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I was in form 1 when I first heard about a transgender person. At that age, I didn’t really understand what being trans meant. All I knew, heard from people and the news, is that “a man wanted to change his name, Andrew to a woman’s name, Audrey.” At church as well as in school, the action was criticized and demonized!

My take away was that someone was challenging the status quo and as a rebellious spirit, I cheered them on. I didn’t get why people were making a big deal out of it. I thought Audrey was being very courageous, standing alone while everyone else vilified her for her choice; something that I am very big at.

Flashforward to 2019 when I came back to Nairobi from Eldoret and continued the activism I had begun in the land of champions. I saw conversations on Facebook about trans people, saw trans women and men fight vehemently for their rights as well as other women rights, met trans people in protests for causes that were not directly theirs.

Then I met my dear friend Arya in 2020 who I liked instantly, I really don’t know why, perhaps it was her shades, or her distinction from the rest of the crowd; I have always liked people who stand out from the crowd.

Arya and I became friends and probably one of the best friends I have had in a long time.

In 2019, I had met another friend, a transman who called me out for my offensiveness in missing their pronouns all the time. All my life, I had never been involved in LGBT activism and here I was being introduced to pronouns like they/them which I was not familiar. After him, I didn’t want to meet any trans person because I was scared of missing pronouns and being offensive to another person.

I was just sticking to the patriarchal box I had been brought up in.

When I met Arya, I asked her so many questions, I hope she forgives the times that I went overboard, but I really wanted to understand how to coexist with a trans person and be respectful.  

I did a lot of googling, every time I was on the net, reading stories written by transwomen and transmen and going back to Arya to ask.

She was very patient with me.

With time, I became better at pronouns, it’s really just asking and sticking to what a person wants, like when I say my name is Wambui and if you call me Nyambura, I will get offended, simple!

My relationship with Arya opened me up to a world that I had not known existed. A world in which trans people are met with hostility in the streets. I remember one time, at a protest where someone told her she shouldn’t have been born. That was crossing the line.

Another time, when she created Arya’s palace, a home in which she created a safe space for queer people, she and her housemates were evicted for hanging a rainbow flag on their balcony! I couldn’t wrap my head around this. That’s when I understood what privilege means.

I remember how her telling me about organizations that were pretending to be trans-friendly just to get funding and contribute nothing to the challenges that queer people face.

  • Challenges that include shortening and easing the process of changing names on official documents. And not making a big deal out of it. Like when I drop that first name that I no longer use.
  • Challenges like the refusal of doctors to conduct surgery on people who want their genitalia removed; a process that is swiftly conducted on intersex babies whose parents want them to be a particular sex.
  • Challenges like the inclusion of trans people in representative political posts, because who will defend and uphold these rights if we do not afford a seat in parliament for trans women and men?

And so many more that I couldn’t understand and that trans people are more suited to speak about.

Apart from getting me closer to understanding the lived realities of trans people in Kenya, Arya was more than most people have been to my life. One time I looked at her and thought, if she vied for presidency, I would vote for the first time.

Who Arya was/is to me and who she is to many other people, is someone I cannot put words to describe and what beats me is how unfair our policies and our minds can be to limiting her existence in this world. She is more human than most people I have met in my life.

And its not just Arya, many of the trans people I have met are more human than those who claim to be more human than trans people. I tell you, trans people are most open-minded, and interesting people in this world; probably because they have opened a portal in their mind that most of us haven’t. They are the most accepting people to everyone.

Of course, I am not saying that just because a person is trans, they are saints. Of course not, but people are tempted to believe that just because a person chooses a different way to be, one that is right for them, they are not human, they are freaks. And you don’t need to be friends with a trans person to fight for their rights, you just need to be human.

In this fucking stupidity that we find ourselves trapped in, we forget that everyone is just a human, who shits, who gets hungry and eats, who thirsts for water, who wants to belong to a community, who gets frustrated in traffic, who sins, who is trapped in a reality that is hard to accept, and who would like to consider themselves a good human being.

It’s time we have a mind shift (though it is hard to convince a flock of sheep who are told who to be, that someone who decides to be themselves, who chooses their destiny is just as human or even superior if you put your mind into it) to stop being stupid. To actually fight against the problems that we have. To not force a human being to validate their existence to us.

To actually be human and create a space where trans people can get to experience some of the rights that some of us get for just being. Privilege.

Myself, I don’t have an idea on how to fight for trans people, I hope this article is a step and I will continue to raise these topics among those transphobes like my stupid cousins and state my position defiantly that unless we have queer rights, and specifically trans rights, we cannot say we have human rights.

By Wambui Ochieng'

Radical Feminist

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