31st March is celebrated internationally as Transgender Day of Visibility. This day was founded in 2009 by American transgender activist Rachel Crandall to raise awareness on the extent of discrimination the transgender community faces. The oppression faced by transgender persons in their daily lives birthed this day and conversations around combating these injustices. Of course fighting injustices and discrimination should be done everyday but Crandall wanted to highlight the fact that the only day where Transgender persons are celebrated is The Transgender of Rememberance marked on 20th November which focuses on those we have lost. There was no day to celebrate the living transgender persons or the growth of the transgender movement and celebrate the contributions made by transgender persons in general.
Kuchu Times Media Group joins the rest of the world to commemorate this powerful day and our message to the transgender community is, “You have always been visible to us!” Monalisa Akintole from Transgender Equality Uganda had this to say about Transgender Day of Visibility, “As we approach TDOV it is important to ask, visible to whom?Trans and non binary people have been here since the beginning of time. The emphasis should be less on our emergence and more on the efforts towards our erasure, less on our novelty more on the banality of our exclusion. Less on our bodies and more on the systems they have put in place to have us erased as we live next to you.” We seek to ask questions to spaces fostering the shrinking of transgender persons that we have gone to the extent of holding placards and demanding to be treated like human beings.
From the perspective of a media house that has studied the growth of the transgender movement in Uganda and told these stories, these placards are beginning to pay off. The Ugandan Ministry of Health as of COP 19 of the HIV/AIDS programming inco-operated transgender persons under the Key Population group and since then nationwide efforts to fight HIV among transgender persons has been ongoing. Last year, Cleopatra Kambugu became the first transgender person in Ugandan history to receive her national ID with the right gender from the state. This year, the Uganda Feminist Forum finally welcomed transgender persons into this space. “Across the international feminist movement, there has been debate on the inclusion of trans persons into feminists spaces or the movement in general. It is very bold of Uganda Feminist Forum to host this space.” Pepe Julian Onziema Programs Director at Sexual Minorities Uganda and openly transgender man has this to say about the general feminism movement putting a chair at the table for transgender persons.
The lives of transgender persons in Uganda continue to be affected right from their families with many being thrown out of home for being who they are. Even in apparent inclusive spaces, transgender persons have been called too much and asked to shrink themselves to be able to fit in. The COVID-19 period where strict SOPs were put in place by the government of Uganda was a nightmare and this is where many lost their homes. Not to say that the period before this was euphoria for the transgender community but these two years exposed them to new threats. Poverty and unemployment forced many to go back to transphobic homes; trading identity for one meal a day. There are 5 documented cases of transgender suicides over the last two years and those are only the cases that made it to the media.
We have moved a long way as a movement and have quite a number of achievements but undoubtedly we still have a long way to go.
Who is a transgender person?
A transgender person is one with a gender identity different from that assigned to them at birth.
What are the best pronouns to address a transgender persons with?
The best way around pronouns is to ask the person. Never assume!
Is a person who has not undergone any treatments or surgeries still transgender?
Yes! Some transgender persons go through their lives never have been on any treatments. Being transgender is more about how you feel than how you look.
How can I stand with my transgender siblings?
Educate yourself about transgender persons, topics like identity, pronouns.
Defend your transgender siblings in spaces where you witness discrimination, silence from a sibling sometimes hurts more than the discrimination.