Balandogou, Guinea Conakry (Accredited Times) – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of poor black men coming to work in gold mines on mules, it was the age of rich white shareholders of gold mines going to the golf course in their Ferraris, it was the epoch of Non-binaries being pronoun-mislabeled, it was the epoch of LGBT oppression, it was the season of being triggered, it was the season of social justice. The reign of Alpha Condé was in its twilight and a faint light was beginning to creep up on Guinea Conakry. The light had a name, which the people would whisper to each other as though it had a spiritual power. And the name of the light was Abu.
It is 6am in Balandogou, and I am sharing breakfast with a humble mine worker. Though born as Miriam Toure, the person sitting before me eating fried chicken wings now identifies as Ousmane Toure. Ousmane tells me of the deep personal distress he felt as a child, knowing he was a man trapped in a woman’s body.
“I no longer know who Miriam is”, he declares. Although my parents and family have now disowned me and I am on medication and anti-depressives, the truth is that I have never been happier.”
Tragically, the shoddy wages Ousmane earns at the gold mine due to his low productivity (he is significantly weaker physically than his fellow workers) means he has never been able to have gender reassignment surgery. I steal a glance to confirm this: his breasts are indeed more ample than those of the most obese American male I have ever met.
Ousmane laments, “we Guinea people suffer greatly. Especially transgender like me. We not want Alpha Condé no more, no sir”
He starts to scratch something in the baked earth floor with a chicken bone, but it’s indecipherable. I decide to probe more into his life story and the future for LGBT people like him.
“Isn’t the answer”, I suggest, “for western companies to invest in Guinea Conakry, develop the rich mineral resources, pay royalties, and then enrich the country that way? Presumably you’d get free health care and reassignment surgery then?”
Ousmane raises a sculpted eyebrow but says nothing. I have his attention and so push on. I tell him about 2020 presidential candidate Abu Berete, his radical policies, his firm desire to do ‘good things’ and avoid ‘bad things’ and his openness to offer no bid contracts to certain corporations “provided the terms are right”.
At this, Ousmane laughs cynically before staring at me. I feel deeply uncomfortable.
“Corruption”, he says, “It runs through Africa like blood. You not get me started on progressive issues. I no care who becomes president, we LGBT people will always be spat on in a conservative society like Guinea Conakry.”
“Are there many of you? LGBT miners, that is?”
Then Ousmane astonishes me by claiming “up to 70%” of the workforce is either L, G, B, or T, not to mention the minor attracted. Afterwards, I’m not sure why I found this statistic so surprising. This is comparable with the United States based on the media coverage devoted to LGBT issues, which is surely a reliable proxy for the underlying population.
Shockingly, Guinea Conakry is centuries behind even Trump’s America when it comes to LGBT issues.
Article 325 of the Guinea Penal Code States that: ‘Any indecent act or act against nature committed with an individual of the same sex will be punished by imprisonment of six months to three years and a fine of 100,000 to 1,000,000 Guinean francs. If the act was committed with a minor under 21 years of age, the maximum sentence must be pronounced. If the act was consummated or attempted with violence or attempted violence, the guilty person will be condemned to five to ten years of imprisonment.´
Ousmane needs Berete now if this is what he has to put up with. But Ousmane isn’t done yet, he still has plans to self-finance his reassignment surgery. “Next year”, he says.
“How will you be able to afford it if the mining wages are so low?” I ask
“Sex tourism”, Ousmane answers matter of fact. “As a surgically non-reassigned male, you be amazed at level of interest.”
He shows me a photo of a scrawny, old, thin looking white man wearing a multi-colored wig, closely resembling a “bronie” I think.
“This man”, says Ousmane with a disdainful look on his face, “pays to be ‘impaled’ and be treated as ‘meat on a stick’. I use a big chicken bone like this as a strap on. Don’t ask me his name, he is strictly anonymous. But he pay me much money.
I leave Guinea Conakry deeply disturbed at the country’s ongoing oppression of its LGBT miners. Ordinary people like Ousmane. But there is hope on the horizon, a light called Abu.