On June 23rd of 2012, Ouko Okusah of NTV news Kenya, reported on Michael Ochieng also known as Brenda Achieng.
Michael is a Kenyan teenager born male but has opted to live his life as a woman who goes by the name Brenda however, his community is not having it and was trying to attack him.
Even though considered understandable, the attempted attack was unacceptable. Micheal’s condition is considered unusual in most parts of Africa due to the limited exposure to it. However, it is important to understand that Micheal’s situation is common and does not necessarily make him gay.
Michael is considered a transgender. The Oxford dictionary defines a transgender as “a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender.” This means, a transgender person assigned a sex, usually at birth and based on their genitals, feels that this is a false or an incomplete description of themselves.
Brenda aka Michael, clearly seemed distraught and it appeared that the exposure of his sexual condition made him unconformable. He was understandably afraid. Brenda had been looking for a job and lied to her potential employer that he was a woman. Having got the job, the community called him out on his lies and this is how the story came to be. It must be noted that this young man is 17.
Brenda says she does not like living like a man. She does not like to dress like a man because it makes him feel awkward. Transgender can identify as heterosexual,homosexual, bisexual, pan-sexual, poly-sexual, or asexual. In other words, being transgender does not necessarily mean being gay.
Below are a list of questions and answers listed by http://www.transequality.org. Hopefully, these Q&As may help Kenyans understand the plight of Ms. Brenda Achieng.While these apply to statistics collected in the United States, most of the questions and answers apply to Brenda’s situation.
Frequently Asked Questions about Transgender People: A Resource from the National Center for Transgender Equality May 2009
How many transgender people are there?
We don’t know for sure the answer to this question. There are a number of reasons for that. First, there really isn’t anyone collecting this data. It’s not something that the US Census or other agencies keep track of. Second, many transgender people are not public about their identities, so they might not tell anyone about it. NCTE estimates that between ¼ and 1% of the population is transsexual.
Why are people transgender? What causes it?
There are a number of theories about why transgender people exist although there is not yet scientific consensus.When you look across cultures, you will find that people have had a wide range of beliefs about gender. Some cultures look at people and see six genders, while others see two. Some cultures have created specific ways for people to live in roles that are different from that assigned to them at birth. In addition, different cultures also vary in their definitions of masculine and feminine. Whether we view someone as transgender depends on the cultural lenses we are looking through as well as how people identify themselves.
Biologists tell us that sex is a complicated matter, much more complex than what we may have been taught in school. A person has XX chromosomes is generally considered female, while a person with XY chromosomes is generally considered male. However, there are also people who have XXY, XYY, and other variations of chromosomes; these genetic differences may or may not be visibly apparent or known to the person.
Some people are born with XY chromosomes, but are unable to respond to testosterone and therefore develop bodies with a vagina and breasts, rather than a penis and testes. A variation in gender may just be part of the natural order and there are more varieties than we generally realize. People with biological differences in gender may be considered intersex; they may or may not identify as transgender.
There are medical theories about why people are transgender. Some speculate that fluctuations or imbalances in hormones or the use of certain medications during pregnancy may cause intersex or transgender conditions. Other research indicates that there are links between transgender identity and brain structure.
Some people believe that psychological factors are the reason for the existence of transgender people. It is clear that there are people who are aware that they are transgender from their earliest memories. Many trans people feel that their gender identity is an innate part of them, an integral part of who they were born to be.
Is being transgender a mental illness?
No, but this remains a stereotype about transgender people. Gender Identity Disorder is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-4th Edition (DSM-IV), a guide used by mental health professionals to diagnose psychological conditions.
Transgender identity is not a mental illness that can be cured with treatment. Rather, transgender people experience a persistent and authentic difference between our assigned sex and our understanding of our own gender. For some people, this leads to emotional distress. This pain often can be relieved by freely expressing our genders, wearing clothing we are comfortable in, and, for some, making a physical transition from one gender to another.
For people who identify as transsexual, counseling alone, without medical treatment, is often not effective. Our society is, however, very harsh on gender-variant people. Some transgender people have lost their families, their jobs, their homes and their support. Transgender children may be subject to abuse at home, at school or in their communities. A lifetime of this can be very challenging and can sometimes cause anxiety disorders, depression and other psychological illnesses. These are not the root of their transgender identity; rather, they are the side effects of society’s intolerance of transgender people.
How do transsexual people change genders?
What is the process like?
Note: The information in this section applies only to transsexuals, not to transgender people in general. Remember that not all transgender people want to transition.
There are a variety of paths that people follow, but many use a series of guidelines set out by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. These guidelines are called the Standards of Care (SOC) and they outline a series of steps that people may take to explore and complete gender transition. These may include:
• Counseling with a mental health professional
• A “real life” experience where an individual lives as the target gender for
a trial period
• Learning about the available options and the effects of various medical
• Communication between the person’s therapist and physician indicating
readiness to begin medical treatment (usually in the form of a letter)
• Undergoing hormone therapy
• Having various surgeries to alter the face, chest and genitals to be more
congruent with the individual’s sense of self
Not all transsexual people follow these steps nor does the community agree about their importance. The Standards of Care not legally mandated. We believe that people should make their own decisions about their health care, in consultation with medical or mental health professionals as appropriate to their individual situation.
Transsexual people may undergo hormone therapy. Transwomen may take estrogen and related female hormones; transmen may take testosterone. It is important that people obtain hormones from a licensed medical professional if at all possible to be sure that the medications are safe and effective. Doctors should monitor the effects on the body, including checking for negative side effects. Some of the effects of hormone
treatment are reversible when a person stops receiving hormone therapy; other effects are not.
Hormones impact the body by:
• Estrogen for MTFs
▪▪ Softening the skin
▪▪ Redistributing body fat to a more feminine appearance
▪▪ Reducing some body hair
• Testosterone for FTMs
▪▪ Lowering the voice
▪▪ Causing the growth of body and facial hair
▪▪ Redistributing body fat to a more masculine appearance
▪▪ Causing the menstrual cycle to end
Hormones can have an impact on some people’s emotional states. Many people report feeling more at peace after they begin hormone treatments, but hormones may also cause other fluctuations in mood. For many transgender people, there is no discernible difference in moods after beginning hormone treatments.
Some people and their doctors decide to pursue a full dose of hormones while others choose to go on a lower dose regimen or not take hormones at all for personal or medical reasons. Hormone therapy is covered by some medical insurance.
Some transsexuals have surgery to change their appearance. There is no single “sex change surgery.” There are a variety of surgeries that people can have, including:
• Genital reconstructive surgery, to create a penis and testes or clitoris,
labia and vagina
• Facial reconstruction surgery, to create a more masculine or feminine
• Breast removal or augmentation
• For FTMs, surgery to remove the ovaries and uterus
• For MTFs, surgery to reduce the Adam’s apple or change the thorax.
Surgery is often excluded from health insurance plans in the United States.
At NCTE, we believe that the decisions about appropriate medical procedures should be made by people and their health care providers, not by insurance companies or government bodies.
Whether or not someone has had surgery should never make a difference in how they are treated. In addition to the medical procedures, transsexual people often follow a series of legal
steps to change their name and gender markers. The process may vary in each state.
Some of the things that may need to be changed are:
• Legal name and/or gender change (done through the courts)
• Driver’s license
• Social Security Account
• Bank accounts and records
• Credit cards
• Paychecks and other job-related documents
• Medical records
• Birth certificate
• Academic records
Different states have different procedures for changing driver’s license and state IDs.