Outside the Binary Africa

Linda Bournane Engelberth

2020 - Ongoing

Outside the Binary Africa

Genderqueer, also known as non-binary, is a catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍—‌identities which are outside the gender binary and cisnormativity. Genderqueer people may express a combination of masculinity and femininity, or neither, in their gender expression.

People with fluid gender identities exist all over the world and have existed as log as the human race has existed. In many of the African countries this is a big taboo, and it is illegal to be queer or to show a diffrent gender expression. This project want to give people this people a voice to speak out to the rest of the world. We exist and we are proud!

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  • Albi, 20 (Posing for a portrait)
    (From one of the many countries in Africa where it is illegal to be queer.)

    Identifies as a gender nonconforming person.

    Uses the pronoun he.

    - I feel like both man and a woman. I started to feel like this 3 years ago, but in Tanzania you have to hide and not show who you are. I wish to have the freedom they have in many other countries where they have rights.

  • Melino, 21 (Posing for a portrait)

    Identifies as Gender Queer.

    - Sometimes I feel like a woman and sometimes I feel like a man. My family has accepted me the way I am, and I feel happy for who I am. In Botswana it is allowed to be queer. I started to feel like this when I was around 7 years old. Sometimes I dress as a little boy, and sometimes as a goddess, like a woman, like a queen. My advice for other people is that you should stay true to yourself, do not let anybody hold you down and take advantage of your sexuality or gender.

  • Omary, 30 (Posing for a portrait)

    Identifies as a gender nonconforming person.

    Uses he as pronoun.

    - I feel like a male, but sometimes also like a woman. I have been feeling like this since I was young. I was more comfortable playing with girls at school, and I had many girls as friends, but no boys. In Tanzania it is very difficult to show what I feel. In my sexual orientation I am bisexual, but this is very difficult here. I dress as a man because of the expectations, and also because I used to be married. To be a Muslim and gender nonconforming is very hard, because if people knew, it would be a big problem for me and also for my family, because it is not allowed. If the Muslim community knew that I feel like this, they could kill me. It is not only about gender; if you have a wife and you are doing sex from behind, it is also a problem, so the rules are very strict for Muslims. In my marriage, I would first hide it, but then she found out from other people. At the end of the day she realized that it was true. She loved me anyway. My wife broke with me in the end, because she did not respect the family. And because I also had a boyfriend at the same time, she was reacting to that.

    I would like to say to the world that to be gender nonconforming, or to be gay, is not a bad thing. Sometimes people are born like that. It is the same thing as if a person is born as an albino. So it is not good to see them as bad people, they also need to have rights.

  • Ismir, 16 (Posing for a portrait)
    (From one of the many countries in Africa where it is illegal to be queer.)

    - Most of the time I feel like a man, but I also feel like my soul is a woman. It is ok to feel like different genders, we are who we are, it is not possible to control it. I started to feel like this when I was 10 years old. I hated myself because I thought I was the only one in the world, and what if my parents found out. When I got older, I met different people whom are more like me, and I started to accept myself. Instead of feeling cursed, I started to feel proud of myself. My cousins started to protect me and help me. Now I feel mostly like both genders.

  • Tevin, 18 (Posing for a portrait)
    Johannesburg, South Africa

    Identifies as gender non-conforming and a non-binary person.

    - For me it means full expression without any limitations, and it allows me to be whoever I want to be, whenever I want to be it. Growing up, I always felt limited when everybody identified me as a boy, because I never felt comfortable identifying as that. When I grew older, and was exposed to a much bigger world, I learned that there are more varied identities. When I discovered the queer community, it was where I felt at home, and that this is who I am, and where I belong. I am generally safe as a black queer person in South Africa. The country is slowly moving in to a more progressive phase, with more visibility, and with more exposure in the mainstream media. The country is slowly being more aware. But I have felt harassed a multiple times, and I will be as long as I use public transport. We also get harassed by taxi drivers, because they do not know what we identify as, and they find us confusing. I have been verbally and physically attacked by strangers on the road, that happens quite often. It is something I have to live with. It is legal in South Africa, but if you report something to the police, you will most likely not been take seriously, they see you as a joke. One thing I would say to the people out there is: Stay true to who you are and be open to teach and educate people. This is the only way countries will progress. In that way we will learn and grow together. Stay strong.

  • Kyladi, 40 (Posing for a portrait)
    (From one of the many countries in Africa where it is illegal to be queer.)

    Identifies as a gender nonconforming person.

    Uses she or he as a pronoun.

    - I sometimes feel like a woman and sometimes as a man, but mostly I like to be a woman. I never put on a women’s dress because it is dangerous. I started to feel like this after puberty, but I never told my family. It is very difficult to live as I do, sometimes people threaten me, and people have told the landlord to throw me out because I destroy the norms and traditions of this country. They want to report me to the police, and there is a lot of stigma in the area where I live. The message I want to send to others that lives in difficult situations is that it is not acceptable to be harassed. I have a few people in my life, but I am not really happy. I am a person living with HIV, and in Tanzania many of us are dying because of the stigma. We are living difficult lives, and many of us end up as drug addicts to relieve the stress. We do get HIV medicine, but the stigma and the harassment get even more severe. So to be a queer person with HIV in Tanzania is very, very difficult.