Attending the Creating Change Conference 2017 was a revelation, an educational trip, and a reflection of what life could be if masses came together for a common cause despite their differences. I am a young transwomxn from Zimbabwe, a country where there are no protective laws for the LGBTQ+ community and a place where such a gathering could easily be interrupted with violence by members of the community or law enforcement agents.
It was such an honour to have been awarded an opportunity to experience a powerful platform were activists and organisations come together to exhibit their work, share information, exchange ideas and stand in solidarity with each other’s causes.
Trans United Board Meeting
I got an opportunity to attend the Trans United Boarding meeting, where they were discussing the dynamics that come with working as a collective across different states. There was a discussion about strategies, how to manage the different strong personalities, how to focus on set goals that will benefit the whole collective, and how to coordinate everyone's effort to support the broader vision.
As a young person who is passionate about the engagement and advancement of LGBTQ youths, I believe it is important to have young people at the same table as the decision makers. This allows us to think beyond participation in programs and activities but also to have an idea of what it looks like to come up with an idea from the start, the work that goes into it to make it materialize, including implementation and engagement, and connecting that to the final product that is the program.
Intersectionality Trans: Building a Truly Inclusive Trans/GNC Movement
I was invited to be on a panel during this session, to talk about the struggles, challenges and way forward for LGBTQ+ Immigrants. Many times when immigration sessions are presented for discussion it is mostly people of a Latino experience who come forward and are open to sharing their experiences. It was such an eye opener for many people to hear an African perspective on what it means to be LGBTQ in Africa and how African Immigrants struggle to settle in once they get to the United States of America.
I also learnt how many people do not understand the asylum process as many people think it is glamourous status that one can just come to America and claim. There is much awareness that needs to be raised about issues of asylum seekers and the asylum process.
Media, Religion and Hope for LGBTQI people in Africa
This session focused on documentaries made in African countries, documenting how religion affects the African LGBTQ+ community and how individuals have managed to claim their own spaces to keep their faith within oppressive religious spaces.
Within the structure of the Creating Change Conference, there was no specific space allocated for African Immigrants.
During the Media, Religion and Hope for LGBTQ people in Africa session, we realised all the African attendees in the session had come with hope of finding other Africans to connect with and share a communal space. We decided to have our own caucus meeting after the session and we came up with a coalition group, as all of us are residing in different states and doing different work, where we can easily link up with each other and create a national network of African Immigrants working to advance each other's causes.
The group is scheduled to start by doing conference calls twice a month starting efforts to set up a common direction of what the group is going to focus on and then how to mobilise resources in support of that cause.
The LGBTQ Activist Immigration Experience
One of the African brothers from Nigeria was on a panel talking about his experience living as an Activist in one of the most dangerous countries to be LGBTQ in Africa, information on seeking asylum, and how to survive under the new President Trump Administration.
The newly formed African Caucus attended the session to show support. It really illustrated that we all need somewhere to belong and once we find it the possibilities are endless.
The opportunity to attend the Creating Change Conference brought experiences I could have never dreamt of and will forever cherish. It made me reflect on my past experiences and what I would love to see happen for my fellow LGBTQ+ community back in Zimbabwe.
Taking part in the Women's March at the conclusion of the conference was an exciting and emotional experience as I found myself crying half the way of the march. Seeing hundreds if not thousands of LGBTQ people and allies walking together, singing and chanting in solidarity brought back memories of how in Zimbabwe it is impossible to have 5 LGBTQ people in the same place without worrying about getting arrested or beaten to death.
However, this also ignited my passion for justice for to work with my new LGBTQ community here in the US while at the same time not forgetting the struggles my community back in Zimbabwe are still facing.
THANK YOU SMYAL !!!!!!!