‘Stigma follows us’: Cape Town’s homeless, transgender women fight for recognition

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11/06/2019

Beneath a bridge in the Cape Town suburb of Woodstock, a strung-together network of blankets serves as a refuge for a group of women fighting stigma on many fronts. SistaazHood, a group of about 40 transgender women, most of them homeless and sex workers, has become a growing voice on issues such as transgender homeless shelters, the legalization of sex work and better access to healthcare. Local rights groups credit the Sistaaz – who were labeled male at birth but identify as female – for challenging the police’s relationship with the trans community and motivating a major court ruling on transgender prisoner rights. “The Sistaaz contributed their experiences to the drafting of the police service’s Standard Operating Procedures, outlining concerns about harassment of transgender people,” said Liberty Matthyse, head of transgender rights group Gender DynamiX. For 45-year-old Netta Marcus, who founded the Siztaaz with five other women in 2010, “stigma follows us wherever we go”.

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