by Max Fuchs, 03/09/2021
After I have already interviewed Mama Africa from Rights not Rescue Trust and Deyoncé from the Transgender, Intersex and Androgynous Movement of Namibia, I met with Princess from Wings to Transcend Namibia at WTTN’s office on Friday, 13th August 2021.
Content Note: The article includes topics such as trans hostility in public services. Continue reading if you feel ready and safe. Consider asking a friend to read together if you feel uncomfortable reading alone.
About Princess and WTTN
The trans activist Princess has been the executive director of the 2015 started and 2018 officially registered trans rights NGO since 2020. Before she has been the programme’s assistance and thus has been part of the organization from the beginning. “I cannot live without it anymore”, she comments her commitment.
“I am a transgender woman. Loud, proud and great in expression. I don’t hide, I don’t shy from anything that comes my way. I always try to strive. If I do something wrong I will try to correct it but I see all opportunities as a way of success.”
WTTN was founded by Jholerina Timbo who sits in the NGO’s board as the senior strategic advisor nowadays. When Jholerina started WTTN and her activism as the represantation of transgender people, the community began to refer to her as “Mama Trans” as they still do.
The NGO focused specifically on transgender persons identified as trans male or trans female but “now we have decided to welcome our gender diverse persons like gender non-confirming since they also do fall under the transgender umbrella.”
Working on trans health, trans rights and the abolishing of trans hostility within the society of Namibia, WTTN is active and provides advocacy in ten cities all over the different regions.
“You don’t just need to be a leader but also a mother and role model”
Asking Princess about her daily activism she answers that “it looks very busy”. It would not be about leading only but also about being a mother and role model for the community.
“It is hard to adopt to this great person that was called Mama Trans. Now you need to become the ‘Mama Trans Junior’ but you don’t want to sit on the junior spot forever. You want to be called ‘Mama Trans – the bigger one’”, she admits laughing.
The activism would always be about planning and knowing what you want to achieve and being able to express these goals.
Corona would not have changed the activism of WTTN major but talking about how the work of the NGO and trans people’s lives in the country were affected by the pandemic Princess tells me that it would not be possible to spread the wings and fly like it has been before but the work has to calm down. She explains that all the donors would focus on Corona now which complicates the funding. A challenge which I already heard from Deyoncé from TIAMON before.
Additionally, the stigma and discrimination when entering health facilities would have not changed at any time. Therefore, trans people prevent going to health facilities also during the pandemic. Princess’ partner was tested positive for Covid-19 so it can be assumed that she was infected herself as well. However, Princess never went for testing to a clinic but preferred just to stay at home in quarantine on her own behalf. Going to a health facility would mean to need to show her ID and getting asked question like: “Is that you? Is that really you?” The more trans people would confirm “Yes, it’s me” in those situations the more the staff would be like “Nah, but it doesn’t look like you.”
“All those questions you don’t want to go through. You just want a health facility where you just come and get your treatment.”
Since trans people are not able to change their gender marker in their IDs many get anxious and just let it go. Princess wishes that people look at her appearance and not in her documents.
Another struggle since Corona has been the rise of unemployment. Many transgender people would work in hospitality and tourism, two sectors closed down and highly affected by the pandemic. Otherwise going to the ministry and asking for a job would mean to face the challenges of people’s reactions to transgender appearance and documents again.
Talking about the legal status of trans people in Namibia Princess explains that trans persons are usually seen under the “sodomy law”. They are women but the state recognizes them as (gay) men.
Together with their sister organization TIAMON (for more information about this NGO check out the last article) WTTN was able to find a doctor who is helping trans women to get on treatment for hormone replacement therapy currently. You could get the hormone pills in Namibia but since the injections were faster everyone wants the injections to see their body changing quicker.
Wishes for a change
“Oh my god, that’s a lot”, Princess reacts to my question what she wishes to change as improvements for trans people in Namibia.
“I want to see my trans brothers and sisters to have a life where they can access services without discrimination and stigma.”
No violence is an important point according to the trans rights activist but also that people treat trans people as any other guy or women. She wishes not be starred at if she enters a bar and demands access to the right toilets.
“I make places friendly for myself”
Although the stigma and discrimination trans people face in the country there are queer and trans friendly places as well. Princess mentions the former Warehouse, nowadays The Brewer’s Market where queer people used to hang out. If the place is still as queer-friendly as it has been before the owner and name changed she cannot estimate. Other places are a bar in Wanaheda, a borough of Windhoek, which was opened by the founder of WTTN Jholerina Timbo. Otherwise Princess would just make places friendly for herself. Her favourite restaurants where people would not mind are the O’Portuga restaurant where she also worked before as a waitress as well as the Kubata restaurant.
If you got something to tell about how Corona has affected queer life and activism in Namibia hit me up!