Trans issues are sensitive in Africa and even more sensitive in the gay community. The LGBT community is made up of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people and for some time now, there has been some Transgender identifying individuals who don’t feel properly represented by the T in LGBT and they have expressed their desire to see it removed. Their reasoning is quite simple, for some; Transgender is a gender marker. It has nothing to do with sexuality. While there are lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and asexual + transgender people, the concept of being Trans isn’t associated with the sexual aspect of their lives. But I believe that the issue is deeper than that, while the argument of gender vs sexuality is somewhat valid, it is no secret that there is a negative and toxic response to Trans people within the African gay community.
Although this attitude is inexcusable, the simple fact is that most African gay people tend to get confused with the application of gender as opposed to regularly using sexuality to define each other. This confusion has created a divide that exhibits itself in the way gay people tend to judge Trans people as ‘Too Dramatic’ or ‘Over the Top’. Even though shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race are very popular within the African gay community, being faced with Trans people in real life poses a threat for the average gay African because of how easy it is to identify Trans people as gay. This thinking isn’t as a result of the gay mans doing but it is a bitter reflection of how gay people in Africa live in constant fear of being identified as gay. The fear ultimately transitions gay thinking into a straight acting frame of mind and gradually the gay man unconsciously starts thinking like the straight homophobic African man, only as a mode of survival.
So when someone as brave as Bobrisky expresses himself with makeup, wigs and clothes for the opposite sex, the African gay man tends to get triggered with the same fear and lack of understanding seen in the straight homophobic African. This reaction of the oppressed becoming the oppression is significantly responsible for the divided between the gay man and Trans persons in Africa. Here are some of the ways this divide plays out in the African gay community:
– The very popular “No Femme Boys” restriction on gay profiles.
– The lack of Trans representation in the fight for African LGBT rights issues.
– The constant judgement of how Trans people dress and look within the community.
– The way gay people segregate Trans people in other to protect their own identity.
– The lack of support for Trans people in the face of constant bullying and Trolling.
If you are an African gay community member reading this, ask yourself; how many Trans friends do you have? What support (emotional or otherwise) have you given to a Trans person or the Trans community in general? And when last did you keep a Trans person at arm’s-length to protect your own identity?
The goal here isn’t to make you feel guilty or attacked, rather it is to help each of us create a sense of awareness around Trans issues in Africa. For a community that is constantly faced with discrimination and bias criticism, it is important we don’t carry on that culture in the way we treat others, especially those who might appear different from us or live their truth differently within the community. Instead of acting out in fear, let us all get educated about Trans issues so we can fight for the rights of our brothers and sisters as well as our own.
Feel free to share your thoughts on Trans issues in Africa by dropping a comment, let’s keep the conversation going.