Gender identity has become a trickier subject to navigate in this day and age.
There was a time when identifying with a gender required one to tick one of two boxes representing male or female, but that time is quickly fading into the horizon of past experiences.
Today, harbingers from around the world recognize an intersex gender group and like almost everything else, the mindset is quickly finding its way to our continent and this Kenyan MP may go down as the first to fight for this particular right of gender identity in Africa.
Isaac Mwaura, the Kenyan MP in question, has asked his country’s parliament to pass a law recognizing a third gender, to end discrimination against those who identify as intersex.
The intersex gender group refers to people whose sex cannot be classified as completely male or female, who are born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.
Kenyans often attach religious or cultural connotations to such issues of gender identity and so there is a marked stigma to being intersex. In addition to the recognition of this other gender in Kenya, Isaac Mwaura is also asking for funding for gender alignment surgery and a public awareness campaign to end stigma against intersex people.
Probably, the most well known intersex personality in Africa is South African Olympic champion Caster Semenya. The controversy that has trailed even her sporting achievements because she has hyperandrogenism, a condition that makes her have testosterone levels far in excess of the vast majority of women, shows the level of understanding the entire world still possesses about intersex persons.
While many consider her condition as an advantage in sporting events, many others in the same boat have only the negative side of the coin to deal with, having no advantage from it. Many have resorted to suicide as an escape from the associated stigma.
Others deal with the stigma of their ‘condition’ for most of their lives and often face steep medical fees for a surgical realignment procedure. Mr. Mwaura says it is for these reasons he is pushing his colleagues in parliament to allocate money in the budget to cater for the medical expenses of 120 people registered as intersex in Kenya.