Nothing says resistance to me more than waking up, showing up and living your life in the face of the forces that say otherwise. Studying your oppressors, cunningly playing to their tune to a point where you leave them wondering who is playing the trumpet.
The day is as sunny and hot as it can be, laughter and chuckles dominate the space. If you can only hear these sounds from a distance, then you know you are already too late for: the hottest gossip of the day, the debate about the trending man of the moment or just reflections about our tragedies and terrible experiences as trans sisters. All this happens under the shade of a big tree which has become home to most of us.
For many individuals and organisations in Africa where LGBTIQ people are criminalised, every day brings with it a lot of challenges and uncertainties. Police raids, societal violence, family isolation, these encounters threaten our existence and organising yet it these same experiences that bring us together.
Sometimes we quarrel, and with the rage of toddlers scatter our tempers, throw our lipsticks and heels all over the place. We even threaten to burn own the tree and cut ties with each other, but before we even know it, we will be back in each other’s arms, laughing at and with each other again. There is an inexplicable strength in being part of my Trans* chosen family, and in being my sister’s keeper. This is something we often don’t talk about within our richly diverse African Trans* and LGB communities, yet we do it all the time and we do it so well. I am thinking about how we share good and bad times, we take care of each other when sick, we house each other when homeless, contribute towards the funerals of our lovedlLGBT cadres even when their families refuse to bury them.
As Transdiverse people, we are mostly vulnerable to societal violence and police brutality because we are so visible. I remember one of my most traumatic experiences, during a violent police raid of our secret party in. Police attacked us with iron bars, logs, and guns. People were injured, terrified and traumatised. Precious belongings were lost, people were outed and made jobless and homeless. We were all battered but not broken. We showed up for each other, nursed wounds, shared money for taxis, housed and supported each other. In no time were back again under our tree, with our scars, bruises, fears, tears, laughter and hopes. Such is the beauty of our community. Through experiences of pain and tragedy, we have learnt to create our own happiness.
Recently at a conference, a man of faith asked me if I would choose to be Trans* in another life. My answer was straightforward and honest, as long as I get to do it all over again with the people I have met along my life’s journey to womanhood, then YES, without a doubt. I would not trade this experience for another lifetime. I have lived and learnt a lot through this journey. I have met strangers, made friends, mentors, lovers and enemies. The beauty of it all, I have created a family. For me to be who I am today, I am indebted to my Trans*community.
We wake up every day to a future of uncertainties and our day only starts shaping up when we start meeting others like ourselves. We go back to sleep, only to wake up again and go through it all over again. That is my journey, my story in the making.
Contributor: Tiara Gendi a Trans*rights activist from Zimbabwe based in the U.S.