Today the world commemorates , The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Transgender individuals from diverse backgrounds, departed, living, and yet to come are honoured on this day.
As transgender people we are inspired and affected by various circumstances in our lives. Everyday is a struggle for many transgender individuals who continue to succumb to hate crimes, wallow in abject poverty, yet continue to fight for visibility and existence.
Trans lives are under peril as we are the targets of hate, which is often state instigated through media, religion or vigilante groups, consequently this vile filters through to our societies and families.
In most public places where others would otherwise feel comfortable or safe we feel threatened as our private lives are violated though invasive procedures such as unwarranted body searches, continued scrutiny and dismissals. It is no wonder for most of us, places such as schools; airports, gyms, hospitals and toilets are our sites of struggle.
With so much stigma and discrimination, as transgender people we often find ourselves without a home, family, love or a job. For some transgender individuals gender corrective surgeries and procedures, which are not only illegal but a pipe dream as they are beyond the reach of many owing to exorbitant private costs.
Albeit all these vigils and thorns, there are trans people who like the proverbial buried seeds, are resilient and continue to sprout and defiantly blooming on different parts of Africa’s soil.
Below are different narratives By African transgender individuals
THEY TRIED TO BURY US ,THEY DIDNT KNOW WE ARE SEEDS
My name is Unashe Micheal I am from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I identify as male as l see my transitioning just as a process to complete who l already am. l am still in the initial stage of my medical transitioning. l had my therapy sessions and have been given a referral letter to start hormonal therapy. However, owing to the fact that my country makes it hard for people like myself to access such facilities through public healthcare providers. This means i can only pay a huge amount to see an endocrinologists if i find any, this situation has made it very difficult for me to start hormonal therapy.
I am a student and cannot meet the costs of travelling out of the country to get medical assistance. My family doesn’t support my transitioning and getting funds from them is not an option.
My everyday struggles..
I face many challenges as a young student and a transman. Related to my gender identity, i struggle so much with feeling comfortable in my own body especially when it comes to getting up and facing my day at school. Being seen as merely a ‘tom boy’ makes it even worse as this is not what I am. Also my daily frustrations are dealing with chest dysphoria and what is in my pants, It irks me that i have to live with being the man who pees sitting. I am still struggling each day and the only way I have tried to consolidate myself is by chest binding using duct tape and honestly I am barely surviving.
When I was 16 years old I was abused by a teacher at my school and when the school authorities also found out that i was dating a girl, that became the main issue, i couldn’t explain that i was a trans person, thus my case of being abused was dismissed and no action was taken against the man who abused me.
This incident made me loose trust in people then onwards I cannot trust anyone even my male friends as I feel i am trapped in this ‘female vessel’ which makes me vulnerable to people who feel they can take advantage of it. I get the feeling that when I am hanging out with some male colleagues, they seem to treat me as one of them, but once we are behind closed doors its another story. Now I am very careful about making any useful friendships with my male peers. I have since made friends with two other transmen in my country and it has kept me going. I also get support from my significant others who support me and see me through stormy days.
In my hometown we barely acknowledge events such as Trans Day of Remembrance I only hear about commemorations in South Africa. I have never attended any Transgender or Pride events. But on this day I am celebrating the victory and the hope other transsexual individuals have given and left for people like myself.
Many have suffered and died just to enable transgender people to be recognised and seen as people and not creatures. Also many transgender people have struggled to make it better for other generations of transgender people to thrive. Knowing that they are others like me out there and even going through a worse struggle than mine keeps me going cause I know I am not alone in this struggle..
My name is Whitney Quanita Booysen. I’m a pre – op transwoman from Lutzville, a rural area in the Western Cape of South Africa. About 4 years ago I moved to Cape Town because of work.
My everyday struggles
My daily struggles as a Trans person are related to accessing primary health care. When I decided to start my transitioning process, the primary health care professionals from my community could not assist me as they did not have a clue how to administer hormone treatment and how to assist Trans people. I had to make use of the health professionals in Cape Town. However being in Cape Town did not mean that I had entered the ‘Trans heaven’ and that things would be smooth for me.
I started my medical transitioning in 2011 during this period i was told my medical personnel that in order to get gender re assignment state assisted surgeries, I needed to wait for almost 25 – 27 years as there is a backlog of patients. This has also been the core of my struggle because when people see a woman they already have a preconceived idea that i have a vagina. This often places me in a very difficult position especially when men approach me and want to date me or want to have sex with me. There are those men who accuse me of lying about my private parts and because i don’t have a vagina they find it hard to accept me as i am.
