I choose to speak up

Despite a raging debate on the place of transgender people in today’s society, transgender people have been conspicuously absent. This denies societies access to facts and a chance to engage transgender persons as human beings; and not as proxies for political establishments in today’s war between the right and left. I make this bold statement knowing numerous readers out there who will respond with “I have seen numerous trans girls in TikTok doing social activism…blah blah”. I have a lot of respect for these Tiktokers but I don’t think the content of these kids is important in addressing the real challenges of transgender people.

This article is relevant to transgender people and experiences. My definition of transgender people are individuals who are undergoing or who have undergone sex change. The article does not apply to trans, gender non-binary and gay people.

It is common knowledge that sections of conservatives and liberals continues to use transgender people as pawns in their political wars. Be it on the issue of transgender people in sports and transgender women/girls in female-designated bathrooms. The problem is not that we have these debates. They are crucial for evolution of culture and ideas and these are in the DNA of civilization. The problem is that that there is misrepresentation of facts and transgender realities in these political wars and true transgender have been largely mute with the exception of a few across the globe.

Despite years of economic decline, the United States of America (U.S.) is still the most powerful nation on earth. The U.S. still dominates other nations the realms of cultural, political and scientific progressiveness. However, the raging transgender debate in the U.S. is having a deleterious impact both on the transgender community in the U.S. and in the other parts of the country. Nothing is as disappointing as seeing liberal and conservative pundits on print and digital media arguing about a topic they have little knowledge of. Be it Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham on Fox News whining about “why are transgender people controlling everything..” to the left-leaning media (CNN, MSNBC, WaPo, NYT etc) that like to describe transgender women as “Chelsea who was born male but now identifies as a woman….” Why won’t these institutions give transgender people platforms to steer the debate. The answer is cisgender people at the heart of liberalism and conservatism only prefer creating visibility of transgender people who agree with them. They like transgender people who will gladly get along with them even when they are clearly encouraging them to drive off a cliff.

The conservative side ain’t better. They will only offer transgender conservative voices like Blaire White and Caitlyn Jenner airwaves whey they need transgender voices opposing inclusion of transgender women in female sports. They will never offer these conservative transgender women airwaves to condemn killings of transgender women in the streets of Baltimore or other injustices committed against transgender women.

Transgender people need to speak up using a common-sense approach. It should no longer be about aligning our thoughts with liberalism or conservative ideologies. It starts by accepting we are transgender and no amount of “blending or passing” is going to make us cisgender. I know we are not just transgender; we are multi-faceted. But we know there are a lot of problems in our transgender communities that need to be addressed. We are not going to addressing these challenges by hiding who we are. We need to speak up by actions and mouth. We need to speak up by working hard in school, careers and business. We also need to speak up in social spaces when we see oppression. We all know some cisgender people make mistakes when dealing with transgender people. But sometimes it is because they lack empowerment. Speaking up and engaging them constructively makes them better and prevents more mistakes in the future.

Speaking up also empowers all transgender people since most face precipitous changes in their lives during their transition. Speaking up and increasing transgender visibility creates opportunities for transgender people to access transition resources and support systems which are very important.

Some will say speaking up is dangerous. Especially in Africa where it is common for transgender people to be attacked and stripped in streets and even getting imprisoned. These dangers exist. I have gone through these things but I am still alive. Others have gone through the same thing. But we need to remember two things. One, almost all important initiatives have dangers to them. Even those that non-transgender people undertake like going to space, flying an aircraft, going to war etc. But they face their fears like men. Two, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Dangers should make us better fighters and survivors. If we survive, we will live with the scars and victories. Kenya is not where it was in the year 2010. The people who were on the frontlines were scared by the wars for legal recognition of transgender people. But, a lot of progress came with it. Transgender people can change their names in their legal documents and gender marks for those who have had sex reassignment surgery. We can access hormones (estrogen and testosterone shots) which was unheard of before 2008. These happened as a result of a few choosing to speak up. We cannot all be like Martin Luther, Mighty Mouth Muhammad Ali and Munroe Bergdorf. We just have to say what needs to be said; by action and by mouth.

Audrey Mbugua

Disclaimer: My thoughts are my own and do not express the views of any institution.

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