TRANSGENDERS COMING OUT STRONG IN KISUMU

Making new friends is my hobby and as a young energetic man, I also love clubbing. I recall one day when a friend invited me to a house warming party. Being a Friday (and I wasn’t going to work on Saturday) and at night I gladly accepted the invite. I was also given the chance to invite another friend. When we got there, we met a group who had already gathered for the party. Paul, who had invited us to the party, introduced us to the other group. Some of the men were dressed like women and had ornaments and makeups done.

Paul told the gathering to interact and get acquainted with each other and this was the time I had eagerly waited to ask the several questions that had occupied my mind from the time I had entered the party. I quickly moved next to one guy, ‘Younky’ who was seated in a corner silently. “Hi,” I said to him/her. He replied in a soft tone and the conversation went on. “So tell me about you,” I asked? “mmmmh,” he hesitated….”I was born and brought up in Nairobi and must confess that my childhood was not bad. I was about 8 years old when I began to feel differently and my mum did not notice anything yet. I would play so much with girls and I loved my sister’s dolls. I enjoyed playing girlish games; hardly played with boys in the hood I grew up in,” he continued.

“I heard about gays but I knew that being gay was not my identity. I grew up knowing that I was different but did not really understand myself until I discovered that I had a gender identity disorder. I did a lot of research in the net and that is how I became convinced that I was suffering from GID.
“So what exactly did you feel?” I asked stupidly. He said, “Growing up, I felt very confused about my identity because I did not fit in as a boy, in fact I was never one actually,” he said smiling. “Everything I did was girlish and I struggled each day trying to cover my behaviors and act like a man. There were times I would pretend to act like a man but this caused me so much anguish that I even developed ulcers. I was constantly teased and ridiculed and told off for “behaving like a girl”,” he said sadly.

“So what’s your future plan? Do you intend to marry and have children like other men out there?” I teased Younky. “Hell no!” he busted me. “right now am in the process of transitioning and I think that once you make the right step to transition you are technically out of the closet,” he explained. “However,” he continued, “there are a few people who know that I am transgender but to the rest of the public think I am a woman and they have no clue if judging from my appearance. But again I don’t go about announcing publically or telling people of my status.”

He also explained to me that he had met several transgenders in Kisumu but who actually still do not understand. He also said that many are not ready to come out open about their situation because of the stigma and society who do not also understand these that these issues are biological. “My mum even brought me a girlfriend for me to date!” he laughed. I also laughed.

After we had talked a while, he questioned why I was asking him so much and my interest in knowing those issues. I explained to him that I work for an Organization which intervenes for MSM. I explained to him what we do and he kept nodding his head, probably in agreement with me. He confessed that he had heard of the Organization but doubted if there were people who could come out open about being MSM and attend the health sessions, let alone identifying as MSM in public.

“So how do you think you can help people like me?” he asked, laughing. I told him that I hoped the Kenya constitution would emphasis on non-discrimination against persons with gender identity problems. I asked him to attend one of our forums and he agreed. “Don’t lose hope,” I said, walking back to the party silently hoping to see policies allowing for change of name and sex. Before I left the party, I asked him if I would address him as Mr. or Ms. “Miss,” he laughed loudly. I also insisted that I wanted to meet him in one of the health forums, and he assured me that he would attend.

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