By Haute Haiku
Lindsay is a transgendered woman living in Kenya who shares her life and her journey to womanhood on her blog Living Lindsay- My life as a transgender girl in Kenya. She describes herself as “I'm a normal girl with not-so-normal traits. I am transgender, or transsexual if you like.”
This is going to be her sixth month since her surgery and she feels that she is more at ease with her life than before. Her main goal is to educate the public on transgender issues in Kenya by answering questions from the public about her journey on her blog. She has blogged about her surgery orchidectomy, blogging and challenges she has to go through; violent encounters, how she had to move houses and her struggle with her identification documents. Her story has also been highlighted in one of the Kenyan daily newspaper and she hopes that she will make a difference in the Kenyan society.
I recently interviewed Lindsay about her transitional journey, blogging and other issues relating to transgender community in Kenya and Africa.
Question: What inspired you to start a blog?
Answer: At the time, I felt I needed to share out my views, rant, have a place to be free and talk about my thoughts feelings and stuff. It was the perfect place where I could be myself without hiding. I also thought I could reach out to others like me and learn from them.
Q: For how long have you been blogging?
A: The blog has been operational for the last two years. My first post is dated May 2008. That's when I started.
Q: What is the life of transgendered person in Kenya?
A: That's not an easy question. We are different. Some of us have it easy (like me) and some of us have it rough. I for one was blessed enough to have the support of most of my family including my Mother, to have a source of income which enables me to purchase hormones and undergo surgery (Bilateral Orchidectomy) and simply survive. Others do not have this. Some of us have had to become sex workers so as to have a livelihood. Most of us, because of family pressure, lack of finances and other factors, still live in their assigned sexes (for example a trans man still living as a woman) and therefore is still suffering within. Others because of fear of stigma, cannot do anything.
In general, if you are discovered to be transgender, the likelihood of you being stigmatized, harassed, discriminated against, beaten up, ridiculed, publicly undressed to see what you have between your legs and the worst of all, corrective raped is high. Sometimes even such violations are done by the very peopled entrusted with the power to protect us, i.e. the police. Even more disheartening, is that the government has little policies and laws that assist the transgendered person in Kenya and. What's there is that police use laws such as “impersonation” to harass and jail trans persons.
Q: What drove the desire for your transition? When did you start journey?
A: I consider myself a woman. I wanted to look like one. The way I felt I was, who I felt I was. This was my desire. To be me. Both inside and out. I hated pretending to be something I wasn't.
I began transitioning about a year ago in September 2009. The process is not easy. At first, because of my physical appearance, it was extremely difficult to convince people that I was female. In fact, one of the incidences I had was in a hotel where I wanted to use the ladies and this guard forcefully stopped me asking me why I was going into the ladies room and saying “Are you a girl?” repeatedly. Luckily I was saved by one of the hotel employees. I came to understand later that the said employee had previously worked in South Africa and hence was exposed to such scenarios.
After months of struggling and intake of hormones, my appearance improved and it was hard to detect that I was previously male-looking. I was excited. Later on I managed to book for an appointment with a surgeon to undergo Bilateral Orchiectomy. This in lay terms is a castration – the removal of the testes. I did this because one, I needed to save up on cost of reducing testosterone levels in my body and the elimination of testes meant that I produced virtually no testosterone, and two, I felt that it would not be a problem to have them anyway, if anything, I'd be happier without them. To me they were a nuisance. I still haven't done the main GRS as it is costly and am not yet prepared for it. Also, to have it done in Kenya is a big problem and people who have attempted before have faced numerous challenges that have proved futile.
Q: When did you learn that you are a transgender other than gay or any other labels that would be stamped on you?
A: I discovered I was different when I was about 4 years old. I knew that something wasn't right. Something about my gender. Back then I didn't know what it was. Until later in life when I was in high school and was introduced to internet and discovered the word GID (gender identity disorder). Before then, I knew about gays, but I knew that that didn't describe what I felt/was.
Q: You have a post on your blog that says “I don't exist” clarify on that. What problems does a trans person go through in Africa.
A: I wrote that post in lamentation for the bare fact that, while I do have an identity card, it is in a name that I do not use, that I cannot use and that I refuse to use. Again, it has a picture of someone who does not even remotely look like me. Therefore, even if I tell someone that that is my ID card, they'd hardly believe me.
Also, getting a new identity card with my new name is not allowed. The current laws might allow for change of name but they don't allow for change of sex. In addition, that change of name is rarely approved if it is clearly a change from a male name to a female name or vice versa. This is why I termed myself “an alien”.
Q: How do you feel now that now that you have gone through your surgery gender reassignment surgery? What do you friends and family think?
A: Let me clarify that I have not undergone GRS yet. What I had is a castration.
Considering the reasons why I did so, my supporting family & friends have no problem with it, although the question of whether I wanted to have offspring came up often. I told them I didn't mind not having kids from my own blood/sperm for the bare fact that the means (of having the baby) would not be acceptable to me.
Q: How has your life changed now that you are a transgender woman?
A: I am a happier more fulfilled person now. I feel rejuvenated, I feel happy practically daily and living now for me has more meaning. I am much much better than I was a year ago.
Q: How would you describe LGBT blogosphere in Africa?
A: Africa has few LGBTI bloggers (yes, people tend to forget the “I” yet they are part of it!) but the ones I have seen actually help improve the image of lgbti persons in society. I have heard people tell me that their views have changed simply because they read something on my blog or on some other lgbti's blog. I actually hope to see more and more lgbti bloggers out there and even more specific, have a intersex person share their livelihood, challenges and joys with us so as to learn more and increase our tolerance levels.
Q: Has blogging helped in communicating LGBT issues in Kenya, what is the progress?
A: Yes. I think a lot has changed and by people reading blogs from lgbti persons, more awareenss is created. There are many many blogs out there being published daily and I feel that this has helped. One blogger friend called me the first Kenyan transgender blogger and I feel so honored. I am happy thay through my blogging, many have learnt a lot about trans persons and the pink community in general.
Q: What do you think about the future of blogging concerning LGBTs?
A: I think the future now needs to shift into more personal issues. Considering that awareenss is being increased every day, word about such blogs needs to be out there more. The only problem is that there are less ‘out' or visible bloggers and that anonymity poses a certain detriment.