The Elephant As A Symbol of Black Transfemininity
Esono Anantam : “Elephants Footprint”. This Adinkra symbol invokes the empathetic and protective nature of the Elephant. It represents protection, leadership, power and security.
This concept is something that has been sitting on my mind for a long time. A couple years ago I chose a name for myself. I actually have had many names but Touré been the most consistent . Touré is a name that comes from the Soninke word Tuuré, which means elephant .
It is a very noble name in West Africa.
I had chosen this name after Kwame Touré in the Black radical tradition. I valued his politic, but as my own politic has changed over the years, I have moved on from centering men. I specifically dropped this reasoning after finding out he had spewed transmisogynist takes, trying to separate transness from Black liberation.
Even though I dropped the reasoning I kept the name because I found meaning in it somewhere else.
I was talking to a close friend of mine one day and we both discovered that both our chosen names meant elephant. Theirs in Somali, mine in Soninke. I personally believe in symbolism heavy so I suggested that it must mean something. Small things have spiritual meanings.
She agreed and I meditated on it more and researched about the African Elephant . I fell in love with the beauty of this animal and what it symbolizes across many African cultures. I connected it to my understanding of transness as well. In this article I’m gone break down what I came up with.
- Elephants are Wise & Empathic
- Elephants revere their Ancestors
- Elephants Take Up Space
This is like all my other writings, a living document and may be edited and expanded upon in the future.
Elephants Are Wise & Empathic
First off I want to start by saying NOT to look at Black transfemmes as beacons of knowledge or other bullshit because that is dehumanizing. We are people and we make mistakes and we don’t know everything just like everybody else.
I do believe that there is a deep knowledge that we must take on in order to survive in this world. Everything others suffer through , we suffer through times ten. Unemployment, poverty, femicide , and more plague our lives. Yet we are still here and we are still pushing BUT we never forget. We never forget how others make us feel, we never forget what it means to walk this earth as trans and we adapt as best as we can. Just like another one of my close friends Jade says “ Trans Women are the empaths of the world. we feel everything you make us feel”.
Elephants are considered to be one of the most empathetic animals in the world. They are social, when they see other elephants in distress they act to calm them by drawing on their past experiences and what they know.
Elephants Revere They Ancestors
Elephants mourn their dead. Elephants make repeated visits to elephant burial grounds and make vocalizations around them. Black Gender Variance is forever connected to African Ancestral traditions. We were the priests and spiritualists and gatekeepers and in many ways we still are. From Haitian trans folk finding refuge in Vodou, Two-Head folk in Hoodoo, Kimpa Vita of the Kongo, Yan Daudu or Area Scatter in Nigeria. Our ancestral traditions never stray too far away from us. We revere our ancestors, we mourn our dead. We fight so that things are better for the next coming generations and to heal our past generations.
Elephants Take Up Space
Elephants take up space. Just like Black Trans women and Femmes. Black Trans women and femmes take up space. We are the Elephant in the room. No matter how much they try to suppress us, till the Black community does right by us everything they fight for will fail. Our families and communities try to abuse and ignore who we are. They are aware of the power that we hold. We shatter any belief of the validity of this system. That is the real tea.
Ever since I’ve sat with these few core things, I continue to develop in my understanding of my name, In what I value and how I understand my transness. I have bought elephant jewelry as a physical manifestation of my thought process.