I can’t say I hate you. Even though in this mundane world of ours, I would not have had it any other way; I so have reason to or so I can sometimes think but what would that be saying about me? The question is why do you hate me so much? I remember the scenario that played itself out at the Tish Kent station there I was waiting for Kariso when you and Nfifi turned up on the concourse. You saw me as soon as you turned into the station almost as if it were our first meeting as usual you drew a bank on seeing me as if I wasn’t even there. Still hatefully, angry for reasons you don’t care to share but I have no doubt that you’ve read Janice Raymond’s take on transsexuality (especially, where you’re concerned, if your victim happens to be black, free thinking and eloquent with it you waste no time) following that uncritical bandwagon of anti-sisters known as the “separatist” and their fundamentalist credo. I might well have been the proverbial needle in a haystack as far as you cared. You even alerted Nfifi, whom I have to say wanted to say hello as her disposition seemed to suggest but there was no way you were going to allow that. It’s a shame she thought she needed your permission to say a simple, “Hi!” Alone she would have been able to do her will but with you; her incongruent indecision proved fatal.
“Your poetry has experienced a shift in focus. I notice that you no longer regard race as an issue; it seems that the focus of your poetry is gender from what I can tell,” once said a retiring lecturer of mine when I approached him as a possible referee for my application for a PHD in English. What he didn’t realise was that the perceived shift wasn’t so much a move from one agency to another but an inter-subjective progression of ever moving narratives; mine! If I maybe so daring as to take a stance for Africa and those in the Diaspora after all we’ve be marginalised enough. Somehow he (that lecturer of old) always assumed that I might end up as an Afrocentric scholar but he could not have been further from the truth. I was very aware of our suffering as a people but this debate is different. The LGBTI is almost non-existent to the mindset of African’s at home or those abroad unless we are of the community ourselves. This is stifling in the sense that it seems to speak of a neo-colonial fervour Africa inherited from its colonial masters which is undeniable in their demeanour towards us.
Seeing an extreme version of my lecturer in you wasn’t a surprise. Gender terrorist are incapable of insight. In their rigid standpoints they insisted on their opinion of the so called fixed world; an eternally black and while perspective to dissimilar to that of the essentialist feminist. The moment they get a bee in their bonnet, they shore up a quasi friendship with transpeople and then as soon as their victim’s guards are down they swooped in for the kill by intensifying their campaign of character assassinations with grimaces masking as smiles and that spells the beginning of the end for their assumed naÃ¯ve prey.
You so come into your own in a group of people like when we met at Kariso’s party, do you remember it? Until I met you at that party I didn’t know the first thing about communal hatred. Just as well we did meet. Our meeting has encouraged certain questions about the sexual revolution. Did it involve everyone? Was it just another academic cull de sac based on the warring binary fixation and its longevity? I believe answering these questions will guide me to your own particular emotions around gender (or gender identity), sex and sexuality. Is your difficulty with transgenderism, translesbianism an offshoot of class attitudes today or is it rooted in colonial values of old? I would love to know! Only trying to get a straight response from you turned out to be a vain expectation that water might pour forth from a stone.
Meeting you at the odd party where everyone suddenly has it all sorted out except me was becoming too much to bear. Soon enough I caught on but by that time more than enough damage had been done. Do I remind you of so much of yourself that you would sooner I didn’t exist? Do I merely expose something eerie that you have already deduced about yourself but preferred not to broach? The answer to either of these questions cannot be speculated away. One thing I’m aware of is the colonial impetus that fuels any separatist’s prejudices. To you, apart from the fact that I am black you also feel affronted that I, an African transsexual woman, dared claim that I’m also a lesbian. I stopped guessing what you might or might not know about transgenderism. Something told me the loss was yours and that it was time to leave you and move on.
I know that you did not come to this alone. The mole, Emily who remains deeply loyal in the way only gender terrorists are had a lot to do with your resentful demeanour; doesn’t she. She went as far as Bury St Edmonds to recruit for the collective in spite of its delusion of a self-imposed reputation of its place in the hub of activism. I wondered as to her sincerity. At times, I even felt you were a better ally because even her smiles left me cold compared to yours; at least you were open about your prejudice when in interaction with me. She would smile and say things like, “Hi there, my butcher than butch, butch!” or kissed me happy New Year on the eve of the newcomer only to turn round and claim, “hey everyone? That’s the laughing stork I was telling you all about!” Then expect me to receive all this obliviously with a cosy smile of my own at first I tried but Nfifi’s party ended all that. The collective was so rigid in its ways that it prided itself on its unitary code and lambasted all else leaving them wondering what happened to the fight against the oppression of women?
As a member of the LGBTI in the African Diaspora it is hard not to feel the colonial impetus of such insular activists like you who cannot see beyond their selfish preoccupations. At moments like these, I am moved to celebrate the courage of transgender women such as Weird MC whose music strikes an Amazonian cord when she sang, “They will continue asking, is it a man, is it a woman? She responded to with “What concern of yours is it?” in a war against transphobic abuse in Nigeria, for instance. Or Leslie Feinberg’s award winning, “Stone Butch Blues” and its moving pace that still holds me transfixed even after three reads; how would you relate to her take on gender identity as depicted through Jess Goldberg? What do you make of Jennifer Miller and her full grown bearded? Are your gripe just about transsexual people or was yours gripe at transwomen of colour specifically? Whatever it is; it is time you addressed your amnesia around the inter-relational disposition of the community. Failure to do so questions your brand of activism and its purpose in the community.
Palava featured in After Da Storm by Weird MC, Ahbu Ventures Ltd
Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
Transgender Film Festival which Feature Jennifer Miller
Fighting Oppression 1 written by Mia Nikasimo featured on Black Looks.
Mia Nikasimo (c) April 2009