frequently Asked Questions

We have compiled a list of commonly asked questions around terminology, what we do and how we can help. If you still have any unanswered questions please feel free to contact us.

Terminology

Sex
Refers to a person’s biological status and is typically categorized as male, female or intersex.
Intersex
Atypical combinations of features that usually distinguish male from female. There are a number of indicators of biological sex, including sex chromosomes, gonads, internal reproductive organs, and external genitalia.
Gender
Refers to the attitudes, feelings, and behaviours that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex. Behaviour that is compatible with cultural expectations is referred to gender-normative; behaviours that are viewed as incompatible with these expectations constitute gender non-conformity.
Gender Identity
Refers to “one’s sense of oneself as male, female or transgender”.
Gender Expression
Refers to the way in which a person acts to communicate gender within a given culture, e.g. appearance, clothes, etc. A person’s gender expression may or may not be consistent with socially prescribed gender roles, and may or may not reflect his or her gender identity.
Sexual Orientation
Refers to the sex of those to whom one is sexually and romantically attracted. Contrary to popular belief, a sexual orientation is not solely based on sexual attraction. It is also based on emotional and other factors.

General Questions

What is transgender?
The American Psychological Association defines transgender as an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behaviour does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.
Transgender vs Transsexual
Activists and academics present many arguments and opinions about whether transgender and transsexual are two different concepts or two concepts describing the same phenomena. It is generally accepted that, as pointed out above that transgender is an umbrella term describing a wide range of gender expressions, including transvestite. Transsexual, on the other hand is commonly used as a medical diagnosis for persons wanting to align their physical sex with their chosen gender, commonly known as having a sex change.
Why is feminism important to us now?
It is important for us to maintain a feminist focus at this time as trans women are underrepresented in trans organisations, our voices are not being clearly heard and thus our specific interests as trans women are not being sufficiently supported, defended or advocated in the various arenas.
In addition, there is the assumption that all trans women, in their former (or imposed) male persona’s come from a background of male socialization and whatever privilege that might to be attached to it. While this should be judged on an individual basis, in the lives of African trans and intersex women, this is proved to be an unfounded assumption. Many trans women report a very oppressive upbringing. Trans women would like to point out that their challenges be recognised as women’s challenges and those challenges to be analysed using a feminist examination.
Does transgender mean that I am gay or lesbian?
Not at all! But the greater part to answering this question, is based on an individual decision. But first, a little gender 101! Transgender is just about that, your gender! Transgender folks experience a sense of being in the wrong gender based on the sex assigned to them at birth. For this reason, we say trans folks are expressing a diverse gender identity. This has to do with them and how they feel, a sense of self, a personal identity and how they perceive their own gender. Sexual orientation, on the other hand, has to do with whom you find emotionally, sexually and otherwise attractive. This ranges from homosexual to bisexual to heterosexual.
Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, etc is expressing a diverse sexual orientation or identity, and like any other person, transgender individuals can also be homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, etc. So, trans persons also have a sexual orientation.
To what degree will we involve transgender masculine identified persons in our programmes?
S.H.E.’s primary focus will continue to be on trans* and intersex women and sex workers – that is, a focus on those who identify as women.
However, as the services for all transgender people are limited, S.H.E. will continue to welcome all trans* and intersex people, independent of gender identification, to the “Free Talk” support group.
It is also reasonable that any efforts made to defend and/or advocate for the human rights, including health rights, of trans* and intersex people will benefit all of those who identify as trans* or intersex.
Your Missions statement says ‘independent of gender identity,’ does this mean SHE caters for cisgender women as well?
While our work primarily focus on transgender and intersex women, it is important to remember that S.H.E is first and foremost, a feminist organisation. Our feminist organising recognises women’s issues as our basis of unity. Our context in the Eastern Cape Province encourage us to work with all women, including rural women, black, middle class women, sex workers, HIV + women, refugees and migrants. All the groups of women who are typically excluded from the South African and African feminist discourses. A great part of what we do at S.H.E is to also work with mainstream organisations and coalitions where we continue to educate on our issues and create visibility of all women who are often excluded from the feminist discourse.
I am a trans person, how can I access information on programs locally and nationally in South Africa?
This website will be updated with relevant information about our programs regularly. Please feel free to access the website, or alternatively, drop us an email on the email address listed in the ‘contact us’ tab. You can also swing by the office at the address listed under the same tab on this site.


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