Nigerian trans/intersex activist Emmanuella David-Ette, also known as Mystique Evolving, has been listed as one of Africa’s 100 most inspiring women of 2022 by Leading Ladies Africa, a women-led Nigerian non-profit organization.
By Mike Daemon
Leading Ladies Africa describes the list of women as a “chronicle of pathfinders, trailblazers and captains of industry who have chorused a defiant ‘no’ to the gaping gender divide in Nigeria and across Africa.”
Speaking to NoStringsNG, David-ette says the award sends a message to all Africans that trans people can achieve anything:
“I am very excited to have been honored in this manner. I had told myself years ago that I would love to make a great impact that would encourage people, especially people of my kind. Creating so much awareness for the trans/intersex community years ago, 2013/14 precisely, I told myself that I must rewrite history, that irrespective of the hate, drama, unfriendly laws, I must forge ahead.
“There are narratives around trans/intersex people that are fuelled by societal, religious, cultural, and personal biases but this award gives a positive narrative to everyone irrespective of your Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Expression & Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC). This award is a beacon, a clarion call that we can achieve anything irrespective of the bottlenecks created by the system, this award is screaming loud and clear to others ‘Don’t Give Up! We Can Still Make A Change Despite the odds!’ This award is screaming, ‘Despite it all, the world is yours for the taking and you’re a pathfinder!’ ”
Through her organization Dynamic Initiative for Healthcare & Human Rights (DIHHR), David-ette is among the very few Nigerians who are working to amplify the voices and visibility of trans/intersex persons.
In Nigeria, homosexuality is criminalized and trans women are often seen as gay men pretending to be women or men who are just playing dress-ups. Through various initiatives, her organization works to debunk these types of narratives and to empower other trans/intersex persons to live their truth.
As with many other frontline human rights activist, David-ette’s journey came with its challenges. Quite recently, on BBC news pidgin, she spoke about some of the challenges she’s had which include her personal journey as a trans/intersex woman, coming out, her relationship with her family, and her marriage.
“My experience afta I officially announce to di world say I be intersex bin dey really positive and challenging,” she told the BBC, using pidgin English. “Afta dat interview a lot of pipo reach me, some bin encourage, a lot of pipo bin dey say dem no believe say we (intersex) dey for Nigeria, some wan find out more. Actually, pipo begin to propose. And dat part surprise me.”