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Centre of African Studies: Events


Transgender Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Predicaments and Possibilities

Transgender Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Predicaments and Possibilities
Speaker: Dr B Camminga # Wits University; Speaker: Suma Abdelsamie # LGBTQI+ refugees group in Greece
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Date and Time
7th May 2019 14:00 - 7th May 2019 17:00
Violet Laidlaw room, 6th Floor, Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15a George Square, Edinburgh

Security at the Margins project (ESRC/NRF) and the Centre of African Studies kindly invites you to the workshop:

Transgender Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Predicaments and Possibilities

with Dr B Camminga (Wits University, Johannesburg) and Suma Abdelsamie (LGBTQI+ refugees group in Greece).

Tuesday 7 May from 2 to 5.00 pm

School of Social and Political Sciences, Chrystal MacMillan Building, 15/a George Square, Violet Laidlaw room, 6th floor. 

Please RSVP for the event via the eventbrite link given below. For any enquiry, please contact Ms Rebecca Moody, Centre of African Studies:



‘LGBT people fleeing Africa’ to the ‘West’ has become a common media trope, often portraying a homogenous image of a brutal continent that places any expression of sexuality read outside the bounds of heterosexuality as patently ‘unAfrican’. Responses to this, emanating from a variety of African voices, have provided a more nuanced reading of sexuality and sexual identity. What has been absent from these readings has been the role of gender identity and expression, particularly a consideration of transgender experiences. In some ways this is understandable in that transgender rights (rather than simply ‘gay and lesbian’ rights) is a relatively new discourse within rights politics across Africa. In recent years, however, it has been transgender-identified people - as often the most visible elements attributed to lesbian and gay communities due to their gender non-conformity - who have born the brunt of the backlash by some African states to both the concept of ‘LGBT human rights’ and perceived homosexuality. This has lead to a rise in the number of transgender-identified people fleeing the continent. As a relatively recent phenomenon in the long history of African migration this movement of transgender asylum seekers or ‘gender refugees’ brings with it new social and cultural realities for both the countries they leave and the countries they arrive in. This workshop will cover some of the fundamental issues affecting transgender asylum seekers with a specific focus on those coming from the African continent. Discussions will outline concerns regarding documentation, wellbeing, identity, movement, health, safety, detention and cultural challenges. The workshop will also consider some of the social, cultural and political dimensions of transgender migration (and the emergent diaspora).

B Camminga (*they/them) is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the African Centre for Migration & Society, Wits University. Their research interests include: transgender rights, migration, asylum and diasporas; necropolitics, notions of privacy and the bureaucratisation of sex/gender; and the history of ‘trans phenomena’ in South Africa. Their first monograph Transgender Refugees & the Imagined South Africa was published by Palgrave in 2018. Their current book project, Beyond the Mountain: Queer Life in Africa’s ‘Gay Capital’ (Unisa, 2019) with Dr Zethu Matebeni, explores the conflicting iterations of race, sex, gender and sexuality that mark the city of Cape Town.

Suma Abdelsamie, founder of welcome LGBTQI+ refugees group in Greece for helping LGBTQI+ refugees in Athens, founder and responsible for RFSL Stockholm Trans newcomers group for helping trans people to access to the society and minimize the sense of isolation, a board member at Trans Fest Stockholm, coordinator for RFSL Stockholm newcomers group for supporting LGBTQI+ asylum seekers. 

Readings (these can be emailed to you on request):

Camminga, B. 2017. ‘Categories and Queues: The Structural Realities of Gender and the South African Asylum System’. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 4 (1): 61–77.

Shakhsari, Sima. 2014. ‘The Queer Time of Death: Temporality, Geopolitics, and Refugee Rights’. Sexualities 17 (8): 998–1015.

Currah, Paisley, and Tara Mulqueen. 2011. ‘Securitizing Gender: Identity, Biometrics, and Transgender Bodies at the Airport’. Social Research 78 (2): 557–82.

Edinburgh Students