‘Celebrate Us Too’: Zimbabwe’s Transgender Community Pleads for Recognition During Women’s and Men’s Commemorations

Stewie La Savage

By Bustop TV

For more than a century now the world has marked March 8 as International Women’s Day (IWD).

IWD is a global day to commemorate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements women have made in their communities.

The motive behind celebrating this global day, whose 2021 theme was “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world“, is to accelerate gender parity, enforce women’s right, and recognise women’s challenges.

As cisgender women celebrate this day with little controversy, the situation is different for transwomen whose plea remains “we are women too”.

Cisgender women are those whose gender identities mostly align with societal expectations associated with the female sex they were assigned at birth. Most transwomen are assigned male at birth but come to identify as women.

Some transwomen experience gender dysphoria, a sense of unease if their gender identities or expressions do not align with societal expectations. Transwomen who spoke to Bustop TV said they feel excluded from the IWD celebrations.

They argued that they are overlooked when it comes to IWD, women’s month celebrations, and other things pertaining to women’s issues.

Queen Bee Meki, a transwoman in her 30s, bemoaned how the Zimbabwean community has deliberately ignored transwomen.

Queen Bee Meki

Meki, who is also the programmes manager of the transgender community representative organisation Trans and Intersex Rising Zimbabwe (TIRZ), said transwomen are stereotyped.

“We want to publicly and fearlessly celebrate International Women’s Day just like any other women, though the communities that we live around seem to be strongly segregating us as if we are people of no value.

“Every day we face stereotypes of various forms, but we are strong enough to show the world that we are aimed at claiming our rights. Therefore I was a founding member of TIRZ in 2010,” she said.

In an interview with Bustop TV, philanthropist AlessandraBree Chacha urged government to support transwomen.

AlessandraBree Chacha

“Transwomen are women too, and they experience the same issues other women face when it comes to seeking inclusion, equity and even protection. We plead that one day our government will hear our cry,” she said.

Chacha emphasised that people should be able to accept transwomen in accordance with the United Nations’ (UN) recognition of women.

Celebrating IWD 2020, UN Women shared a quote “Trans women are women at the end of the day. Every woman is a woman. Women are multifaceted, intergenerational, international. They are limitless, formless. Women are the world,” by trans model and disability rights activist, Aaron Philip on the organisation’s Twitter page.

Bulawayo-based musician and transwoman Stewie La Savage told Bustop TV that other women’s spaces are now gradually accepting them.

“It’s still new in Zimbabwe, so it becomes rather hard to incorporate transwomen in women’s spaces, but this year a lot changed because in Bulawayo, I am an out and proud transgender woman in the arts and got an opportunity to celebrate these events without discrimination. 

“I got an opportunity to feature in the video of the song Imbokodo by Novuyo Seagirl feat. La Dee, which was set to celebrate women, and it was released on the 25th of March on Women’s Day. 

“I also got to take part in the Divas In Action clean-up campaign, which was an all-female clean-up campaign hosted by Sarah Dee of SDee TV,” she told Bustop.

According to research by Transrespect Versus Transphobia (TVT) at least 350 transgender women were murdered globally between October 2019 and September 2020.

TVT is a Transgender Europe project which aims at giving an overview of human rights situation of trans persons worldwide.

Transmen also lament the treatment they get in society.

This comes one month before the annual Men’s Day commemorations on 19 November.

Trans Research Educational Advocacy (TREAT) executive director Sam Ndlovu, who identifies as he/him, said he was not aware there is a men’s day because society does not value his gender identity.

“I don’t think I even knew there was a men’s day celebration. I guess because we are not socialised as our gender identities, we sort of just fit into the societal structures, and the men closest to us become a template of who we become,” he said.

‘This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of <BustopTV> and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union’.

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