The Against Nature Journal: T.A.N.J. #3 (2021)

A selection of articles are available as PDF in footnote1

Reassessing Health Practices

The third issue of The Against Nature Journal is a critical review of the role medical knowledge has played in shaping common understandings of what is considered “natural.” Historically, the theory and practice of medicine has pathol- ogized non-procreative sexual desire, as well as those bodies that challenge gender binarism or expose different abilities. Along with religion and law, medicine is well established as a moral authority that draws distinctions between the natural and the supposedly deviant. In light of this, the journal opens with writing on reproductive justice and queer procreation. It is followed by a focus on trans and intersex politics, and features a section oriented toward “plural healing” and the need to decolonize health practices and institutions. As usual our Against Nature section closes the issue with a reprint that has informed our research project at large.

Throughout the nineteenth century “homosexuality” was established as a medical category to define nonreproductive desire and deem it abnormal. The institution of medicine included a whole set of techniques of control, such as involuntary confinement or conversion therapies. In the late twentieth century, with the emergence of the gay liberation fronts, the medical pathologizing of queer desire was challenged, first in the United States and Europe, then in the lat- ter’s former colonies—a critical process that is still ongoing. To this day, the institutions supposedly taking care of the physical and mental health of LGBTQI+ folks are still too often the first sites of discrimination.

It has only been three decades since the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses; transnational queer activists are now focused on the depathologization of trans and intersex bodies, while provid- ing equal access to reproductive rights and spaces of nondiscrimination. Yet, too often the colonial origins of reproductive policies, derived from racial hierarchies and population con- trol, is overlooked on a global level. Thus in addressing this issue, the first section of the journal considers reproductive justice and questions of pro- creation through a transnational questionnaire and a com- missioned science-fiction story. We celebrate individuals and organizations from Argentina, Italy, Kenya, Poland, and South Korea who work in reproductive justice activism. And Lambda Literary Award winner INDRAPRAMIT DAS speculates on other fertility models and forms of kinship in a story about a genderless android surrogate.

Section two presents trans and intersex poetry and writing. We reprint “Intersex in Prison” by Ugandan medi- cal anthropologist, queer rights activist, and author STELLA NYANZI, which is included in her most recent book written from prison. Her poem points to the violence that the pris- on-industrial complex (among other structures of oppression) exerts on nonnormative bodies. And as a prompt to thinking about medical pluralism, we also republish a chapter from the autobiography of the late South African sangoma (traditional healer) NKUNZI ZANDILE NKABINDE, whom for the last years of his life identified as a trans man. In his book—now out of print—Nkabinde narrates the complex connections between traditional healing and same-sex relations with a strong and passionate voice. The text is beautifully introduced by scholar and former GALA Queer Archive director RUTH MORGAN, who candidly recalls their longtime friendship and collaboration.

Importantly, the issue also questions the centrality given to Western biomedicine. We advocate to decolonize health, its practices and institutions, by recognizing the barriers some groups face in the delivery of health services because of their sex, gender, and race. To decolonize health means opening up the discourse on healing. We should refrain from any reverse essentialism in which traditional medicine prevails over biomedicine. Rather our understanding of decolonization embraces a pluralism of healing and the coexistence of various forms of medicine, grounded in divergent epistemological positions and practices. Section three of the journal brings these efforts together through both poetic and pragmatic reflections on how to ensure pluralist decolonization endeavors. WHAT WOULD AN HIV DOULA DO? shares their twenty-one questions addressed to cultural workers interested in the ongoing HIV crisis. Based on collective research, the questions are a document to return to often, a tool to use that calls on a continuous rethinking of how and by whom sickness and wellness are defined. In the updated introduction for T.A.N.J., the group highlights the presence of colonial knowledge in AIDS work and suggests that this awareness is a significant starting point from which to act differently. Likewise, broadening our vision of what healing is and can be, poet and traditional healer ROSA CHÁVEZ offers a poem written during the pandemic. It is an invocation “to take back our breath” from a Maya worldview, published in its original Spanish and translated in English.

