A little while ago I was confronted with an event that positively challenged some of the ignorance that I have around the plight of transgender individuals. For most of my life I have campaigned on issues of faith, race and sexuality and have written on such issues such as Muslims and LGBT communities working together. Yet, recently, I had to re-appraise my own understanding about the pain happiness, stress and loneliness that some people in our communities and societies go through simply because they want to live their lives as another gender.
I have also written before about the fact that my childhood in Africa and the brutal way in which people considered to be ‘the other,’ were treated. Gay men and women, albinos, people with disabilities and mental health problems were heavily stigmatised and in some circumstances, were killed. These experiences changed me heavily and led me to empathise and feel with people who were unique in their own way and life also taught me that ‘normality’ does not take away from the uniqueness and the beauty that we all have within us. Indeed, I have always connected strongly with those who were different, some of this party shaped by me being racially and religiously different to the dominant population in both Africa and the UK. Part of this has also been shaped by my personal experiences and when at times of despair, it has been the hand of ‘the other’ who has given me comfort, hope and the strength to stand on my own two feet.
What I saw briefly in the transgender transformation of my friend was a human spirit yearning to break free from the shackles of what life had put around her. This human butterfly desperately tried to break away from the cuckoon around her and from the identity that did not reflect her. What I experienced was nothing compared to the long and tortuous procedure that I saw this friend go through. Interviews, getting used to slow physical changes, a change of name, things that many of us cannot consider were changes that this young man had to go through to be who she was. For in that journey, not only did my admiration for this young woman grow, my admiration for the human spirit grew.
You see, we take the human spirit so much for granted, yet whether you believe in God or not, the greatest gift of life is the human spirit to change, to grow, to survive and through all adversity, to want to go on. So, next time you see someone from the transgender community, spare a thought about all that they have gone through. Remember their journey and their desire to be who they want to be that has led them to this point. As you do so, you cannot help but smile since it should inspire your own spirit.