Guyana’s transgender community calls for protection under anti-discrimination laws.

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02/28/2022

Marcia John (not her real name), a Guyanese transgender woman, readied to leave a transgender support group meeting. She slipped off her black wig, replacing it with a bandana and hat. Her employer only allows her to perform her duties if she presents as a man. “I have no choice,” she said. “I have to work.” In 2018, the Caribbean Court of Justice ruled that an 1893 Guyana law that prohibited cross-dressing was unconstitutional. Last August, lawmakers formally removed that section from the law books. But for Ms John and other transgender women, this has not been enough to transform the way they navigate social spaces. Intolerant attitudes remain, with sometimes dire implications for transgender people’s welfare and livelihoods. Led by the University of the West Indies Rights Advocacy Project, the cross-dressing law challenge started with a constitutional action filed in the Guyana High Court in 2010. Eight years and two appeals later, the litigants earned a historic win.

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