Beyond the Struggle: Trans Activist Cleopatra Kambugu Kentaro on the Everyday Joys of Embracing Her Identity
Hailing from a country that criminalized queerness comes with its own challenges. But Cleopatra Kambugu Kentaro is choosing to find the joy in her life as a trans women instead of dealing in the loneliness and trauma that can come with being a leading voice in the movement to change the status quo.
Protest comes in many forms. For some, it's marching in the streets with picket signs and bullhorns. For others, it's boycotting or petitioning. For Ugandan trans activist Cleopatra Kambugu Kentaro, it's simply existing, fully and openly as herself.
Remaining hyper-visible on a continent where non-binary identity is shunned and sexual relations between people of the same sex remains illegal in a whopping 37 out of 54 countries according to Amnesty International, is in itself a radical act. Still, Kentaro has chosen to take her activism even further through her work as a storyteller, which she acknowledges as a tool for queer Africans to become the authors of their own histories.
In 2016 Kentaro starred in the groundbreaking documentary The Pearl of Africa, making her one of the first openly trans Ugandan women. At the time, however, the activist didn't fully realize how much of an impact the film would have. Instead, she says it was completely "organic" and humbly refers to it as a simple look into her everyday life. "I didn't even anticipate it having an impact in the community, and among my friends and family," she tells OkayAfrica "But [because of it] people have started having this conversation around transness."