to acknowledge?”

See, the problem is in many trans-activists circles is that it’s increasingly not good enough to merely acknowledge a RANGE of experiences. One is acceptable. And that choice must be gender neutral. I’m not against the term uterus haver. I’m against it being the only acceptable term. Womanhood being divorced from female biological experiences is necessary in their definition of inclusion. I think that should be challenged because there is merit in keeping women associated with biological prejudices that stem from their womanhood.

Shari Inniss-Grant

@Mod_Charissa, I see what you’re saying about the need for a taxonomy that’s more incisive, but I think we’re seeing an intersection of prejudices. And the experience of trans and gender nonconforming people in relation to reproductive rights will help us better understand that intersection.

While reproductive rights is rooted in women’s historical (and ongoing) struggle for self-autonomy and agency, I think we’re going to see a range of ways in which that struggle affects others at the margins. The denial of access to reproductive rights is just one manifestation of an oppressive system’s control; control it will seek to maintain and exercise over every body it can–whether that body has a uterus, desires to have a uterus (I honestly wonder where science can go) or doesn’t have a uterus.
And I think women’s experience of that as a group has had manifestations that is specific to them as women, but also stems from stereotypes and expectations around gender. I disagree when you say “It does not make sense to me to apply that analysis in 2015 to people who have chosen identities away from womanhood. Any prejudice trans or non-binary people face because of their uteri is specifically due to it’s association with womanhood.” I actually think they can face a range of prejudices based on association with their womanhood, being seen as transgressing manhood or masculinity and something that’s uniquely at the intersection.

I agree with @battymamazelle that we need to listen to them when they raise issues like these, in the same way I want white or straight allies to listen to the truths my experiences have helped me to discern. This is an instance where, whether I feel uncomfortable or unsure, I’m not the expert. And if we discover later on there’s a better term, I think that will come as a result of listening and becoming invested in trans and gender variant individual’s perspective. Now, if only I knew how to put in paragraphs.


I know i’m on dangerous ground here but it is also worth mentioning that trans* identities in the region do not map easily on to the dominant understanding of being transgender that circulates in and is exported from the US. Many persons who may be read as trans* in that context are often using other terms to describe themselves and have worked to organise and build coalitions with groups other than traditional women’s organisations in the region which often are ethno and class-centric and view their constituency as heterosexual (non-transgender) women who have children. So while many forms of feminist organizing have not done enough to unpack “woman” as a category, it is also important to acknowledge the organising of trans* and gender non-conforming people where their perspectives and concerns are centred. Trans people are not just on the margins of some forms of feminist organising but at the centre of some of the most dynamic thought and action!

The way how terms like cisgender and transgender get deployed often suggest that these are easily read off the body or are easily available identity categories or binary opposites. There seems to be a failure to acknowledge the history, geography and class (and racial) privilege that inhere in some identities like “genderqueer”. They are many ways of being transgender and gender non-conforming. They are many reasons why people are neither as “out” or visible as these binary oppositions suggests.  And there is also a racist exclusion of black people from the human, which recognises black femaleness but not black womanhood.

The fact is that coalitions are not built by linguistic abracadabra where some feminists seek to one-up each other regarding who is the most progressive but by difficult work across difference. A lot of what has painted us into tiny boxes is the way how organising for legislative and policy change has often meant satisficing, scaling back on vision or sacrificing the freedom and full humanity of one group at the expense of another. We have multiple experiences of this in the Caribbean. Tracy Robinson, Jacqui Alexander and Gabrielle Hosein are excellent scholarly and activist sources on this.

“Women’s rights” has a history in the exclusion and discrimination of women, biologically defined and socially constructed, not in feminist cissexism [at least not exclusively or primarily]. The women from the Global South whom I’ve met and who are working on sexual and reproductive rights are concerned about maternal mortality, 12-year-old incest survivors with no access to safe abortion, poor women imprisoned after miscarriages, women in need of their husband’s signed consent for health services, and the lack of comprehensive sexuality education in schools. We’re talking about women and girls here.

And with all the misogynist oppression that woman has come to mean, it is more than an identity category. Feminists politicised that category because it was difficult to talk about the issues women faced otherwise. I remember Peggy Antrobus saying that before 1975 nobody talked about violence against women. Now it’s all we talk about in the region. But the point is that there are particular histories to be acknowledged and critiqued even as we move beyond them. So yes, SRHR organising needs to be more trans inclusive and feminist visions and strategies need to be bolder, more radical and more inclusive. That is the difficult work of coalition building out of which the “right” language of that particular moment will emerge.

