“No legal prescription”: How trans women in Cameroon are accessing hormones


“Image description: An illustration of the Cameroonian flag with a stethoscope in the first column against a green background, the medical snake symbol atop of which is the trans equality sign in the second red column, and a syringe in the last yellow column.” IMAGE/Raldie Young for Minority Africa

Faced with transphobia in the country’s healthcare system, trans women in Cameroon looked across Africa for solutions to access Hormone Replacement Therapy. An informal network is adopting these interventions.

When she was 21 years old, Chanelle Kouankep, a Cameroonian trans woman, was sent away from home by her father. Kouankep was forced to move in with a friend in an uncompleted wooden house, but she describes the experience as the price she had to pay for her liberty. 

Today, after over ten failed suicide attempts, Kouankep, now 26, serves as president of an independent network Réseau Indépendant TransAfricain (RITA), and heads TRANSAMICAL in Yaoundé, where she fights for the rights of trans people in Cameroon, battling for access to adequate health care and safe Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). 

“I receive complaints from members of the trans community every single day,” Kouankep tells Minority Africa. “What they go through makes them even question their existence on earth.” 

Kouankep, like many other trans people in Cameroon, has created an informal network and is now adopting approaches to Hormone Replacement Therapy which they have pulled from other countries across Western Africa, such as Benin and Ivory Coast.   

This involves them identifying select pharmacies which can provide hormones to trans people across Cameroon and equally communicating these networks to each other via social media. 

The problem? This is done clandestinely without any regulations or specific medical prescriptions. 

In recent years, there has been a growing clampdown on the rights of LGBTQ+ people in Cameroon, which continues to create an unfavorable environment for HRT, establishing the need for community-driven solutions such as Kouankep’s. 

Last year, Cameroon sentenced two transgender women to prison on charges of ‘attempted homosexuality,’ in a country where same-sex activities are illegal. 

“Hormone replacement therapy in Cameroon is not recognized,” says Kouankep. “We find hormones in pharmacies, but these are meant for women in menopause. It is [these] hormones that trans people take because this medication is similar to theirs.”

Miss Porshia, a 35-year-old trans woman in Cameroon and transgender human rights activist, admits that “having access to treatment as a trans person is not easy.”

She adds, “I have many times been [a] victim of stigmatization and discrimination based on my gender identity.”

Porshia is one of many trans people in Cameroon who are now getting their hormones through specific secret channels, whether through registered pharmacies or street drug vendors. In her case, she gets them from a friend who works in a pharmacy.

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