Observatory: We need to protect trans people

Thandizo Kawerama

A disgusting video of a member of the Gobabis trans community being assaulted has recently surfaced online. The conversation surrounding the incident highlights how we as a society refuse to protect the rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community, and continue to gas light them on the discrimination they face in our society.

Contrary to popular belief, trans people are human beings. They live a human experience just like the people outside of their community. If someone outside of the community has a problem with a trans person they should look to resolve their differences instead of attacking them verbally, socially or physically.

To insult someone based on their identity is abuse; it is a human rights violation. Racism is the same human rights violation. If a white man calls a black person a baboon or beats them up on an accusation of theft or silently refuses to rent property to anyone not white, everyone is correctly up in arms. But, when a trans citizen is beaten up, society looks away and is embarrassed.

Very often we see that during an altercation between a member of the trans community and people outside of their community, the trans person is subjected to a higher level of punishment than normal. This punishment is often accompanied with insults and extreme violence. When the trans community expresses grievance over the situation, our society gaslights them by pretending that the extreme measures have nothing to do with their identity. Society as a whole is living in denial about the rights of trans people as human beings.

This type of discrimination against trans people is gender based violence and our society has to start acknowledging this. Trans people have to create their own platforms and rely on their few allies to speak up on their behalf. This is unfair. They have the same constitutional protections as anyone else.

Jholerina Timbo from the work, Wings to Transcend, previously stated, the very same people who are meant to protect all the people of Namibia, do not protect trans people. They have the same rights as everyone in this country, including the right to freedom of expression. It is so disheartening to see that members of the police often become perpetrators of the discrimination they are supposed to protect trans people from.

Problems that are faced by members of the LGBTQI+ community are ignored by our society. This must stop. It adds to the denigration of the devastating and life-threatening violence the community faces. If there are weak laws explicitly meant to protect trans citizens then, our society can continue to pretend we have no issues with the community. People content themselves by lying internally and believing that trans discrimination is all in their heads. We do not have a culture that respects and acknowledges LGBTQI+ people. This contributes to the violence incited against them, and our society has become complacent with the erasure of their individual experiences. Families must be open with their children, uncles, fathers, mothers and loved ones that are trans. Communities must defend each person who is a victim of violence, regardless of that person’s individual beliefs, identification, religion, political position, tribe or background.

This is the same thing that is happening with the video being circulated online. A very messy dialogue of what it means to be trans in our country has started, and we now have people speaking over trans individuals when they should be given the right to control the narrative of the trans experience. We as outsiders cannot gas light an entire community that is all too familiar with experiencing violence based on their identities.

Our society needs to stop hiding behind being ‘God-fearing’ when questioned about the various forms of discrimination against trans people. It is just another form of violence. We need to stop being complacent and take another cue from our favourite Holy Book: “love your neighbour as you love yourself.”

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