Everyone expected it, but we were all still genuinely surprised when it happened. For nearly a year, Idris ‘Bobrisky’ Okuneye, Nigeria’s most prominent transwoman, had teased preparations for her 28th birthday party. Born into a comfortable middle class, and having been interrogated persistently for her decision to lighten her skin and her somewhat dodgy public person, Bobrisky’s choice to partially transition while offering a near constant stream of videos, photos and text documenting her brave but often problematic life as a transwoman. She allegedly made a few poorly thought-out threats (including one to a deputy commissioner of police) that no one could disrupt her birthday party.
The party was eventually ruined when nearly members of police (some reports say 50, others say 100), showed up the venue of her birthday party, disrupted events and tried to arrest Bobrisky. His attempted arrest would trigger a long list of people with direct and indirect displeasure to offer their opinions and others join her cause. However, loudest among Bobrisky’s detractors that day were older women who, mostly religious and from homes where women’s rights are fought for and held in high regard. Women who would usually encourage other to join the fight for human rights. Those rights according to feminists of this nature does not extend to transwomen and people who do not fall into the gender binary.
Terfs (short for trans exclusionary radical feminists) are a group of women who identify as feminists yet believe that physical biology is the only metric that defines gender expression. Terfs are fine with transwomen suffering violence and sometimes inflict the violence themselves. They refuse to empathize with the experiences of others yet expect empathy for their own causes. The events around Bobrisky’s birthday provided an opportunity for these women to misgender her, attack her personal choices and try to dismiss her radical presence because she, like them, are often problematic. The problem with Terfs is that in their bid to exclude some people, they endorse discrimination. Their actions lend credence to the belief that women are divided and only sabotage each other.
This is why the fight for rights, must evolve beyond individuals and focus on changing legislation to protect the rights of all citizens. That’s the only way we will truly progress.