Africa: Transgender Rights Not Simply Gay Rights

Published: February 10, 2011

In the aim of strengthening their cause, gay rights activism often compromises the identity and struggle of transgender people by lumping the two communities’ issues together, writes Audrey Mbugua.

There is a systematic ploy to erase the transgender community, experiences and lives. The ubiquitous actions that are slowly expunging transgender people from our civilisation and their pernicious nature are weighing heavily on the transgender community. It’s worth dissecting the issue for human rights activists to get a better perspective of how their activism is of benefit to transgender people. Luckily, there is a growing momentum in the transgender community to ensure the restoration of the dignity and autonomy of the community. There is a plethora of pitfalls – and mostly among the people who are targeted for re-education about the transgender concept.

Richard Feynman, an American physicist, once said that if you think you understand quantum mechanics then you don’t understand quantum mechanics. Without the fear of sounding cocky, I will say this: if you think you really think you understand the transgender concept, then there is a chance you don’t have the slightest clue what its all about, and might never be able to get it. The field of human rights activism targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is overflowing with fundamental flaws on the subject and issues of transgender people. The problem is further compounded by a similar lack of awareness among a large section of the donor community. The result of course is that you end up having a huge chunk of funds being utilised to marginalise and spread misinformation about transgender people. While I appreciate and recognise people’s freedom of speech – the right to say anything under the sun or moon (but away from the police) – and that there are communities out there who have been vilified and their rights violated, I will not don kid’s gloves in addressing the matter at hand due to the people involved. This is an educational approach and it would be immature for anyone to blow a gasket because they have been told they are wrong.

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