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Ending Women's Month: #BreakTheBias with Trans Women 🏳️‍⚧️

As this year's Women's History Month comes to a close (but never an end 😊), I am deep in reflection as I am reminded of the sacrifices women before me have made for women like me with several intersectional identities to afford the privileges we have today.

With intersectionalities, none is created equal especially in this part of the world. Furthermore, there are different identities that affords an individual access and privileges that disenfranchises another.

Today, March 31 2022 is International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day that raises awareness of the discrimination of transgender individuals worldwide.

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community face harassment, stigmatization, ostracization and in extreme cases homophobic/transphobic attacks, jail time and/or death across several African countries.

Apart from the famous "Rainbow Nation" South Africa that has legalized same sex marriage since 2006, no other African country has amended their colonial laws to this extent against LGBTQIA members. As women rights are human rights, so are trans rights - as human beings we all have the right to live, love and express ourselves in a manner that doesn't hurt anyone.

Why am I bringing this up?

I bring this up because trans rights and the view that trans women are women have been divisive forces in the feminist movement which I find very exclusionary and unethical as members of the trans community are also disadvantaged by patriarchy in a way that is very damaging and biology alone doesn't make you a "woman" as womanhood is a social construct.

Last week Thursday, March 24 2022 I had the privilege of going Live on Instagram with Fola Francis. Fola is a trans woman living in Nigeria and is a Content Creator and Fashion Designer.

Fola shared her experiences of coming out as Trans to her family and community last year in 2021 but stated she had always know she was trans. Fola further goes on to share her experiences as a Trans woman living in Nigeria and her fashion brand Fola Francis which designs gender neutral/gender non conforming apparel for wearers.

"Clothing has no gender. As a Trans woman it didn't make sense for me to design gender binary clothing for my clients. I think it's important to express your masculinity and femininity and I believe my clothing does that for whoever wears it. By making our clothing genderless, we are making it more accessible for other trans identities who may not have come to terms yet with their identities but are willing to explore. Clothing is a form of expression"

As a Fashion Facilitator and Content Creator, Fola uses her platform to advocate for Trans rights as well as LGBTQIA+ rights. On her TikTok Fola raises awareness of trans people and shares her journey to her followers.

Fola goes on to share her view on being excluded from some feminist spaces because she is Trans.

"If your feminism doesn't include Trans people it is not Feminist because the movement is about inclusion. You cannot advocate for #BreakTheBias yet you discriminate and are bias against your trans sisters. That is cultism and you are a witch"

I had a chuckle at that last statement but I'm in total agreement. In Nigeria, which has one of the harshest punishments for LGBTQIA+ members with imprisonment being 14 years, Fola shares her message of hope for the future and for other Africans who have not yet come to terms with their identity:

"I don't want to be negative, I don't envision a Nigeria that will be Trans-friendly or create LGBTQIA+ friendly laws, but I do see the awareness raising and the tolerance increasing over time as our generation is very intentional about making this a norm which I hope will encourage others who are in the closet to take their time and come out when they are ready."

To learn more about my conversation with Fola, please check out my Instagram Live, Topic: #BreakTheBias against Trans women in Feminism.

As Women's History Month comes to a close, as an ally or feminist...whatever you identify as, I implore you to do the following:

a) Hold the space: When in spaces of marginalized individuals, whether women, whether in the LGTBQIA+ space, as an ally kindly ensure your voice is not the loudest -- it is not a competition. Hold the space for those who you say you support. Your knowledge and allyship does not equate to their actual lived experiences. Do not invalidate their experiences because yu wan form ah sabi pass ol man (Krio: you want to be a know it all).

b) Lay off the performative activism: You can be an activist yet not be vocal on every single matter. Abeg, sit down. You can't carry the burden of the world on your head. Vocalize what is most dear to you to avoid being performative, you don't always have to voice an opinion about EVERYTHING.

c) Listen, Learn and Love: Listen to the experiences of women, trans people and gender non-conforming individuals and learn from them. And most importantly, love them unconditionally :)

To all the women, Trans women and femme presenting individuals, happy women's month!

Wishing everyone a happy new month tomorrow!

Ergo sum cogito,

Mina Bilkis.


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