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Trans Kenyans ‘extremely vulnerable’ during lockdown

Lockdowns to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus are tough on transgender people, who have difficulty getting health care, including hormone therapy. In a BBC article, Kenyan trans activist Mauricio Ochieng’ Ochieng’ tells what he is facing.

From the African Human Rights Media Network

First of two articles about trans life in Kenya during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The photo illustration of Mauricio Ochieng appeared in the BBC article about trans people during the lockdown (Somsara Rielly photo illustration courtesy of the BBC)

These are excerpts from the article, “Coronavirus: Transgender people ‘extremely vulnerable’ during lockdown”.

Mauricio Ochieng, 30, Kisumu state, Kenya

Mauricio travels seven hours on a bus to Nairobi to collect his testosterone injections. It’s a journey he’s been making for over a year. It’s worth it.

“With the injections my body has started changing, I look less ‘feminine’, my voice is deeper and I’m growing a beard,” he says. “I was finally on the way to becoming myself. I am a man. I was never a woman.”

Growing up in rural Kenya, about 350km from the capital Nairobi, Mauricio knew he was different. He has more than 150 cousins and couldn’t relate to any of them.

“I was the black sheep of the family.”

He knew that he was not a girl, despite his body. His parents believed he was a lesbian. That was bad enough, they said, but it was something they understood. When he told them that he was a man in a woman’s body, they made him leave the family home.

Mauricio was 16 and homeless. He was sexually assaulted multiple times. Just over a year later, he fell pregnant from one of the rapes. People called him a “chokora”, a slur for a street beggar.

He went to his mother’s house and said: “Please don’t make me give birth in the street like a dog.”

She let him come home.

Mauricio’s daughter was born in 2007. He worked at the local market, buying and selling shoes.

In 2018 he decided to begin his transition. Testosterone injections cost around 1,200 shilling per dose (about £9) – which is a day’s work.

The 14-hour round trip each month to collect his medication felt like a huge achievement. Mauricio was saving up for top surgery: to have his breasts removed.

Then coronavirus reached Kenya, and soon lockdown restrictions followed.

Mauricio does not have his next supply of testosterone.

“I’m having sleepless nights, depression,” he says. “What will happen if I cannot have access to my medication? What will all this pain have been for?

“I am a trans man in a transphobic country. If I don’t get my medication what will happen to my body – it is already changing. Will I look abnormal? Who is going to fight for us to be heard in this chaos?”

See the full BBC article to read its account of Liam T Papworth, 30, the first openly transgender man recruited into the U.S. army.






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