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Amanda's Story - Finding her authentic self amidst adversity

Amanda's mother passed away when she was 9. That was the time Amanda started noticing that she was different from other kids. After her mother passed, Amanda was taken in by her aunt and as she grew up, she began to be excluded from family activities, such as holidays and going to church. Her aunt refused to take her to church, telling her she looked 'queer'. She was left in the house with the maid when the family went on holidays, and sometimes the maid left her in the house alone too.

Amanda grew up with a lot of anger inside of her, but she did not cry. She was grateful that at least she had a home - a place to call home - so she did not cry. But deep inside, she was hurt.

Globally, transgender and gender diverse people experience high levels of stigma, discrimination and violence on account of their identity not ‘fitting in’ with traditional concepts of gender, sexuality and morality. This transphobia can manifest within structures and institutions, such as law and policy, as well as social spheres, such as the familial rejection experienced by Amanda (source: UNAIDS). Research by Zimbabwean organisation Trans Smart Trust found that 79% of transgender participants experienced depression and isolation as a result of the stigma and discrimination they experienced; other effects included school drop outs, drug abuse, violent behaviour and suicidal thoughts.

Today, Amanda is a proud transgender woman living as her authentic self, having overcome the challenges of her early life. While stigma and discrimination worldwide continues to render transgender lives, experiences and health invisible, grassroots organisations like Trans Smart Trust are striving to protect and celebrate transgender and gender diverse identities. As individuals we can also protect and celebrate the transgender community by becoming aware of the ways in which stigma and transphobia has been engrained in our society, and challenging them directly. Amanda's inspiring story of resilience and self-acceptance despite adversity shows that real change must start within the individual, from the inside out.

Author: Meadhbh Hayden

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