Issue three ends with the section dedicated to research findings on the notion of “against nature.” The reprinted article by ANDIL GOSINE, “Non-white Reproduction and Same-Sex Eroticism: Queer Acts against Nature,” combines historical reflections on sodomy, racial reproduction, and envi- ronmental justice in an original way. And the issue would not be complete without the invaluable reports from Brazil, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, and the UK: MARIAH RAFAELA SILVA, PAWAN DHALL, KARI MUGO, DAYNA ASH, NIZA, SOUFIANE HENNANI, and ELIEL JONES respectively review debates on trans rights, mental health, care work, and medicine animating their queer activist circles.

Finally, the issue features a commissioned work by artists CANDICE LIN and P. STAFF. They have collaboratively produced a series of urine-based, heat-activated paintings of both abstract and figurative motifs, such as cells, insects, and medical herbs, to evoke some of the central concerns of the issue in subtle and unexpected ways.

As a publication that became an object in the midst of pandemic chaos, we wish to acknowledge those contribu- tors who could not join this issue due to health matters or care work for their families or communities. The regular features that investigate legal cases on LGBTQI+ rights and discuss the potential meanings of a “queer we” will resume in the next issue. To be continued.


Dayna Ash is a Lebanese feminist, cultural and social activist, playwright, performance poet, and the founder and executive director of the nonprofit feminist art organization Haven for Artists, based in Beirut, Lebanon. She was named one of the BBC’s 100 Women for 2019, received the 2020 Woman of Distinction Award from the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, New York, and awarded as the 2021 Leader in LGBT Health Equity from the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health.

Michalina Augusiak is a Warsaw-based feminist historian and curator.

Rosa Chávez is a Maya, K’iche’, Kaqchiquel woman, poet, artist, and educator. She has published five poetry books and made experimental works in theater, performance, video, and sound. Her writing has been widely anthologized and translated into many different languages. Chávez focuses her energy and experiences toward working with women, communities, and movements that defend land, bodies, and territories.

Indrapramit Das (aka Indra Das) is a writer and editor from Kolkata, India. He is a winner of the Lambda Literary Award for his debut novel The Devourers (Penguin Books, India, 2015) and the Shirley Jackson Award for his short fiction, which has appeared in a variety of anthologies and publications including Asimov’s Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, Slate, and Das has lived in India, the U.S and Canada, where he received his MFA from the University of British Columbia.

Pawan Dhall has been engaged with queer activism in India since the 1990s. He runs Varta Trust, a nonprofit for gender and sexuality issues that works on legal aid and citizen journalism. He researches and writes on the histories, health, and socioeconomic inclusion concerns of queer communities. Dhall’s most recent publication is Out of Line and Offline: Queer Mobilizations in ’90s Eastern India (Seagull Books, 2020).

Andil Gosine is Professor of Environmental Arts and Justice at York University, Toronto. His scholarship as well as artistic and curatorial practices examine imbrications of ecology, desire, and migration. Gosine’s publications and multimedia projects include Nature’s Wild: Love, Sex, and Law in the Caribbean (Duke University Press, 2021).

Soufiane Hennani is a PhD candidate in Health Sciences at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy in Casablanca, activist for LGBTQI+ rights, a queer columnist, and cofounder of the collective Elille for the promotion of sexual diversity and gender plurality. He is the winner of the Arab Foundation For Freedoms and Equality’s social change program in 2019, and in 2020 he created Machi Rojola, a platform to rethink and question masculinities in Morocco.

Eliel Jones is a writer and curator based in London. He has curated projects in the UK and internationally. He has also written essays for artists’ catalogs and publications, as well as reviews and features on contemporary art and performance for Artforum, Flash Art, Frieze, The Guardian, Map, Mousse, and Spike. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones commissioned and delivered projects through “Queer Correspondence,” a mail-art initiative.

Candice Lin and P.Staff live and work in Los Angeles and have been collaborating since 2010. Their practice focuses on the queer potential of herbal practices, hacked technologies, and cross-species interactions. Their solo presentations include Lesbian Gulls, Dead Zones, Sweat and T., Human Resources, Los Angeles (2017), and Stressed Herms, Sweat, & Period Gas., ICA Shanghai (2020).

Julia Minasiewicz is an intersectional activist, culture worker, and part-time artist. They were raised in Min ́ sk Mazowiecki and live in Warsaw.

Ruth Morgan retired from academia in 2019. She identifies as an old-fashioned dyke. She lives with her wife, cat, and two dogs in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is also an honorary researcher in the School of Literature, Language and Media at the University of the Witwatersrand. Morgan was associated with the queer archive GALA from 1997–2009 and served as director from 2002–08.