IMHO, it is neither transphobic nor cissexist to recognise that reproductive rights are a women’s issue and a trans* issue too. I have done some work with a colleague that seeks to demonstrate the way how oppressive norms around gender and sexuality dehumanise trans and gender non-conforming people, non-trans women and girls as well as other gender and sexual minorities. It is an attempt to challenge heteronormativity and transphobia within some forms of women’s/feminist organising in the region. Anyway, the fact that you are asking this question suggests openness and you’ve gotten great responses from @battymamzelle & Shari Inniss-Grant. Be well.


“And there is also a racist exclusion of black people from the human, which recognises black femaleness but not black womanhood. ”

@redforgender, I don’t really want to jump back into this, but I wanted to say that the above was very poignant. Well said.

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The Pioneering WROC Urgently Needs Our Support

Originally posted on Petchary's Blog:

The Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) needs our support through a difficult time.

Economic conditions in Jamaica are harsh, we know; but can we allow a non-governmental organization serving needy communities, with a rich history of activism and achievement “go under”? I don’t think so. All the more reason, I would say, to support them in any way we can.

Kinshasa Carvalho gave a riveting account of the ground-breaking activism of the Committee Kinshasa Carvalho gives a riveting account of the ground-breaking activism of the Committee of Women for Progress, which led to the formation of WROC in 1983. (My photo)

At a recent National Integrity Action training session, we had a presentation by Kinshasa Carvalho on “Maternity Leave Law: Struggles and Victory.” It inspired me. Ms. Carvalho spoke of the enormously influential Committee of Women for Progress (CWP), a group of just nine women who through careful strategy and powerful advocacy ensured that the maternity leave law was passed on December…

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Rape survivor told STI prophylaxis is “white people stupidness”, abused by police

Guyana: A 26-year-old rape survivor reports that when she requested HIV and STI  prophylaxis following the sexual assault she was told by the police doctor, “That is white people stupidness!”:

The young woman said she asked the officers to accompany her to the doctor, but was told that they were tired because they had worked all night. The police left without taking a statement, or even inviting her to the station to make a formal report.

Her landlord eventually drove her to the Brickdam Police Station in Georgetown, and requested the rape kit. When one of the policewomen responded that they all were tired, she was taken to a police doctor stationed in an office within the very compound.

The young woman said the male doctor, to whom she was taken by one of the policewomen, handled her in a rough manner, even pulling her hair during a physical examination. “He was swabbing me, and when I cried because I was feeling pain, he said in a rough manner: “Is not a penis I swabbing you with!” The young woman said she felt embarrassed because the two female officers never objected to his remark, and they were also called to view the bruises she had sustained while being raped.

“I asked him (the police doctor) for an injection to protect me from STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), and he turned and said, “That is white-people stupidness”, the distraught woman complained.

Schoolboys’ chant/President’s rant


A 2012 youtube video shows Barbadian schoolboys chanting an original pro-rape song: Tek dickey and roll

Tek dickey and roll (x2)

Yuh wan charge me for rape

Who see? Not a soul


Reports that Haitian President, Michel Martelly, threatened a woman with sexual violence because she sought to hold him accountable to the people:

On Tuesday, June 28, 2015, during a campaign rally in the city of Miraguane, president Michel Martelly did not use any diplomacy in addressing a woman in the crowd who was challenging his accomplishment in the region. The President replied to the surprise of many by telling the woman in Haitian Creole she should undress and allow the men at the campaign rally to sodomize her. He also stated that he would bring her on stage and do the same. The Haitian Head of State furthermore said if he was not president he would have broken her jaw. 

An August 6 BBC report claims Martelly told the woman “go get a man and go into the bushes” after she complained about the lack of electricity in her area. The BBC reports that “In response to the incident, Women’s Affairs Minister Yves Rose Morquette, Social Affairs Minister Victor Benoit and Secretary of State for Alphabetisation Mozart Clerisson announced on Wednesday that they would step down from their posts.” The website which hosted audio of the President’s remarks is currently and conveniently offline.

Just two months earlier, Guyanese feminist activist, Sherlina Nageer, was subjected to similar sexual violence from an elected official. A New York Times article on Caleb Orozco’s fight against Belize’s anti-gay laws mentions that, Lisa Showman, one of his attorney’s “received explicit rape threats” but the significance of this gets lost in the story the NYT has to tell, though misogyny and anti-gay violence are rooted in hetero/sexism.

Rape is a footnote. Schoolboys can delight in it and Presidents can threaten women citizens with it.


