I Am, There­fore, We Are

Kris Ly­seggen Herb Schreier SFINX Pub­lish­ing (OC­TO­BER) Soft­cover $19.95 (254pp) 978-0-9856244-4-6

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - AMANDA ADAMS

Il­lus­trat­ing the many dif­fi­cul­ties that trans women face, the book lets the ir­re­sistible charm of each in­ter­vie­wee shine.

Poignant and stag­ger­ing, I Am, There­fore, We Are, by Kris Ly­seggen and Herb Schreier, is an in­dis­pens­able ex­plo­ration of modern South African trans com­mu­ni­ties.

Fo­cus­ing specif­i­cally on trans women in Xho­sain ru­ral ar­eas and town­ships on the East­ern Cape in post-apartheid South Africa, the book chron­i­cles the sto­ries of some twenty women, in­ter­viewed and pho­tographed through­out 2014 and 2015. With an ex­traor­di­nar­ily high rate of rape and vi­o­lence, es­pe­cially against trans women, South Africa proves to be a very dan­ger­ous place for them to live.

The women tell their own sto­ries in their own voices. A hor­rific trend of vi­o­lence, rape, mur­der, HIV, poverty, dis­crim­i­na­tion, and im­mense loss is clear across the group. De­spite the odds stacked against them, many choose to fight for their ba­sic hu­man rights, fac­ing much bru­tal­ity and ad­ver­sity along the way.

In­valu­able pho­to­jour­nal­is­tic im­ages ac­com­pany each woman’s nar­ra­tive, and are art in their own right. Black-and-white stills are si­mul­ta­ne­ously heart­break­ing and hope­ful, evok­ing a stir­ring world of joy, pain, hard­ship, and laugh­ter.

Re­silience and sur­vival are over­ar­ch­ing themes. Liv­ing in a coun­try col­lo­qui­ally known as The Rape Na­tion, these women must al­ways de­fend them­selves against a bar­rage of at­tacks from fam­ily mem­bers and strangers alike.

In “I’m Lov­ing it Out,” Ash­lee Loots re­lates her de­ci­sion to em­brace bod­ily au­ton­omy and live her life as a woman af­ter the bru­tal stab­bing of her best friend. The com­pli­cated emo­tions sur­round­ing iden­tity are fur­ther ex­plored in “Amasiko; It’s Tra­di­tion.” Thabisa Moyikwa ex­plains her de­ci­sion to face cir­cum­ci­sion, or “go­ing to the Moun­tain,” an ini­ti­a­tion cer­e­mony for tra­di­tional man­hood. Though she is widely ac­cepted by her fam­ily re­gard­less, Thabisa de­cides to go through with the pro­ce­dure as a means to prove her­self to her com­mu­nity.

De­spite il­lus­trat­ing the many dif­fi­cul­ties that trans women face, the book also lets the ir­re­sistible charm of each in­ter­vie­wee shine. Kind, giv­ing, and lov­ing, these women are fight­ing for their lives while em­brac­ing the spirit of Ubuntu, or the idea that a sense of com­mu­nity and a greater hu­man bond is nec­es­sary for hu­man­ity’s suc­cess.

Shed­ding light on vastly un­der­rep­re­sented trans com­mu­ni­ties in South Africa, I Am, There­fore,

We Are is a cru­cial ad­di­tion to trans re­search.

Have you ever wished you could be the op­po­site sex, when­ever you wanted? Meet Paul, a shape-shift­ing, gen­der-non­con­form­ing col­lege stu­dent, whose mo­ti­vat­ing de­sire is to be as hot as pos­si­ble, no mat­ter what sex he chooses to be.

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