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LGBTQI People Deserve Empathy To Fully Express, Self Actualise


BY JAMES MUONWA

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) individuals mostly live in the shadows of their real identities to shield themselves from various forms of harassment and discrimination.

Members of this minority community disown names they were given by their parents and refer to them as "dead names". 

Instead, they adopt new "preferred names" that resonate with their new way of life, or just outrightly to disguise their identities.

Named by his parents Shadreck at birth, Mrs Ma is a transwoman, who was toughened growing up in one of Harare's ghettos where she faced ridicule and scorn.

The pronoun for the person born Shadreck and renamed himself Mrs Ma is now "she or her."

She despises being called "him."

"Shadreck is now a dead name, which l nolonger use. Also, l am a she," said Mrs Ma, an affable but reserved character.

Donning pony-tailed dreadlocks, Mrs Ma strikes as a man but exhibits mannerisms that betray of a woman.

His gait is characteristic of a female model strutting her stuff on the catwalk.

The bush beard is most probably the only masculine feature that shows Mrs Ma is trans.

"When growing up, l used to prefer dolls for toys as opposed to cars like most boys. 

"I was ridiculed and teased because of my 'sissy' deportment up until adulthood," explained Mrs Ma last Friday during a media sensitisation workshop in Harare, organised by Trans Smart Trust.

In a bid to prove her masculinity among peers, Mrs Ma says she took up smoking cigarettes, a habit which has grown into a health problem.

"I now have a smoking problem. It all started while trying to prove my masculinity to other guys but this didn't change who l am, l realised l was different," she said.

After facing discrimination and stigma in her household where her biological father and step-mother wouldn't allow "Satanism", Mrs Ma moved out of the family house in 2013 to stay with well-wishers until she found her feet.

She now works for Trans Smart Trust and earns a decent living championing the sexual, reproductive, economic, and other rights, of LGBTQI people.

"I had gotten to a point where l said l had endured enough discrimination, l thought of committing suicide. 

"I was prayed for by very popular prophets in Zimbabwe, l used all sorts of anointments to try to change myself but that didn't happen. Being transman is what l am.

"With the help of the media, let us push for the promotion and protection of the  transgender and intersex community," said Mrs Ma.

Another transwoman, Tinashe from Mbare, just like Mrs Ma the ghetto youth grew up playing with Barbie dolls when other boys from his neighbourhood chased after make-shift cars made of wire.

Fast forward in his adolescence, Tinashe gulped rat poison in a bid to kill himself following a battering to his self-esteem for exhibiting feminine qualities.

Narrated Tinashe, "We were at an apostolic sect shrine when my father was asked how many children he had and their sexes. He openly said he had only one son while referring to my brother, and said he wasn't sure of my gender.

"This was so hurtful l packed my bag and headed to my maternal grandmother's rural home. On arrival l gulped a drink which l had laced with rat poison. I just wanted to die."

The above testimonials paint microcosm of a big and grim picture of the myriad challenges faced by the LGBTQI community. 

In a bid to champion the rights of this minority population, Trans Smart Trust director Gumisayi Bhonzo achieved a feat after managing to register an organisation despite the resistance to register such an entity. 

Trans Smart Trust, among other organisations representing LGBTQI people, is lobbying to achieve equal justice and equal opportunities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (queer) Zimbabweans.

This marks the start of a movement to outlaw discriminatory laws and practices against LGBTQI people in the country.

They also seek greater acceptance and support for all persons, including those who are or are perceived to be LGBTQI, to make communities, public transportation, workplaces, schools, and other settings safer, better places for all.

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