According to Wikipedia, transgender people have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their sex assigned at birth.
Some transgender people who desire medical assistance to transition from one sex to another identify as transsexual. Transgender, often shortened as trans, is also an umbrella term. In Africa, any sexual orientation apart from heterosexuality is frowned upon which is why are people like Jessica Albert have been ostracised and live in perpetual fear.
She sadly shares her story thus:
“I always felt like a woman trapped in a man’s body. As a child, I wanted to wear dresses and play with dolls, but my parents tried to beat this out of me. I experienced a childhood of aggression and violence at the hands of my family, and rejection and loneliness at school with daily insults, and occasional physical assaults. The young woman who presently lives in South Africa where the rights of transgenders are respected shares her story;
My parents sent me to various pastors for exorcisms, believing that I was demon possessed. But nothing changed. They always told me to behave like a man, or they would disown me. They finally did this when I was at university, leaving me destitute and alone.
At the age of 26, I found out that I was living with HIV. I was devastated, but I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because of the extreme stigma I knew I would face. Then, in 2014, I was arrested for being gay, and spent several weeks in prison. I was repeatedly and brutally assaulted by both police and inmates. Finally, a friend paid my bail and I was released – a broken person.
After the passing of increased anti-gay legislation in Nigeria in 2014, I faced 14 years in prison just for being who I was. I had no choice but to leave my home country. I came to South Africa, where I am now free to be who I am, to live and love as I choose.
When I arrived in South Africa I knew no one, I had nowhere to live and I had defaulted on my HIV treatment. Luckily, I found out about the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), and after an interview with their social worker they helped me with paying rent for six months and buying food. It enabled me to find my feet in South Africa and start my life over. JRS also referred me to a health clinic so I could resume my antiretroviral treatment.
I now have a job as a waitress, a loving partner, and the Jesuit Refugee Service’s support group has become my new family.
I still love my family back home – they are my flesh and blood. But Nigeria is such a deeply homophobic society that they will never change and accept me. My advice to LGBT people in Nigeria – get out while you are still in one piece. My advice to South Africans – recognise the persecution that LGBT people suffer in other countries, and give those that come here asylum.
Interview excerpts was culled from frontlinesaids.org