Mary Waithera was born 25 years ago. And being the first born, her arrival was supposed to be met with celebration. She was supposed to bring joy to her parents.
When she was born, everyone wanted to know if the new child was a boy or a girl, including her father. “Is it a boy or a girl,” he asked, as soon as he got home from work that day. But Waithera’s mother was hesitant, not knowing what to say. The baby was neither boy nor girl. Waithera had what is known as a disorder of sex development (DSD). She was intersex.
‘Intersex’ is a complex biological condition where children are born with either two sex organs (male and female), or one visible organ while the other is either hidden, malformed or deformed but present.
Just like Waithera, thousands of intersex Kenyans suffer in silence. The Child Rights International Network estimates that Kenya has approximately 20,000 intersex people.
Waithera’s condition marked the beginning of the end of the couple’s brief marriage. “My father said I was a curse. He accused my mother of having brought a curse into his house.” That is what her mother told her when she was old enough to understand.
Eventually, Waithera’s father left never to return. But her mother has stood by her since day one, raising her as a girl despite her condition. But because the community did not understand what being intersex meant, Waithera suffered a lot of stigma and discrimination as a child.
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