Family in a puzzle over child’s gender

Tuesday December 30 2008

The pupil’s parents: Sally Midecha and Kennedy Kagoni. Photos/Michael mute

Imagine a child waiting for doctors to determine his or her gender. This is besides the fact that the child has for several years lived as if of a certain gender with a name to boot.

This is the plight of an eight-year old child in Nairobi’s Huruma estate. Wesley Mukagwa Kagoni, a Standard Three pupil, has been socialised as a boy. He cannot tell what could be wrong with him, but he knows that he is different from other boys of his age.

Wesley was born in October 2000 at a private clinic in Mathare North. Immediately, nurses recorded him as male on the birth notification card, says his mother, Sally Midecha.

A week later, a nurse who examined the baby at the hospital found out that the genitalia was not clearly defined, says the father, Kennedy Kagoni. “We realised that something was terribly abnormal,” he says.

The mother took the baby to the Kenyatta National Hospital but the condition was only diagnosed as an abnormality of the private parts.

She was given medicine for her baby but at the back of her mind, she was convinced that the baby was a boy as indicated by nurses. Now the family is nursing untold fear.


“How will our son receive the news that he is a girl if the idea of being a boy is ruled out after a medical examination? Will he cope with it?” asks the father.

This follows the events of June 2006 that left the family confused.

Wesley underwent a urethrogram (a special x-ray examination of the urethra, the pathway between the bladder and the opening where urine exits the body) at the Mater Hospital which showed that the opening was very wide. The report also says that the duct was very short, suggestive of female urethra.

The doctors also sent Wesley’s hormones to South Africa for examination and when the results came back, the mother says, it was found out that the child is more of a girl than a boy.
Doctors said that the only hope for Wesley’s dilemma would be surgery.

“This scares me as I had all along believed that he is a boy,” says Kennedy.

“Unable to absorb the shock, I argued with the doctors that Wesley can only be a boy since that is how we have socialised him.”

The family was reluctant to reveal the dilemma. Little did they know that time will eventually catch up with them.

Two years later, the 38-year-old man is scared that his son will reach puberty and hormonal reaction may trigger feminine features and this may lead to an identity crisis in him. The child may be adversely affected if this happens, says Sally.

“I will be affected, Wesley too and the entire family. We have all along kept it a secret for the fear of what the family calls shame. Only a few teachers and our pastor know of his condition. Even in the family, it is only our parents who know and they have kept it a secret,” says Sally.

“But I have now risen above what they are calling shame and all I want is for the child to be helped from this gender confusion. It is time we spoke about it as a family,” she explains.

The 29-year-old mother says she has come to realise that the condition runs in their family, only that it has never been exposed for the fear of “shame.” “It has been in our family for generations, only that no one has openly spoken about it.”

She wonders how friends, neighbours, relatives and schoolmates will react to a revelation that Wesley could be a girl.

“Wesley knows that he is a boy, only that he is aware that he is a different boy and that is what makes him too conscious when in the company of other children.”
Already, the child’s self-esteem has suffered. The fact that he cannot excuse himself freely to answer a short call of nature in the urinal as other boys injures him.

Wesley can only rush to a toilet and squat like girls do. “This is because the organ is under-developed,” explains the father. And if there is no toilet around, Wesley may choose not to answer a short call to avoid embarrassment.

Wesley innocently leads his life like a boy, plays football and keeps boyfriends. That why the family only wants to hear that their child is a boy.

“I just believe that he is a boy since, unlike our daughter, he is aggressive. He does not talk like a girl either. But due to the genital abnormality, I don’t have the confidence to claim that I have a son,” says the mother.

“I believe that it is a boy and I cannot think otherwise. If doctors can correct the gender problem into a boy, there would be no fear or confusion and would save us a lot of trouble,” says Kennedy.

Their 10-year-old daughter, Laureen, is in Standard Four. She does not seem to be aware of her brother’s condition. And the parents are separated from what appears to be issues surrounding Wesley’s gender.

But Wesley’s condition is not new to the world. Hermaphrodites have existed since time immemorial. Only that in almost all African societies, having a hermaphrodite child is viewed as a shame.

The most popular case in Kenya is that of convict Richard Mwanzia Muasya. His condition came into the limelight in 2005 when he was arraigned in court and charged for robbery with violence in which a woman was gang-raped.

This prompted the court to order doctors to carry out an examination on whether the convict who has lived his life as man was a hermaphrodite.

The report confirmed that Muasya was a hermaphrodite and police dropped the rape charge against him on the grounds that none of his sexual organs were found to be fully-developed and therefore, it was unlikely for him to commit rape.

The case is on and Muasya is seeking to be set free, arguing that he is suffering inhuman and degrading treatment by exposure to male convicts, prison warders and wananchi.

Perhaps, if Muasya was not jailed or not charged with a crime of rape, his condition would not have been publicly known.