Ella Kotze

Member news:

Prof Carien Lubbe de Beer moves to New Zealand

The SGD suffered a great loss with the departure of Prof Carien Lubbe de Beer. Carien left PsySSA and South Africa to take up a position at New Zealand’s Ministry of Education. Before she left, Carien was invited to open the 2nd Conference on LGBT Psychology and related fields, in Rio de Janeiro, 8-11 March 2016, with a keynote titled “The necessity of embracing diversity: Well-being for all LGBTI+ human beings”. In her presentation she argued that social support is a necessity for advancing the well-being of minority groups, linking the polyvagal theory of Porges with psychosocial adjustment. According to the Polyvagal theory the neural pathways of social support and social behaviour are shared with the neural pathways that support health, growth, and restoration. Social support has emerged as one of the key factors that enhance resilience for LGBT individuals. She also provided expert knowledge on an article written by Shelley Seid in the Sunday Times on 8 May 2016, titled “Sexual orientation does not affect parenting, new study shows”.

Bumper year for the CSSR, Rhodes University

The Critical Studies in Sexualities and Reproduction research program (CSSR) is having an extremely productive and busy 2016.

It was a bumper graduation year, with three PhD’s, one Master’s with distinction and two honours students graduating in 2016. Using Foucauldian postcolonial feminist theory, Malvern Chiweshe (PhD) explored women’s and health service providers’ abortion decision-making narratives in Zimbabwe where abortion laws are restrictive. Tracey Feltham-King (PhD) critically analysed the construction of, and practices regarding, teenage pregnancy within the antenatal healthcare nexus using a Foucauldian ethnographic approach. Nicola Jearey-Graham (Master’s with distinction) implemented a dialogical sexuality action research project at a lower middle class urban high school using Freirian principles of critical consciousness and dialogical pedagogy. Dale Moodley (PhD) analysed the gendered sexualities of young people as represented in Life Orientation sexuality education and popular music, as two mediums of sexual socialisation using a mix of post-structural and psychosocial perspectives.

Two prestigious awards were celebrated in this year’s graduation too. Catriona Macleod was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Senior Research Medal. This award is for her work which spans critical health psychology, feminist psychology, and theoretical psychology. Her research is acknowledged as being methodologically sophisticated, and simultaneously rooted in down-to-earth real-life issues, mostly of a social justice nature. She has published widely, in top international journals as well as local forums – an appropriate mix for a scholar concerned with local issues in a global context. Her role as a supervisor and mentor is also highly valued.

The second award was received by the multi-disciplinary team from the Siyahluma project (Dr Sharli Paphitis, Dr Lindsay Kelland, Prof Catriona Macleod and Mr Ryan Du Toit). They were awarded the 2015 Vice Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Community Engagement. The Siyahluma project is a collaboration between researchers and local NGOs in order to address (1) the menstruation-related challenges faced by school-going girls, most notably a lack of access to reliable and hygienic menstrual products and a lack of access to reliable information about menstruation; (2) a gap in the research on this topic in South Africa; and (3) sustainable community development and capacity-building in the Eastern Cape. Siyahluma is an example of a program that positively contributes to the transformation of our society by bringing to light the difficulties faced by young women in South Africa.

Importantly, during the recent student protests on campus regarding rape culture, the CSSR unit invited the university community to take part in ‘CSSR conversations’ as a way of raising consciousness around this issue and as a way of encouraging resistance to, and the disruption of rape culture. CSSR researchers and students facilitated conversations on the following topics: responses to sexual violence testimonies (silencing); consent; queer visibility and dialogue around sexualities; relationships and rape culture and; a look at how other universities have responded to sexual violence. Creating these spaces has proven to be very useful and hopefully these conversations will be offered more frequently as the university community continues to find ways to address rape culture on campus.

The CSSR has also offered administrative, logistical and informational support to a task team/ committee which has been created to deal with issues of sexual violence on campus. The committee is working towards the following terms of reference: (1) Safe spaces for survivors/victims, (2) policies and procedures, (3) curriculum and activities, (4) systemic issues, (5) local and national issues and (6) monitoring and evaluation.


Gender Identity Group (GIG)

The Gender Identity Group (GIG) is a Johannesburg-based, monthly, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) group for healthcare professionals interested in gender identity, particularly the identities of transgender, intersex and gender non-conforming people.

People who identify as transgender and/or intersex are often misunderstood or stigmatised in society. This can lead to unique mental health concerns for such individuals. It is thus key for healthcare practitioners to be able to provide effective and sensitised services to promote the health and well-being of gender variant individuals. However, there is very little support for mental healthcare professionals working with gender identity. Many professionals who see gender variant clients are often isolated and disconnected from one another. In response to this need for a professional space to discuss and share knowledge about gender identity, the Gender Identity Group was co-founded by Jonathan Bosworth (counselling psychologist), Claire Jaynes (counselling psychologist) and Fred Walter (clinical psychologist) in early 2014.

GIG meets from 7.30pm to 9.30pm on the third Monday of each month in Greenside, Johannesburg. The group primarily consists of registered psychologists and counsellors but also includes other professionals. Group members take turns to choose relevant readings, facilitate discussion and invite dynamic guests. The group has historically chosen topics to better understand gender identity from various theoretical frameworks; such as human rights, critical, feminist, psychodynamic, community psychology, medical and legal perspectives. In 2016 the group has decided to focus on the importance of intersectionality: how gender identity may interact with variations in sexual orientation (gay, lesbian, queer, bisexual, pansexual, and asexual), relationship orientation (polyamory and ethical non-monogamies) and sexuality (bondage, dominance, submission and sadomasochism, and kink). GIG may be contacted through Jonathan Bosworth on genderidjhb@gmail.com.

Jonathan Bosworth, Claire Jaynes and Casey Blake will be giving an oral presentation titled Trans-cending Binaries: Experiences From A Gender Identity Group For Mental Health Professionals at the 22nd South African Psychology Congress in an effort to share the knowledge gleaned from their participation in the group and their experiences in their professional capacities.

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