Celebrating Mothers Day as a black African transgender woman

Photographer: Amun-Re

Resilience. Humanity. Unconditional love.

That is what comes to mind when I think of Mothers day as a black African transgender woman. The celebration of a life giving force.

As a child in a typical African traditional set-up, we were literally raised by the village; nurturing of children was a collective community effort. All the mothers in the community were revered and feared as much as my own mother, they raised children not only for themselves but for the community . The village was responsible for instilling morals in the children as well as ensuring that the values of the community were not lost. Of course, the role of nurturing largely fell on the women since they were the homemakers; the men as providers were always out ensuring that there was food, shelter and security for the family while women multitasked and shared these roles as well.

All children were instinctively closer to their mothers up until the point where societal gender assigned roles took lead; the boys followed their fathers and the girls stayed close to their mothers. It is also at this point, of adolescence, that as a transgender woman, I started to understand and appreciate who I truly am. It is no secret that transgender women carry the same instincts and foundations as their mothers; the relationship is always stronger because we are all women. It is also at this point, unfortunately, that the injustice and harshness of the world really unveils its ugly head.

 

Caught between a rock and a hard place

My mother and I were very close; her love for me was never in question much. To say that mothers of transgender women suffer is an understatement. From the abuse they suffer from their husbands for having an “abnormal” or “evil” child who is blamed to be a product of adultery, to the judgement and shunning of community members, especially their fellow women. This goes as far as to religious sanctuaries which should stand as a pillar of unity and a place of solace; a lot of mothers to transgender children are shunned and stripped of any leadership roles they hold. They often find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place; to go with the society that they know or to hold onto the love for their children and protect them.

Unfortunately, most of our mothers are not empowered with resources, support or the information to stand up and fight for us. So as much as they love and fear for us, they are forced to stay behind and remain silent as we are flung far into the world of injustice. My own mother said to me:

I love you, but you are bringing shame to this family.

She often wondered what she would tell her fellow women in her church group: Mothers Union. She often wondered how she would face the church and the world at large. She was afraid that my father would kill her. With the insults she suffered at the hands of the community, she developed deep mental health issues.

A generation raised in diversity, equality, justice and love

The biggest irony though is how the church that preaches love, forgiveness and all-inclusive living is the same place that breeds hatred and discrimination against transgender women and anyone who identifies as homosexual. All these scriptures are wielded like machetes and used to slice right at the centre of a young heart that is only growing into its true self. So by the time a black African transgender woman grows full well into her womanhood, she truly appreciates the role of motherhood. From the love that we have for our mothers as well as the love they have for us, we appreciate and celebrate Mothers Day albeit with some grief.

Many transgender women long to have children and families providing a fresh generation that will be raised in diversity, equality, justice and pure unbridled love. They long to raise children that they will stand up for and teach all the things that they missed out on. I would love to raise a new generation of no phobia starting with my own offspring if I am blessed with them.

However, on the flip side; many transgender women have been so traumatized that the thought of bringing children into a world similar to the one they grew up in is unbearable. They feel that it would be unfair to bring a child into a world that is not accepting or tolerant. Many of them have not found answers to their lifelong questions of who they are and why they are a certain way; so how can they answer these questions once they have children to raise. How will they protect their children from bullies that roam the world?

We stand strong and applaud all the mothers in the world with transgender children who have not given up. We celebrate African mothers that have been abused, attacked, beaten and ostracized because of having transgender children. We stand with all transgender women who have been brave enough to have children and continue to fight against society and teach humanity and love above all else.

Mothers day highlights the uniqueness that I strongly identify with but most importantly, it speaks to the role of nurturing, love, security and the very core of humanity; motherhood. A role many of us revere as well as aspire to hold and execute one day.