Africa

Seeking to save the eyesight of battered trans Ugandan

Hush ("Mich") Ainebyona

Hush (“Mich”) Ainebyona

A group of friends, activists and journalists is seeking contributions to help save the eyesight of a Ugandan trans woman whose eyes have been failing since she suffered a transphobic attack two years ago in Kampala, Uganda.

The story of that attack on Hush (also known as Mich or Mish) appeared in this blog in 2012 in the article “For assaulted LGBT, Uganda medical care must be anonymous.” It also appeared in the longer article “A Day In Kampala” by journalist Andy Kopsa and human rights activist Clare Byarugaba.  Last year, it appeared in the book “From Wrongs to Gay Rights.”

Contributed funds will be processed through Health GAP, a US-based 501(c)3 organization.

To read Hush’s story, including her personal background, difficult family life, self-discovery, rape, assault, life on the streets and sex work, see below.

For more information or to donate, visit the “Save Hush’s Vision” page on YouCaring.com.

HUSH’S STORY

Personal Background

Clare and Mich outside the bar where Mich was beaten (Photo courtesy of Andy Kapsa)

Clare Byarugaba and Mich outside the bar where Mich was beaten (Photo courtesy of Andy Kopsa)

My name is Hush aka Mish [or “Mich”]. I was born in 1989 by a Mukiga from Kabale and a Munyarwanda from Ruhengere. I was born in a family of three, two boys and one girl.

My relationship with my siblings was good. I however was closer to my brother than I was to my sister. My relationship with my parents was good. I resembled a girl as I grew up and my mother always referred to me as “daughter.” I was very hard working and always impressed her. My dad, however didn’t like being close to me and would often leave me home while he took my brother away for treats. As I learnt later, it was because I resembled and acted like a girl. My dad was away most of the time because of his occupation which required him to work long distances from home.

The culture of my father is a tough one. The Bakiga [of the Kabale area], as most cultures from Western Uganda, believe deeply in heterosexual relationships and in men acting as men.

My dad always complained about the way I behaved as a boy. The way I moved, talked and presented myself always disturbed my parents.

My brother sometimes would not want to associate with me in public areas. He would move away if I was approaching or even walk away when his friends were around. We were best of friends at home though.

My sister didn’t live with us much but when she was at home we had good relations.

Discovering Myself

During primary education I was made two friends who had similar characteristics. We were referred to as the “maria” group.

We all looked like girls. We would dress up as girls in the dormitory at night and model, we wore make up stolen from home and would entertain everyone, we performed comedy and we were known to be the crazy ones. Primary school was much fun with my peers and not as fun with the grownups… (the teachers). Although, I excelled at school therefore I didn’t have much to worry about.

In secondary school however, everything changed. The first day of school caused commotion as everyone stood outside the class doors’ whispering is that a girl?

A boy came to me and demanded that I undress so that he would make love to me; he wanted to touch me to understand if I was a boy or a girl. A guy once insulted his girlfriend saying he would rather sleep with a hermaphrodite like me as opposed to her.

Teachers always treated me bad. I was never picked to respond to questions although i was eager to participate in class; the headmaster punished me more because I looked like a girl. The only people accepting of me there were a few girls who sympathised with me because they thought I was abnormal. A teacher once banned me from attending his class because he claimed I should look like a boy if I was a boy and he didn’t want to deal with people who looked like me.

During my A-Level, I was moved to 8 different schools in 2 years. No school was accommodating of me because of my girl looks and character. I was moved to my uncle’s house, he repeatedly sexually abused me every night he would come home for work in a drunken state. When I started resisting this treatment of me, he returned me home to my mother’s house claiming I was a badly behaved child. My mother had almost given up on me because of this; although she took me back she was hesitant to continue providing me with an education. I had to steal money from her to pay for my exams. When I passed my exams very well, my mother then agreed to take me to the University.

Life as a Transwoman

Kuchus' Day Out was a time for LGBTIQ community solidarity in Uganda. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Hush helped to celebrate Kuchus’ Day Out in late June — a time for LGBTIQ community solidarity in Uganda. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

My relationship with my mother at this point had deteriorated. She called me ”girl- boy”, she always said she had hopes in only one boy (my brother), and she did everything possible to see that he acquired the best education.

I was later chased from home, my relative took me in, he was married, and the only reason he paid my school fees at the university and let me stay at his home was because he wanted to have an affair with me.

When I moved in with his family, he once forced me to have sex and his wife happened to walk in at that point.

I was disowned by the entire family. A relative once released his dogs to bite me claiming he could not allow the devil in his home.

I had nowhere to go, nowhere to sleep, I approached an organisation I had previously heard about that worked to help people like me but when I got there, I was shunned, neglected and judged.

I went to a friend’s house for refuge, he raped me, I went to church to seek divine intervention, a pastor identified me, took me to his house to take care of me. He started sexually abusing me. He requested that if I was unable to do sexual favours for him, I should take him young boys who would. I had to leave this place for fear of my life if he and I were found out at church.

With church, family, friends, school and community initiative’s failure to make a positive contribution to my life, I then resorted to street life.

At this point I had dropped out of school.

I slept at taxi waiting areas as I tried to find employment in bars.

I later on quickly discovered that men were interested in buying me alcohol to sit and have conversations with them; they would then offer some money for me to spend the night with them.

I was once put at gunpoint by one of these clients who had proposed to me. This person was extremely possessive and couldn’t stand me having friends (I was in a stable relationship with him). After this very frightening experience, I went back to sex work. I believed I was safer on my own. I was thinking of committing suicide, the world had no place for someone like me.

Nothing seemed to matter anymore. It was during this time that I happened to meet another transgender sex worker, I didn’t share much with her but I could feel that we had the same issues. We soon identified a place to stay and shared the rent as we carried out our work.

The landlord somehow got wind of the fact that we were transgender sex workers and we were immediately evicted from her house amidst laughter from our neighbours. This set us back hugely seeing as we had stabilised and had even started a hair salon business that was doing fairly well.

Mich two days after she was beaten, on left, and four days afterward, at right. (Photos courtesy of Andy Kopsa)

Mich two days after she was beaten, on left, and four days afterward, at right. (Photos courtesy of Andy Kopsa)

At this point we sold all we had accumulated and briefly moved back to the village. The situation there was not any better so I returned to do sex work.
One day, while at work I was invited to attend a party by one of my clients. During the party I was brutally assaulted. [See the article “A Day in Kampala.”]

It has been almost two years since the attack on me was made, as a friend of mine helps me write my story, we are using Arial black 36pt font and even then, my face is 1 inch away from the laptop because I find it hard to read what is being written. I have gradually but steadily lost my vision.

Every attempt to receive the help I require leads me into sex work so that I am able to provide documentation, treatment records etc… I require surgery for my eyes to normally function.

The cost for this surgery is very high.

For more information or to donate, visit the “Save Hush’s Vision” page on YouCaring.com.

5 thoughts on “Seeking to save the eyesight of battered trans Ugandan

  1. Reblogged this on Frank McMullan's blog and commented:
    So often, western intervention causes far more problems than it solves for LGBTI Africans. Here’s an opportunity not only to counter that phenomenon but also to assist someone get back more than just her vision in the cruel world she currently finds herself in.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Supporters chip in to save sight of battered trans Ugandan | 76 CRIMES

  3. Pingback: Eyesight saved, battered LGBTI Ugandan thanks supporters | 76 CRIMES

  4. Pingback: Gay men at most risk of sexually transmitted infections | Herpes Survival Kit

  5. Pingback: Outbreak of anti-LGBTI attacks in Uganda | 76 CRIMES

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