Feminist activists are told that we need to meet heterosexual men where they are, that we need to allow men their misogyny (as if we have a choice in the matter?) as gender equality is a process that cannot be preempted by our claims to full humanity. We need to be patient and quiet and good.  Misogyny is the fabric that our society is made of.  Best to lean in rather than undo.  Better to workshop than unravel de damn ting!


Some days Caribbean queer feminist brilliance beats so boldly it drowns out the constant and multi-directional message that women and girls don’t matter. And the rest of the time? That schoolboys’-chant-President’s-rant stays in your head.


Be Man.2 or die trying. Take Others with you.

Diary of a mothering worker. July 7, 2015.

Originally posted on grrlscene:

Post 199.

Stereotype has long defined public talk about Indian women’s sexuality, and panic that Hindu women’s immorality can undermine a whole political-economic order isn’t new.

150 years ago, authorities were pressuring recruiters to find the ‘right’ kind of Indian woman whose obedience could be assured. At that time, across the British empire, indentured women were hysterically cast as hyper-aware of their sexual and labour power, and as aligning themselves strategically with men to maneuver the colonial system. This was considered a sign of their dangerousness and untrustworthiness, facilitated by the fracturing of familial and religious rules, and capable of undermining the plantation system itself.

Later, to weaken Indian women’s gendered negotiations, they were redefined as unpaid housewives in village life off the plantation, fulfilling a colonial ideal of women as dependent nurturers, and Indian men’s wish for partners who couldn’t simply leave for better love or sex, more respect…

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Caribbean Feminist Activists Face Threats, Intimidation & Misogynist Bullying

On Monday, April 21, 2015 an audio recording captured Guyana’s Minister of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsarran calling feminist activist Sherlina Nageer “an idiot”,  “a little piece of shit”, threatening to “slap her ass…just for the fun of it”, and to have her stripped by “some of my women”.

A statement sent to the press by the Minister of Health subsequently claims that he was provoked to such misogynist violence after Sherlina Nageer interrupted a press interview. Sherlina can be heard demanding state accountability for Guyana’s high maternal mortality rate, which is the highest in the English-speaking Caribbean.

The Minister invoked the language of “provocation” to justify his act of violence.  The invocation of “provocation” is frequently used to justify and rationalise men’s fatal violence against women and has crept into state and activist responses to violence. The language of provocation, just like the denigrating language and threats the Minister directed at Sherlina, is the language of misogyny.

Women’s human rights defenders from across the region have attempted for decades to hold Caribbean governments accountable to women. This is not the first time that their efforts, are met with violence, threats and intimidation. Last month,  in St. Vincent and the Grenadines a communications official working in the Prime Minister’s Office sought to shame a rape survivor on live radio for sharing her testimony  at a women’s conference. In Barbados last year, a long-standing feminist activist and government employee walked out of a meeting in response to sexist comments. She and was condescendingly and threateningly offered “a word to the wise” from the floor of Parliament by the Minister with responsibility for the Bureau of Gender Affairs and accused of publicly displaying “bias for one gender over the other”. These examples are symptomatic of institutionalized and systematic sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny in the region, and they promote marginalization and intimidation of women at all levels.

Women are 51% of the population and our governments must be accountable to us.

We will not be intimidated into silence as silence means death.  Literally.

Sherlina Nageer was called a “piece of shit” for insisting that women’s lives and health matter. She was threatened with the misogynist and violent acts of public stripping and beating for insisting that governments have a responsibility to ensure women have access to quality sexual and reproductive health services.

We recognise such abuses of state power as a reflection of hatred of women, an unwillingness to recognise us as fully human and a refusal to treat us as equals. They also reflect the callous disregard elected officials show for the people — boys and girls, women and men — they are meant to serve.

We call on our state managers to denounce acts of violence wherever they occur. We caution our politicians throughout the region that their silence on these offences against its citizens speaks volumes to their commitment to gender justice and the rights of women. If they will not speak out due to a lack of political will, we will speak out in the knowledge of what is right.

Join us in holding regional state managers accountable by submitting accounts of their abuse of power and office to any of the following email addresses:

redforgender [at] gmail [dot] com

catchafyahnetwork redforgender [at] gmail [dot] com

womantratt [at] gmail [dot] com

We invite you to sign below in solidarity with Sherlina Nageer and all women human rights defenders who face violence, threats, intimidation and loss of employment for the work they do on behalf of all of us.

Tonya Haynes

Fatimah Jackson-Best

Stephanie Leitch

Sign on to the solidarity statement here.

Read Sherlina’s response here.

Press Statement by Dr. Bheri Ramsaran

On Monday, April 21, 2015, at around 09:30 hours, I joined a group of peaceful persons at Whim Magistrate’s Court to give solidarity to former President Bharrat Jagdeo.