Kari Mugo is a Kenyan creative writer and activist. Her writing covers identity, culture, global mobility, politics, and travel. She previously worked at Kenya’s National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and continues to agitate for the full inclusion of sexual and gender minorities in the region.

Nelly Munyasia is the executive director of Reproductive Health Network Kenya. She trained as a midwife and has expertise in strengthening health systems. She is a sexual and reproductive health provider champion and activist for girls’ and women’s rights. Munyasia received the 2020 Planned Parenthood Global Citizen award for her outstanding leadership and unwavering advocacy for access to safe and legal abortion.

Niza is a feminist journalist and activist from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She graduated with a degree in journalism in 2011 and has twelve years of work experience in matters of civil society.

Nkunzi Zandile Nkabinde (1975–2018) was a South African sangoma (traditional healer), author, and LGBT activist. He had just started to study journalism when he received his calling to become a sangoma. He was also proud of being queer. Black Bull, Ancestors and Me: My Life as Lesbian Sangoma was his first and only book.

Stella Nyanzi is a Ugandan anthropologist, human rights activist, poet, and politician who focuses on sexual and reproductive health, free expression, digital rights, labor rights, civil and political rights. Her anthology No Roses from My Mouth: Poems from Prison (Ubuntu Reading Group, 2020), was written while serving an eigh- teen-month sentence for writing a poem that offended President Yoweri Museveni.

Obiezione Respinta is an association established on the occasion of the first global women’s strike organized by Non Una Di Meno on March 8, 2017. They are a group of transfeminists who fight for sexual and reproductive rights for women, trans, and nonbinary people as well as access to IVG (same-sex reproduction) and contraception. Their website features an interactive map where anyone can flag hospitals, pharmacies, and other health centers who refuse to perform abortion or distribute contraception for moral reasons in Italy.

Martha Rosenberg is a feminist doctor, psychoanalyst, and co-founding member of the National Campaign for the Right to a Safe, Legal and Free Abortion in Argentina. She is also a teacher and author of several books and numerous articles on the question of abortion.

Mariah Rafaela Silva is a Black, trans woman activist and member of the group Conexão G for LGBTI citizenship in the favelas. She is also a PhD candidate in social communication at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.

Gabriela Ramirez-Chavez is a Guatemalan poet, translator, and PhD candidate at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her translations of Rosa Chávez’s poetry have featured in the journal Asymptote and CentroMariconadas: A Queer and Trans Central American Anthology (forthcoming). Ramirez-Chavez’s original poetry is published in literary journals, her chapbook Basurado, and in The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States (Tía Chucha Press, 2017).

Ida S ́le ̧zak is a PhD candidate in cultural studies at the University of Warsaw.

The Against Nature Journal (T.A.N.J.) was a biannual arts and human rights magazine published by Council

Issue #3 Fall 2021

printed in 2000 copies
234 x 146 mm


  • Dayna Ash
  • Michalina Augusiak
  • Rosa Chávez
  • Indra Das
  • Pawan Dhall
  • Andil Gosine
  • Soufiane Hennani
  • Eliel Jones
  • Julia Minasiewicz
  • Ruth MorganKari Mugo
  • Nelly Munyasia
  • Niza
  • Nkunzi Zandile Nkabinde
  • Stella Nyanzi
  • Obiezione Respinta
  • Martha Rosenberg
  • Mariah Rafaela Silva
  • Ida S ́le ̧zak
  • Gabriela Ramirez-Chavez
  • What Would An HIV Doula Do?

Arist Contribution

  • Candice Lin
  • P.Staff


  • Aimar Arriola
  • Grégory Castéra
  • Giulia Tognon

Copy Editor

  • Laura Preston


  • Honi Ryan
  • Jacqueline Spedding


  • Abi Tariq


  • Julie Peeters

Cover Art

  • Stepan Lipatov

Editorial Committee

  • Aimar Arriola
  • Thomas Boutoux
  • Grégory Castéra
  • Arvind Narrain
  • Sandra Terdjman
  • Giulia Tognon

Advisory Committee

  • Nikita Dhawan
  • Taru Elfving
  • Karim Nammour
  • Piergiorgio Pepe
  • Graeme Reid
  • Nizar Saghieh