Most of society has bought into the idea that there are only two ways of defining our gender – either male or female and that for each we must follow certain ways of behaviour, dress and speech. These definitions have been socially constructed over periods of time and across cultures as a way of controlling communities, behaviour and maintaining patriarchical control. Juliet Victor Mukasa is transgender and recently spoke movingly about the experience of being transgender in Africa.
In Africa, transgender people are seriously punished for being who they are. While still with my parents, I was always beaten by my father for “behaving” like a boy. In school, the same story. While peeing one day my neighbours daughter found me peeing while squatting and she screamed like she had seen a monster. I became the laughing stock of the village and I expelled myself because of the humiliation. I could speak the whole day about the discomforts. I have suffered in life more because I am a transgender than a lesbian.
All trans people that I have interacted with mention such or even worse moments in their lives. It can be a very deep violation of our being to be forced to perform our gender differently than we want it and feel it for ourselves.
Some people, like myself, are born with a sense of ourselves as male in some ways, even though we are biologically female.
As a transgender person, I am constantly demanded to explain and justify why I am not fitting into other people’s idea of what a woman or a man should be.
Victor goes on to describe the type of violatons faced by transgendered people in Africa
Human Rights Abuses and Violations
I can give specific examples :
– Raped to prove that you are really a woman
– At school: public assembly and humiliation: beaten
– Thrown out of family home
– Thrown out of subsequent homes by landlords
– Lose job because feel violated wearing a skirt
– Psychological Effects of Abuse: Depression, Anger, Drinking, Suicide
– Daily level: holding full bladder for 12-18 hours
– Being undressed and humiliated:
o By government: To get passport
o In church — I was once stripped naked as in naked!, in church, before a multitude of people. The pastor ‘saw’ a spirit of a young man inside me and they burnt my clothes and shoes in order to kill the male spirit.
o By Police: humiliation, mocking, mistreatment
These violations are particularly vile and because of the invisibility of the African trans community we are not aware of what is taking place. Juliett Victor Mukasa is one of the few transgender Africans that has spoken out on this issue and we should applaud the courage shown in this instance. The more trans people and the more the whole lesbian gay bisexual communities speak out against these human rights abuses, the more likely change can be affected sooner than later. The emerging LGBT activist community in Africa is without doubt the most radical and progressive group of human rights defenders on the continent. The community has come of age and we can no longer be silenced.
Links: Self Organising Men Can be downloaded free in PDF format.