Comparing (In)Justices between Trinidad Chriton and Edwin Chiloba

While diverse queer subjects are recognized and protected in international human rights law, in countries with essentialist binary configurations of gender encoded into the national statutes, non-conforming and non-binary gender identities are neither recognized nor protected. The law in Uganda is exclusionary because it is based upon the acknowledgement of a binary gender taxonomy. Alternative gender identities are erased, invisible, and unwritten in the law. Consequently, legal definitions of personhood, marriage, family, and citizenship are heteropatriarchal and heterosexist.

Against this background, Nyanzi examines what it means to live as a transgender person, specifically as an effeminate man in Uganda. When criminalization of one’s existence within Uganda becomes difficult, thereby forcing one to flee, what does it mean to live as a transgender asylum seeker from Uganda to Kenya? When dehumanization of life as a queer forced migrant ultimately leads to unnecessary death, what does it mean to die as a transgender person in exile? How does justice differ between a dead queer asylum seeker and a dead queer citizen?

Nyanzi compares between publicly available biographies of (in)justices of two East African queer people, namely Trinidad Chriton and Edwin Chiloba. While both were murdered in Kenya, the former was living as an asylum seeker in Kakuma Refugee Camp and the latter was a citizen. Queer injustices are evident in their lives and deaths through pathologization, criminalization, demonization, misconception, alienation from true African culture, misgendering, dead-naming, and public ridicule and condemnation. Amidst widespread dehumanization, the public mourning and grieving of LGBTIQA+ collectives for Trinidad and Edwin challenged universalization of the un-grievability of queer Africans.

Stella Nyanzi is a multiple award-winning knowledge producer who is currently a stipendiatin of the Writers-in-Exile program of PEN Zentrum Deutschland and a fellow of the Center for Ethics and Writing co-organized by Bard College and PEN America. She obtained her PhD from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (2009) based on ethnographic fieldwork research about youth sexualities in The Gambia. She also has a Master of Science degree in Medical Anthropology from University College London (1999) and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Literature from Makerere University (1997). Her current research specialization is in the multidisciplinary subfields of Queer African Studies, African Feminism, Critical Masculinity Studies, Dissidence Studies, and sexual and reproductive health rights. She has many academic peer-reviewed scholarly publications in journals and edited book volumes available here.

She is also a dissident poet with published poetry collections including No Roses From My Mouth: Poems from Prison (2020), Don’t Come in My Mouth: Poems that Rattled Uganda (2021), and Eulogies of My Mouth (2022). Furthermore, she is a social justice activist whose organization, participation, and leadership of activism intersects women’s rights, LGBTIQA+ rights, labour rights, free expression and academic freedom, digital democracy, civil and political rights, among others — specifically in Uganda and Africa more broadly. Moreover, she is an engaged politician belonging to Uganda’s opposition political party called the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). She contested in the 2021 national elections for the position of Woman of Parliament for Kampala District constituency.

In English
Organized by

B Camminga, Ruth Ramsden-Karelse, Natascia Tosel

KV Sella Nyanzi

Image Credit © Claudia Peppel, paper collage, Two in Three, 36,0 x 49,5, 2022 (cropped)