Black Trans African Lives Matter, Too
[Trigger warning: this article contains mentions of sexual assault, transphobia, homophobia and racism]
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has begun to change the world in a matter of weeks and the momentum it's gained has the potential to last for generations to come. People of all colours, backgrounds and ages have marched against, posted and spoken out about and denounced their society's and their own internalised racism. Many have also began to see the link between transphobia and racism, with its routes in colonialism and out-of-date British imperial laws. The reality people are coming to is that Black trans people are the most heavily discriminated against minority in the world, and we will never be truly free or have justice until Black trans people are free and have justice too.
This is a scary, exciting, and inspiring time of change.
The BLM movement has begun to shake things up in the highest powers of western countries; toppling statues, revising whitewashed histories, exposing racists, and slowly changing legislation.
In Africa, however, this is not the case.
Jeremie Safari is the Executive Director of Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko (RSM), an LGBTQ+ rights organisation based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Jeremie has been working hard reaching out to people across the BLM movement, seeking to raise funds to help the LGBTQ+ people in the DRC who have been very badly affected by COVID-19 - especially, they say, trans people. After I received this message from them on Twitter, we started chatting.
They began to tell me how they feel about the BLM movement, saying:
"I feel that the Black Lives Matter movement [rising] internationally [has] awakened a kind of collective consciousness in all Blacks around the world, which pushed them all to stand together [...] as one in all four corners of the world to say no to injustice and oppression. And I like that because it has created a link between not only Blacks but also between all those who are victims of injustice in this world whether they are Black or White and that we can stand up together as one, raise our VOICES and SAY NO THAT’S ENOUGH!"
Upon asking whether the BLM movement has helped them, they told me:
"I want the Black Lives Matter to stand for [Transgender African People] TOO! But unfortunately I have the impression that the Black Lives Matter movement just care about Black American issues.They don’t care about what Black [people] in Africa are going through [...] I just want them to know that BLACK TRANS LIVES IN AFRICA ALSO MATTER!"
"I [...] want them to talk about these Black trans [people] in Africa that are going through so much oppression, killings, murders, rape, tortured with no Justice to stand for them. They are just dying…"
In the DRC, homosexuality is not illegal. However, Jeremie explained that the police and the National Security Agency “ANR” Officers use the article 176 of the Congolese Penal Code (that criminalizes activities “against good morale”) to oppress the LGBTQ+ community pretending that homosexuality is "against good morals".
Not only are trans people in the DRC subject to public shame and discrimination, they are also subjected to forced eviction from their homes by the police, banned from going to school, unable to get into many restaurants, clubs or gyms, and they are the most affected by HIV as many become sex workers in order to survive.
Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko are one of the few organisations in the DRC that seek to change this and help the African LGBTQ+ community. Jeremie explained some of the work that they do to help:
"What we do to help the LGBTQI community [in the DRC] is to give them advice and [help] them to know their rights, [we] help them to get out of hiding , [with] self-acceptance [and] we help them with family mediation. For those who are hunted and abandoned by their families, we provide them with psychological and legal support. [And we provide legal support] for those who are victims of the violation of their rights."
"We have a special service for trans people as they are the most affected by LGBTQI oppression and also by HIV. So we provide each of them a case manager to help them have the wellness of living by first learning to love themselves and keep their dignity whatever they are going through. [We] also to empower them to be independent and create a small local business that can help them to take care of themselves. We provide them with medical aid for those who have health problems in the field of HIV/AIDS but also in the context of HIV/AIDS prevention. We also advocate for their rights to be recognized and respected by political, [...] social, professional leaders and also the media, the justice system and human rights activists."
As already mentioned, they have been hit hard by the outbreak of COVID-19 - whilst also battling with their own state and justice system who have been trying to disband LGBTQ+ organisations for the past 6 years. They have launched a GoFundMe fundraiser which has been shared by the likes of Indya Moore and they have raised over $13,000 of their target already.
Here's what you can do to help Black trans African lives:
1) Donate to the Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko GoFundMe, linked below:
2) Along with sharing this GoFundMe, send it directly to your friends and encourage them to donate and/or share it.
3) Contact your local BLM movement and ask them to share this GoFundMe with their followers, along with the message that Black trans African lives matter too.
We must continue to stand up for the civil rights of ALL Black people. None of us are free until all of us are.