By Michael Oliech
Abdul (not their real name) is a 23-year-old transgender person living in Malindi. She was born male. However, growing up, she knew she was female.
She says her uncle repeatedly raped her. Her father and brother attacked and tried to kill her many times because of her sexuality.
She ran away from home in Eastleigh, Nairobi, to Malindi. She engaged in prostitution in Malindi to make ends meet. This is her story.
My story as a Transgender Person
When I was 7 years old, I played with girls only and loved Barbie dolls. When I turned 13, I would sit in front of the mirror and put on some makeup, wear my sister’s dresses and catwalk in her shoes. Occasionally, my parents would catch me doing all this and they would insult and beat me.
I was expelled from high school when I was 17 under the claim that I was too ‘girlish’. My parents and siblings became very ashamed of me. They tried to ‘fix’ me by praying for me to no avail. Later, my father came with my uncle who said he could help me. Instead, my uncle raped me three times under the false disguise of trying to ‘correct’ me.
I felt extremely violated and became depressed for a long time. It was a very horrible period in my life. My uncle would rape me and then convince me that it was normal. He would then give me money so that I would not tell anyone.
I would scream and tell him to go away. I was afraid to tell anyone because none would believe me since my uncle was so religious.
My brother, with my father’s help, finally made a decision to kill me after they saw that I could not change.
He tried to stab me three times with a knife but he was unsuccessful. He would beat me up several times with a metal rod and I would scream aloud in pain. Only my mother would come to my aid.
My father once tried to strangle me to death but I overpowered him and ran outside the house.
I thought my neighbours would help me but they were not so different from my father and brother. They said people like me are cursed and that I should die.
I managed to escape from them and decided to go far away from my parents and the surrounding community. That is how I ended up in Malindi. Here, I found other people like me. I am happy here. Even though we live a secret life, it is better because I am free from my father, brother, and neighbours.
Being a Transgender person does not make us less human
I wish people could understand that being a transgender person does not make us less human. We are like any other human being. We have the right to live, build ourselves, understand, and discover our sexuality. Also, we have the right to continue with our studies. We need to build our future and a real world that is devoid of unjust traditions.
We desire to live in a country that treats us with dignity like any other human being. It should guarantee us the opportunity to live our lives normally and the freedom to enjoy our rights as human beings.
Unfortunately, people think we choose to be transgender people, which is not true. Our ideals in life are to seek happiness, respect, and comfort.
Abdul has not shared this experience with anyone else before. This is her first time to do so in the open. She wants other transgender people living in the country to know that they are not alone. They should not be embarrassed or think less of themselves because of the unjust treatment they receive from people who do not understand them.
She calls upon all transgender persons to come out of the closet and speak up. They should speak about the need for comprehensive protection from discrimination countrywide based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
(Michael is a champion for sexual and reproductive health rights)