I still find it hard to access certain spaces which can be potentially dangerous for me, my coping mechanism is just to avoid some of these spaces where i face a lot of discrimination or violations.
For example in streets i often get some children and teenagers spewing transphobic words like “moffie”. The fact that i am still exposed to derogatory hateful words affect me very badly, the pain is not physical but it leaves deep emotional scars and that makes me fear for my life as I feel vulnerable to rape or murder.
I survive through those hate speeches everyday by just holding my head high and trying to appear bold and tough. I did not really have a strong support system so i choose to be proactive in mobilising and assisting other trans persons. I just recently registered an organisation called the Protea Psychosocial Support Project for Trans* People.
This project is helping me in a way because by meeting and sharing struggles with other Trans* persons this makes me realise that I’m not alone. Having people whose struggles i can relate with, is in a way helping me to cope with my own issues.
Today on Transgender Day of Remembrance, i am celebrating this new organisation i founded as it gives hope to trans* and gender non – conforming people. Even though we do not have funding yet and can’t operate as strongly as we want to, but it gives me, my board (who are most trans identified) and others hope. This project is giving me the strength each day to get up and do something, even if I don’t get paid for it.
My name is Tah. I identify myself as a transman. Being a transman in my country it pretty much difficult, as it proves an unsafe environment to really express oneself.
Public restrooms have always been a place of struggle for me because i can’t use ladies restrooms especially in places where i am unknown. Whenever i tried accessing the ladies bathrooms i always got women telling me i was in the wrong facility “mukwasha marasika”(Mr You are in the wrong bathroom). To avoid this humiliation of being dragged our of restrooms, i have now resorted to using the men’s restrooms. For now this is working well, but i also fear for my safety in such a space.
I like clubbing and i have also decided that for my own security i should pay entrance fee, even when it is ladies free because i often get harassed by guards questioning my gender.
Visiting local clinics has been a struggle because i often get questioned about my gender and sometimes this feels very uncomfortable especially when the Drs have to examine my body, i recently explained to one Dr about my gender identity and now they understand and we have a good rapport so he always attends to me.
I celebrate this day with so much passion remembering those who lost their lives as a result of transphobia. I salute those who continue to bring to light the continued violence that the transgender communities face every day.
I applaud myself for standing firm and remaining positive in life, doing the best i can to make myself happy and doing what i enjoy the most. Find your passion, believe in yourself, because if you don’t , no one will.
This is an image that I drew myself, and I love this unicorn and I always use it when I I am asked to draw something that I feel really defines me…
A unicorn is often an imaginary animal that brings healing and peace to many, sacred and hunted by those who don’t understand or who don’t believe in it but it remains a source of comfort and happiness . Many a times it sacrifices its own safety to bring a smile on others’ faces.. Unique, strong, elegant and perfectly ‘abnormal’
My name is Tiara i am a transgender woman from Zimbabwe.The hope of living truly as me and being true to myself inspires me. The smallest ways i express my gender identity I cherish them.
For a long time my church was my site of struggle. To make myself feel comfortable, i got involved in the church’s acting club. I decided to take female roles and because i am a designer, i also made the costumes for the cast. This was not a problem for anyone, and once people got comfortable with the woman they saw on stage they related my character to my acting.
Now I can freely dress more comfortably and people don’t really raise their eyebrows.
The one thing that really disturbs me is an incident that occurred 6 years ago when me and a colleague were attacked at night by 5 men. The men accused me of having a ‘ladies’ hairstyle they questioned why my hair was curly and relaxed. They took us into a maize field and took all the money I had and our mobile phones before driving away with my friend whom they accused of being my boyfriend. To this day i have never hear from my friend again, he still remains missing. The thought of not knowing what happened to him haunts me everyday.
I went through this traumatic alone.I reported the incident to the police but nothing materialised.I still feel i survived by grace.
I AM celebrating ENDURANCE because i still face stigma and discrimination in my everyday life, i go through my own body politics everyday but still manage to go to bed and wake up to do it all over again. Today i am castigating TRANS SHAMING were other people make themselves superior than trans people by shaming us for being who we are.
stories edited and compiled by Miles Tanhira