Today is International Trans Day of Visibility. As trans people, we can feel lost and lonely at times especially if we don’t know other people who are like us. In our community, we rely heavily on visibility. Positive representation allows other trans people to feel seen and validated. Visibility allows communities to thrive and people with similar lived experiences to connect. Allies can learn more about how they can support the community. Today is the day when the world comes together to celebrate trans people while also raising awareness about the discrimination and stigma that our community faces.
Stigma, discrimination, and violence against trans people in East Africa are extremely high. On a global scale, the situation is dire, particularly in Africa, where there has been a backlash against efforts to improve the rights of sexual and gender minorities in recent years. The extent of criminalization, marginalization, and discrimination extends beyond legislation but also to moral policing, restrictions on bodily autonomy, and abuse of basic human rights.
In East Africa, governments are particularly hostile to transgender people, with most heads of state unwilling to engage in constructive dialogue on issues concerning the diversity of their populations, let alone discuss the human rights situation of the queer community. Despite this, trans-led organizations have made significant efforts to bring to light issues concerning the well-being and welfare of gender minorities in the region.
Discrimination and stigma against trans people do not happen in a vacuum. It all starts with attempts to erase the existence of trans people and prevent them from participating in society. Then there are efforts to pass anti-trans legislation, like that seen in Uganda. Uganda’s Parliament recently passed one of the world’s most draconian anti-LGBTQ laws. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 calls for harsh penalties against Uganda’s trans and queer communities, which are already facing increased stigma, discrimination, and violence.
On this trans day of visibility, we stand in solidarity with trans people in Uganda. We are deeply concerned that this bill violates human dignity by encouraging mistreatment, violence, and discrimination against a section of Ugandan citizens whose victimless crime is being queer and trans. If this bill becomes law, it will result in even more human rights violations against sexual and gender minorities in a country where homophobia already persists. We continue calling upon President Yoweri Museveni not to promulgate it into law.
We remain committed to supporting Ugandan trans activists in their fight for gender equality, freedom, equality, dignity, and respect. We recognize their boldness and resilience. Ugandan trans people are an important part of Ugandan society. They deserve the right to live an authentic life free from discrimination, regardless of their identities.