Let us cut to the chase. I have come to rant, and mourn, and cry. How can society be oblivious for so long about discrimination towards transgender people? Perhaps it is because the victims are in the minority? It hurts to grow up in Africa, where backwardness, epitomised by the violation of human rights, is intense. One can’t be who they already are because there is a section of society he has to appease or a way of life he has to adhere to. Not only is this unfair, it is very inhumane.
The age-long discrimination against transgender people is fuelled by and also continues to fuel ignorance about the victims. Transgender people are those who have a gender identity or expression that differs from their assigned sex at birth. As in, the girlish boys and boyish girls. This is a vice, right? At least that is what many people think of it. They say it is just a bad habit we have decided to adopt. Certainly, that’s one of the reasons why many have discriminated against us, and bullied us, and activism has been tremendously low.
Now, ironically, we do not force or teach ourselves to be so. I was born that way. As an infant, I looked like a real girl. Before my family could even tell my character, my face was beautiful – I was not handsome. My puberty came in later and made me look masculine physically, but that’s all it managed to do. I remained a girl inside and out. From my handwriting to style of walking, to talking, to hobbies, everything was girlish. Is that enough to convince any reader that what we are is involuntary? That it is what nature has deposited. That ours is merely to discover, not to invent. Whereas there may be cases where some adopt the behaviours because of peer influence, those cases are extreme and will be ignored for this argument.
That words like ‘sissy’, ‘tom boy’ etc. that are offensively meant to bully us exist should be a source of shame to our society. Transsexuals (transgender people who transition from one gender to another) would probably not have to exist if we simply accepted the transgender people as they are. They are acting instinctively, so they can’t be blamed, lest the courts would also pass damning judgements against insane criminals. Many people are out there facing gender dysphoria, that is distress the transgender experiences because of social discrimination, and have gone into measures against their own will just to fit in. These include seeking medical treatments such as hormone replacement therapy to induce beard growth, masculinising skin, hair, voice, fat distribution, the chest and genitals and remove the womb, ovaries, and fallopian tubes for trans men, or feminising fat distribution and breasts, removing excess hair, feminising the voice, skin, face, Adam’s apple, breasts, waist, buttocks, and genitals for trans women.
But why should someone go through all that (by the way, trans men who have not had a hysterectomy and take testosterone are more likely to get endometrial cancer) if they are free to act girlishly or boyishly regardless of what gender society gives them? Who even ever set the rules for us? Who set the rules that one gender is supposed to act in this manner and vice versa? I dare say those are just conservative stereotypes and anyone who oppresses girlish boys or boyish girls is backward, uncivilized, and unfair.
Oh, but isn’t it God who set the rules? In his holy book, he commanded that men must not put on women’s clothes and vice versa as it is shameful! Also, his apostle in the New Testament taught that it is sinful for men to grow long hair like women, adding that it is shameful (paraphrasing to mean, the bible/God wouldn’t entertain transgender people as he doesn’t encourage cross-dressers in the first place)! I do not dispute that the scriptures have said this, but I’m torn between choosing between what is godly and what is natural. Is it not God also who created Sissies and tom boys the way they are? So it’s really a hard debate and that’s where another measure transgender people use to handle their Gender Identity Disorder (GID) without compromising on those biblical commands comes in. Most mental health professionals recommend therapy for internal conflicts about discomfort in an assigned gender role. People who experience discord between their gender and the expectations of others or whose gender identity conflicts with their body may benefit by talking through their feelings in depth. However, research on gender identity with regards to psychology, scientific understanding of the phenomenon, and related issues, is relatively new (which is not surprising).
With the above suggestion, the reader may be quick to say that’s what all transgender people should do. Go for counselling and they are good to go. But here is the reality: ’transgenderhood’ is like falling in love. A Romeo and Juliet kind of love – it’s a lifelong memory and scar that can never be completely undone. Or rather, like those ones we watch in Philippines’ soaps and the couple are being asked to split, for instance, because unknown initially to them they are relatives. They are now bound together like glue and can die for each other. They decide, come what may, they won’t split. If they are relatives, it wasn’t their fault. That’s what it is like to ask a transgender to change character. They enjoy and are bound to the personality they are accustomed to.
That transgender people face difficulty at the workplace, accessing public accommodations etc. is true as evidenced by my own experience. I had a terrible time in boarding school. Innocently, and naïve about the society’s assigned expectations of me, I went on with my beauty cares – I painted my nails, walked like a runway model, and sometimes put shiny stuff on my face. The boys didn’t scorn me; they mocked me, they killed my confidence, and pushed me to the furthest corners of isolation every day. I became the middle guy between females and males in the school. I belonged to neither groups. I was a freak. At times, they called me names that belonged to the girls and other funny things in the hope of bullying me. If I wasn’t a principled boy in other matters, I would have become the laughing stock of everyone.
But what hurt most was not even the discrimination. What hurt most was the fact that I could not report this kind of bullying to any authority. Our administration was keen and strict on any kind of bullying in the school…but this one; it was one of a kind. It was surely going to leave all the heads scoffing at me after I left. How ridiculous! Needless to say, it would increase my awkwardness among other peers if they discovered I had reported something of the sort. In fact, even those that had not been bullying me would start too. It would mean I could never pick a quarrel with anyone or else they would insult me straight away. Can you imagine? It is oppression without a chance to get back – even lawfully.
To all transgender people, one day we will see our God who made us this way and get to ask why he rejected cross-dressing. And to all our oppressors, you need no condemnation or insult from me. The tag of unfairness already shines through your acts of cruelty.
Ignatius Bambaiha is a passionate writer who has delved into all literature genres. He has participated in several writing competitions such as the MEBO Theatre ‘Bold, beautiful and brainy’ national essay competitions in 2014 and also in 2015 and finished in the first runners up among other competitions. Also, he has submitted writings in various literary magazines and publications such as; the monthly ‘Writers Space Africa’ literary international magazine- and his piece was published in the April edition 2019, the Bridport prize, Okadabooks- and his piece was published on their blog, DWARTS magazine, Writers’ Global Movement, 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Bakwa magazine, Wreaths for a Wayfarer poetry anthology, among many others. He has written several novels, poetry anthologies, short story anthologies, essay anthologies among others genres although not yet published. As a writer, he can be followed on his blog via this link: http://writerignatiusbambaiha.wordpress.com and his Facebook literary page via this link: www.facebook.com/writerignatiusbambaiha
This entry appeared in The Limits Issue