Alicia Kazobinka

Speaker and activitist in the trans community

“I realized that for the first time, no one else was forcing me to shave my hair. It was my choice. I hope to turn it into a positive experience.”

Alicia Kazobinka is one of few black trans women in Quebec. As a speaker and activist in the trans community, she works to break down barriers and fight prejudice. While she is very well known in the LGBTQ+ community, she recently stepped into the public spotlight when she was featured on the cover of Véro magazine in September 2020 alongside 11 other influential black women.

With her flamboyant look and contagious smile, Alicia Kazobinka doesn’t go unnoticed and she’s fully confident being herself. Her long braids, her flashy earrings and her sky-high heels are a part of who she is; an identity she had to hide for many years.

Shave her hair for Leucan? At first, she said no. It was too much to ask of her, she first thought, after years of suffering before finally being able to identify openly as female. “In my childhood and teen years, I had gender dysphoria without being able to put words on what I was feeling”, she says. She was born in Burundi, Senegal, where such subjects are not discussed.

She lived with permanent angst and unease, which were amplified each month when she was forced to take a seat in the barber’s chair. “When I was a boy, I didn’t like shaving my hair. In Africa and in the black community, boys always had to keep their hair short. It was a sign of cleanliness. It filled me with sadness each time, and I didn’t understand why. I was forced to do it and told not to come home until my head was shaved. I had nowhere else to go, so I did it. Each time, on the way home, I cried.”

On her terms, this time

It took her a few years after she arrived in Quebec in 2007 to find her bearings and meet other people from the trans black community. She finally began transitioning in 2016. “At the start of my transition, when I became more comfortable, I started wearing hair extensions and braiding my hair. It was really important to me to have long hair, to do my nails and my eyebrows, and to gradually change my wardrobe.”

Affirming her identity as a trans woman is fairly recent. By joining Les Audacieuses, she worried about being brought back to past suffering and painful memories. She last shaved her hair 8 years ago. Once again, it was because of undue pressure from those around her.

“I took some time to think about Leucan’s request. The cause is close to my heart. I love children, and cancer can strike anyone.” She decided to go for it. “I realized that for the first time, no one else was forcing me to shave my hair. It was my choice. I hope to turn it into a positive experience.”

Alicia Kazobinka is honoured to have been chosen to join the other Audacieuses. “I was stunned when they asked me to join the group. I was blown away by the background and achievements of the other women. These are women with such impressive life experiences and knowledge. It’s an honour to be at their sides.”

A real nail-biter

She knows that a few days before the big day, she’ll start to feel the nerves. “I know myself, I’ll try to be positive, but I can’t lie: I don’t think I’ll get much sleep the night before!” she laughs. Leucan offered to get her a razor or access to someone who can do it for her. “Clearly, please do not give me a razor! I’ll freeze. If someone competent does it for me, then I’ll at least be cute.” Her friend and cousin are excited about the change and say they can’t wait to see her.

To attend her professional activities, she’ll wear a wig. And in her daily life? “I’m not sure yet. I think I’ll stick with the bald head. To be honest, I’m waiting to see my reflection in the mirror before deciding. I haven’t had any work or surgery on my face so my masculine traits are still predominant. I don’t know what to expect.”

She knows that no matter what, people will stare. “I’m used to it, it’ just that sometimes it’s too much. It’s very intense. If looks could kill, some glares would have killed me by now! It’ll be even worse now. If I were still young, maybe it wouldn’t be so intense. I love Marie-Mai’s look, but it doesn’t suit everyone. We’ll see.”

By going through with this incredible gesture, she hopes to move people and raise awareness of Leucan’s cause. She also hope she’ll inspire, as she is so used to doing. “For women in the black community and for trans women, hair is so important. Having long hair is a sign of femininity. So if Alicia, with her difficult path, dares to do it, then everyone can. Even if I can inspire one or two people to do it, it’ll be worth it!”

Photographer, Andréanne Gauthier; stylist, Simon Venne (Judy Inc.); hair & makeup, Alper Sisters (Teamm Agency)