Shifting Borderlands and Becoming a Gender Refugee
Key to both transgender and refugee experience is migration. For refugees, migration is considered constitutive of a physical, coerced movement, away from home, traversing borders in an effort to reach safety. As a dominant element within transgender, migration, though originating in work regarding transsexuality, has come to be broadly theorised as a linear, largely metaphorical experience, structured by the ‘homes’ of man/womanhood. A central critique to this framing has been that the predominant subject of this narrative is Anglo-American, white, and middle class. This chapter explores how, when, and under what circumstances transgender-identified individuals from countries in Africa are forced to journey and how they come to seek refuge in South Africa specifically. Drawing on decolonial thought this chapter also considers what forced migration in relation to dominant transgender narratives might reveal about the complexity of transgender in this context. Utilising the notions of ‘shifting’ and ‘discomfort’ as analytics, I suggest that South Africa represents a particular understanding of freedom due to widespread knowledge of its unique constitutional precepts. Emphasising how the state in gender refugees’ countries of origin, which sanctions the possibility of death for transgender people as exemplary subjects, plays a transformative role in the decision to flee.
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