Transgender community as an African in the Diaspora
Violent suppression of initiatives we cannot understand or even deaths in the African Diaspora as well as the African LGBTI set us back for generations but worse still is the hypocrisy and corruption that blinds us to this fact. Why? When you kill a living being because of their gender identity or whatever reason, you rob yourself and the rest of the universe of a part of What Is. Because of our mundane human conditioning and ingrained religious intolerance we adopt self-righteous pedestals and snuff out the life force that is human diversity. We laugh at what we see as spectacles as we slowly die away ourselves as part of the essence of the universe. “Everyone dies sooner or later,” is something we dread hearing while knowing the truth of the statement.
When I think of the plight of the transgender community as an African in the Diaspora I’m reminded of all those little murders that happen daily in the name of propriety or why most of them happen in the western world. In Africa most transgender people are underground so nobody knows any better but as a friend argues it is no surprise. “If African transgender people were out they’d suffer the same plight as their sistren and brethren in the west,” and don’t we know it?
Even as I gather my thoughts in my head to write this piece, I can hear the whispered indifference of people who ought to know better as they willingly give in to learned bad behaviour in the name of “doing what’s best for you” as if that makes them better people. In fact they are no better than Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” when he drags Ikemefuna off to sacrificial slaughter. I do not mention this lightly. Okonkwo’s masculinist stance leads him to greatness but robs him of responsibility with regard to Ikemefuna’s death and eventually to his own exile for killing a clansman.
However in this context, Ikemefuna is no longer the little boy of the novel but a vision of the future -openness, courage and compassion. In this guise, he is the spirit of the transgender dead facing up to cultural traditions that exclude difference for nepotistic gains. This usage is not accidental as we live in post colonial or neo colonial times in terms of gender identity and the rules remain the same: conform or die! Exile for anyone is a type of death as some transgender people can attest and we do so in plain view daily: at home, abroad or overseas.
As a transgender person that also identifies as a lesbian, I’m constantly aware of the dangers of being out but some of us cannot help but be. In this sense then as beings, human beings, even in the company of allies we still face predictable and unpredictable danger within the global LGBTI not to mention back home in Africa. How many have died suspicious deaths globally so that “old western values” last? How many more suffer in silence boxed in by the subtlety of compulsory binary fixity? How many more of us must go underground for life’s sake? How many are displaced in dehumanising exile in far away lands that circumstances have hand picked for us?
The temptation here is to join forces with the gender debate rattling on in traditional Gender Studies academy and fix the players… Obiageli and Okonkwo’s other wives and their prescribed roles in that world cannot always be fixed. The consequences of such fixation stifles our evolution. Rather in those very communities and elsewhere, Ikemefuna must become more than the little boy but a sort of archetypal voice conferred for the remembrance of transgender victims of persecution alive or dead by allies as by foe. In other words, art and literature of peoples all over the world must speak out lest they accept their complicit roles to stifle diversity and equality. Hiding behind religious intolerance, tradition or fixed notions of “the way things are” or Western values is no longer an option.
I’m reminded of openness and courage in the face of impending deaths or hard worn longevity, I’m reminded of compassion exercised in the face of ostracisation because we dare to say, “for us, in the transgender community, there is more to being human than merely following the flow of constructed, possessive and or perceived sameness,”. I’m reminded of the loaded injustice of those in the medical profession whose training would rather they told a parents lies rather than admit to the ambiguity of a child’s gender and the parent that either leaves the fate of child and mother to societal indignation. I’m reminded of men who have leered at first sight only to take up “honour restoring” arms or “corrective rapes” to cover their own monstrous appetites.
A pitiful attempt to announce to the patriarchal world that they are not gay or women who take sides with their tyranny claiming, “I’m not a lesbian” or worst still, “That’s not a real woman. I should know!” I’m reminded of some members of the LGBTI whose selfish supremacist yearnings threaten the very ethos of activism. Their aim: to isolate, incite violence against and or exclude permanently all transgender people out of existence. But most of all, I’m reminded of the many transgender dead whose names, like Ikemefuna’s, are with me every waking day. Those whose lives made mine worth living in plain sight; those whose very deaths have changed and continue to change the judicial framework and will do so for those to come in future times.
Thank you all for paving the way for all of us!!!