Often, in many contexts, the granting of rights to us, people who are non-conforming in our sexual orientation and gender identity and expression is seen to come at the expense of other hard won rights and freedoms.
Sometimes this is structured as the ease of visa restrictions for LGBTIQA people where women in abusive relationships and encountering violence with no justice and recourse are not given the same consideration.
Sometimes it’s extra safety and security given to LGBTIQA persons in refugee camps where young women continue to have their genitalia mutilated without State or international intervention. Or our cries for their justice and dignity.
Sometimes it’s POTUS [President of the US] insisting that SOGIE or LGBTIQA issues are put on the table for discussion while the continued militarization of Africa goes unaddressed, and political as well as socio-economic unrest births all kinds of fundamentalisms that we gloss over.
To an extent, real or limited or extended, our oppression has privileged us and this moment is a powerful opportunity to show that we stand with all other movements, people, organisations and sacrifices that have led to the recognition of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression in local and international human rights and advocacy spaces. If we don’t recognise the sacrifice that has gone into ensuring that the struggles of queer and people non-conforming to heterosexuality are pushed to the fore, we are in danger of allowing our privilege to oppress others.
The women’s rights organisations that agreed to be fiscal hosts of our donor money when our governments would not register us. The people, thousands and hundreds that attend our pride marches, allies, fierce social justice warriors who defend us. The many non-LGBTIQA people and organisations that put their own well being at risk because they saw that our oppression was unjust and believed that an injustice to one is an injustice to all. The non-lesbians and gays that love us and protect us. The non-trans humans that defend our trans-bodies and experiences and lives. The none-queer people that stand with and for us. They too are oppressed in similar ways as we are, we cannot and should not create a hierarchy of oppression that presents our struggles as superior to those of people outside our ‘thematic area’.
We are asking to be seen as people, as a movement, as a collection of movements, that care about other movements, as people who are invested in the the well being of all people. Not a thematic area. We recognize the links, the curves and bends of oppression and privilege and where they are located.We see the need for collective work to push for change. We also see and are critical of power and where it lies.
And we know that the only way to guarantee our own safety, our own freedom, our own right to life and dignity and justice, is to ensure that we ALL can live better, autonomous lives.
-Sheena Gimase Magenya
(The views above are shared on an individual capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or the position of the Coalition of African Lesbians)