Transgender in Lesotho

Three transgender women speak on how the stigma and discrimination they face has escalated, and why they suffer more than other members of the LGBT+ community.

Although public attitudes have been slowly changing on issues around LGBT+ persons in Lesotho, the same can’t be said for transgender persons. Identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual poses a threat to the individuals who do so. And transwomen face even more prejudice – more than transgender men for instance. GLAAD finds that the victims of transgender violence are “overwhelmingly transgender women of colour”, who are marginalised economically and socially and who “live at the dangerous intersection of transphobia, racism, and sexism”. Transwomen live under constant threat of horrifying violence and abuse. And often what brings these trans communities together are the sad stories and experiences of what they’ve been through because of who they are.

Discrimination manifests in different ways and is at times levelled by the same community transgender people are presumed to belong to – the LGBT+ community. Many trans people often speak to feeling unwanted and out of place. Many still are accused of being attentions seekers. This is the result of the negative ways in which society views trans people. The Huffington Post argues that by being included in the LGBT+ acronym, trans people are considered to be an obscure and misunderstood subcategory within the broader, and more understood, gay community, and that trans people need to be recognised as their own group.

Bathu Leoma*, a transwoman from Masuoe, Maseru, has always been and felt feminine. She admits that hers is not an easy life. She says: People hate you just because they think you are looking for attention. However, she also said that her family and friends have been extremely supportive throughout her journey. She is particularly grateful for her father who has always known and accepted her.

“He was always protecting me from my childhood and accepted me as his daughter,” she says. “When you’re a transwoman, you ready yourself for war every day.” Just walking on the street poses a threat to transwomen who are often harassed and called names. “Sometimes it leads to violence”, she explains. Many men want to engage with them sexually, as a fantasy, although they do not want to be seen in public.

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