Unheardvoices.africa | Questions

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There are millions of other people out there who are going through or have gone through the same journey as you. Read through our stories of hope to find out how others have overcome hate and injustice to find connection and compassion.

You can also look at the questions and answers below to learn more.

What does lesbian mean?

A term used to describe women identified persons who are attracted emotionally, spiritually, romantically, and erotically towards other women identified persons.

What does gay mean?

This is a term used to describe men identified persons who are attracted emotionally, spiritually, romantically, and erotically towards other men identified persons.

What does bisexual mean?

This is a term used to describe men or women identified persons who are attracted emotionally, spiritually, romantically, and erotically towards both men or women identified persons. This is not always indiscriminate, and depends on the mood the person is in, the circumstances, etc. Pansexual on the other hand is someone who is attracted emotionally, spiritually, romantically, and erotically towards both men or women identified persons indiscriminately.

What does transgender mean?

A transgender person has a gender identity that is different from his or her sex at birth. Transgender people may be male to female (female appearance) or female to male (male appearance). It is preferable to describe them as ‘he’ or ‘she’ according to their gender identity, i.e. the gender that they are presenting, not their sex at birth.

What is a trans man and trans woman?

Transgender man is a term used to describe someone who is assigned female at birth but identifies and lives as a man. Transgender woman is a term used to describe someone who is assigned male at birth but identifies and lives as a woman.

What is a cross dresser?

A person who sometimes wears clothes usually associated with the opposite sex, as a form of self-expression or art. This can be a heterosexual (not gay) man who sometimes wears women’s clothes, make-up, jewellery, etc.

What does LGBT mean?

LGBT is an acronym used to refer to persons who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.

What does intersex mean?

Intersex is a term used to describe a person who may have the biological attributes of both sexes or whose biological attributes do not fit with what society classes as male or female. Intersex people may identify as male, female or non-binary. Non-binary is a term for a person who does not identify as only male or only female, or who may identify as both.

What is gender?

Gender is often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity. Gender is largely culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth. We need to be aware that what we think it is to be a man or woman is often based on what society thinks is appropriate rather than biological. It is important that we expose the ideas about what it is to be a man or woman that hold either sex back from being themselves or fulfilling their potential. What we think it is to be a man or woman isn’t fixed. It changes over time and across different societies.

What is sex work?

Sex work is the exchange of sexual services for money or goods. Sex workers are women, men and transgender people who receive money or goods in exchange for sexual services, and who actively recognise those activities as income generating (even if they wouldn’t consider it their job). One of the small things you could do to help reduce discrimination is to use the word ‘sex worker’ rather than ‘prostitute’ or other discriminatory terms. This is because it acknowledges that sex work is work – and everyone needs to earn a living and provide for themselves and/or their families.

Why do people become sex workers?

Sex work is work. And everyone is looking for a way to provide for themselves and their families. Some people choose sex work. There may be a number of reasons why they may choose this. For some people it may be the best option they have. Perhaps there are not many job opportunities available. Or perhaps they need to earn money in a flexible way because they are trying to look after their family or study. One of the things that sex workers will often tell you is that they find the job empowering. It can help many people gain financial independence and take control of their own lives. In many of our countries there are laws that make sex work a crime, which can allow sex workers to be exploited or victimized. This is why many sex workers are campaigning for it to be decriminalized. The truth is that sex work is a trade that has always existed and is unlikely to go away. Therefore, it is important that the laws make it as safe to be a sex worker as possible.

What is SOGIE?

SOGIE is the acronym for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression. Sexual orientation refers to a person’s physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction towards other people. Everyone has a sexual orientation, which is part of their identity. Gender Identity is a person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or gender non-conforming, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth. Gender Expression is how a person chooses to outwardly express their gender. A person who does not confirm to societal expectations of gender may not, however, identify as trans.

Are people born gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender?

There is no one answer. Some people know very early on that they are attracted to people of the same sex or that the sex they were assigned at birth doesn’t reflect their true gender identity. However, other people discover this later in life. What matters is that we give people the freedom to be true to themselves.

Is being gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender a new thing?

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and related identities have been present in various forms throughout our history. In all cultures, there are accounts of people who are attracted to people of the same sex or who have gender identities that don’t conform to rigid views of what it is to be a man or woman.

Is being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender a Western thing?

The first recorded same-sex couple in history were African and date back to 24th century BCE, through Ancient Egyptian tomb drawings showing royal servants Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep. In fact, many laws outlawing homosexuality in Africa were actually established by Western powers during colonisation. In 2015, Mozambique swept away all old Portuguese colonial laws and introduced new national penal codes which decriminalised being gay.

How can I show support for someone who I know
or think might be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?

There are some really simple ways that you can show your support.

  • Use the right words: Don’t use derogatory language to refer to someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
  • Listen: The best way we understand people who are different to us is listen. Listening can help us understand our differences but also remind us of all the things we have in common.
  • Let them know you like them as they are: We had a lovely story of a neighbour who told a trans man that he should just be who he wanted to be. Those few words meant so much to him. You can show your support by making it clear that you like, love or respect them for who they are and will support them to be true to themselves.
  • Share your story: If you have come to understand a person who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender better then share your story with your friends and family. The more we can encourage people to be open-minded the more likely we are to defeat discrimination.
  • Don’t participate or encourage bad situations: If you are in a group and someone is saying unkind things about people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender then do not get involved. If you feel safe to do so, say that you don’t like how they are talking and ask them to stop or share your story of what you don’t agree with.

How can I show support for someone who is a sex worker?

There are some really simple ways that you can show your support.

  • Use the right words: Use the term sex worker and no other discriminatory term to describe the job.
  • Share your story: If you have come to understand a person who is a sex worker better, then share your story with your friends and family. The more we can encourage people to be open-minded the more likely we are to defeat discrimination.
  • Encourage Fairness: If you have know someone who is a sex worker, showing that you understand sex work is still work and that their job is only one part of many things that make them who they are, can mean a lot. Being non- judgmental and letting them know that you love or respect them is powerful.
  • Don’t participate or encourage bad situations: If you are in a group and someone is saying unkind things about people who are sex workers then do not get involved. If you feel safe to do so, say that you don’t like how they are talking and ask them to stop or share your story of what you don’t agree with.

What do people who are lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender
or sex workers want to see changed?

  • To be accepted as they are, as humans, and have the chance to live like everyone else in the community, without violence, discrimination and stigma.
  • To engage in a community where they are treated with the same respect and courtesy as any other citizen.
  • When looking for protection from the region’s police forces and for health advice and access to public services, that there is no judgement.
  • To have full bodily autonomy, meaning that every individual can decide what happens to their own body, when it happens, and at all times. They are striving for a world where every law, social or economic practice designed to keep any segment of the population down is removed.