He travelled all the way from the little known village of Dandu in Mandera to Nairobi because he was convinced it was the only way the world could learn from his experience.
At his birth 25 years ago, Shukria Abdi Issak had a genital abnormality known as undescended testicles or cryptorchidism – a condition in which the testes are missing or they may be felt as lumps in the groin. His parents in a state of panic, lack of information and scanty healthcare facilities, decided to ‘turn’ him into a girl. They feared they would ruin the marriage prospects of a healthy child if discovered and bring shame to the family.
‘He’ was dressed in female attire, including the hijab, a headscarf for Muslim women all his life. Shukria performed chores meant for the Garre woman, sat and was taught all a woman needs to know. As a strict Muslim adherent, Shukria was also not allowed to mingle freely with the boys though he confessed that he always wanted to join them in their games and chores.
“Everybody in my village knows me as a woman,” he said in his native Garre language. He also did not go to school as his parents gave preference to the boys. And so, he speaks only Garre language. Shukria’s identity card, issued in Dandu, Mandera district, in 2004 too identifies him as female.
But the person many know as a woman was not actually one, nor was he androgynous. “My malformation resulted in my parents confining me to a state I did not belong simply believing I was cursed,” he said through his brother Alinoor Aliker. After his parents’ death in September last year, Shukria felt the chains had been loosened on him and decided to “go back to where I belong”.
So he decided to dump the female attire for the male clothing. He even went as far as befriending a girl who is now engaged to him. However, his neighbours and relatives who are convinced he is a woman were never going to take the matter lightly.
“My relatives turned down my request to wear male clothing. When my fiancée’s parents also heard that, they too have now changed their mind and told me plainly that I could not marry their daughter,” he told the Nation. The girl’s parents said they could not trust him because he has been a woman since birth, he added.
Still intent on convincing the girl’s parents and his relatives that indeed he was a normal man, he went to Takaba district hospital for medical examination. “The doctors confirmed that I was a man except that I had a malformation in my genitalia. But everything about me is fine,” said Shukria.
But even this confirmation by the doctors has not achieved much in changing the conviction of his relatives, neighbours and would-be in-laws. “His case has been closed in the village. He cannot marry and nobody wants to associate with him,” his brother said. “But I know he is a man, he is my younger brother and I cannot abandon him because some people want to exploit the mistakes of our parents to alienate him.”
Psychiatrist Dr Sobbie Mulindi explained that such occurrences are normally difficult for people to accept. He said that people need to be educated to appreciate such conditions as undescended testicles they can seek help early on. “In Europe the malformations are detected early and dealt with but for us in Africa, it takes long and creates fear of discrimination and identity crisis,” he said.
Yes, here in the West they'd likely have castrated him, fashioned a "neo-vagina", and labelled him "mentally ill" when he didn't accept that he was supposed to be a girl.
And some political parties would make it illegal for state-funded universities and medical schools to teach about this. As his documentation says he's female, any transition to male makes him "transgendered" - assuming the transition is recognised. If not, he'd just be considered a very very butch lesbian. From the Oklahoma Republican Party Platform:
2.25. We support the prohibition of non-charter public schools from instructing on behaviors relating to homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgendered in a manner that encourages, promotes or sanctions such behaviors. We support sanctions for noncompliance by any public elementary or secondary school or by any public institution of higher education, and their employees in their official capacity, including loss of all or part of state funding.As he'd be deemed Lesbian, killing him shouldn't be subject to civil or criminal penalties in some places either, according to some. From the Texas Republican Platform :
We believe that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.And yes, it's been made clear that they really do mean that a "belief in traditional values" would be a lawful excuse for an otherwise unlawful act against him. Like killing him.
We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.