As I was about to depart two journalists sought an interview with me on the matter at hand to which I readily agreed. During the interview I was rudely interrupted by a woman who kept shouting and interrupting me throughout.

I shifted away on several occasions in an attempt to avoid her but she persisted in interrupting the interview.

It was unfortunate that I was provoked into anger and uttered harsh words at her for which I now regret.

I therefore wish to apologize for uttering those words.

April 21, 2015

Recordings have surfaced that suggest that one day after the Health Minister Dr. Bheri Ramsarran apologised he told a health forum that “so we have these miscreants who are sometimes supported by the international community because they are rights activists, right to spit in my face but not collect two slap, you understand me, or one of my ladies who love me wreck her up, you understand me?” Full transcript of comments available here and below:

“So we have these miscreants who are sometimes supported by the international community because they are rights activists, right to spit in my face but not collect two slap, you understand me, or one of my ladies who love me wreck her up, you understand me? Well you know I’m Bheri best, all the ladies like me. Suppose one of my big strong women seh “wuh yuh do we doctor, wuh yuh do dis innocent lil man? Wacks! Wacks! (imitates the sounds of blows). Then she’s going to become a hero, some of us will mek sure we give her a medal. Right, spit in my face, I don’t know if she got rabies or what, I know she was rabid. That woman need psychiatric help.”

This Stabroek News editorial provides the best reporting of the events and the best commentary and analysis on the Minister’s behaviour. It ends with a call for him to resign or be fired.

Top 10 hetero/sexist moments in Caribbean Politics REDUX: 2015 edition

Sexism refers to prejudice, stereotyping or discrimination, usually against women, on the basis of sex.

Heterosexism refers to the assumed primacy, supremacy and normalization of heterosexuality and the resulting attitudes, bias and discrimination. 

Hetero/sexism is often used to represent the extent to which heterosexism simultaneously encodes binary gender, unequal relations of gender, naturalised notions of male superiority and female inferiority as well as homophobia.  It calls attention to the interconnections between and among a binary and unequal understanding of gender, heteronormativity, misogyny and homo- and transphobia. 

Since we first published our Top 10 Sexist and Heterosexist moments in Caribbean politics there has been no end to the misogyny, rape shaming, rape jokes, homophobia and support for patriarchal privilege by both women and men in positions of state power.

Number 1

St. Vincent and the Grenadines communications official working in the Prime Minister’s office shames a rape survivor on live radio, reveals her date of birth, new legal name and passport number and suggests she is a liar. Such an egregious abuse of state power seemingly in retaliation for her testimony, at the opposition’s women’s conference, of a lifetime of physical and sexual abuse, chronic homelessness and a failed application for asylum in Canada. Her testimony is available here.

Numbers 2 and 3

via Freedom by any means:

Minster of Human Services and Social Security, Jennifer Webster recently told the women of Guyana that they needed to ‘forgive and forget’ Attorney General Anil Nandlall for his derogatory language towards a young female reporter. Nandlall was heard on tape calling the journalist a ‘thing’ and trying to convince another man to procure her for his uncle to have sex with (what the young woman might have thought or wanted was never considered by the Attorney General). Although there were multiple and sustained calls for his resignation, Nandlall received no sanction from his superiors in government and continues to hold the top post in the judiciary of Guyana. In her most recent defense of Mr. Nandlall, Minister Webster stated that- “In life, many of us do things,” and “If you are a Christian, you have to forgive and forget.

Number 4

Portia Simpson Miller’s doublespeak:

Nobody never hears the Government of Jamaica beating up gays; not one. Let me tell you something; you want to disturb, you can disturb, but this woman come here with the blood of Nanny of the Maroons and the spirit of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, and this woman is not afraid of no man, nowhere, anywhere, and I will speak the truth everywhere.

It is reported that she insisted that she would not be bullied by those who told lies about the existence of homophobia in Jamaica.

Emboldened by the PM’s words the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society, using similar homophobic doublespeak, has issued a statement rejecting “attempts to restrict or stigmatise social discrimination against unwholesome behaviours. We reject efforts to encourage or legitimise behaviours that are high risk for HIV/AIDS and other STDs. Behaviours that are socially dysfunctional and have a demonstrably high statistical association with diseases cannot be endorsed.”

Number 5

Trinidad and Tobago parliamentarian Vernella Toppin-Alleyne seeks to shame opposition leader Dr. Keith Rowley by calling him a product of rape who is now arrogant and aggressive as a result.

Let’s hope we make it to December without cause to complete this list! Leave us a comment if there are any other incidents we neglected to mention.