The general lack of information about gender identity issues that plagues the country’s health care service means that Botswana’s Transgender community is suffering. A recent incident involving a young teenager was brought to the attention of Rainbow Identity, an organization that deals with transgender and intersex people and their issues.
The incident took place at the Princess Marina Hospital’s department of infectious diseases when a young person suffering from gender identity confusion went to seek medical attention from a physician.
Mrs Monareng, a nurse within the department, came across the young person while on her regular rounds on Tuesday last week. Due to the client being a minor, we cannot reveal any name or other personal details, but for convenience in this report we will refer to the client as Kabo. During these rounds Mrs Monareng usually focuses on counselling and testing for cervical cancer.
Mrs Monareng told Behind the Mask, “I met this young person, Kabo, who was born male and to me it did not occur that maybe this person was a female inside. When I asked what I could do for the client, the client responded by saying: I am referred by a doctor to come and see a physician.”
Monareng continued, “When I asked what the complaint was, I was shocked.”
Nevertheless, as much as there is lack of information within government hospitals the client was eventually seen by doctors and in the client’s card, the doctors have written that the client is intersex. However much to their surprise the characteristics they observed were male.
Monareng said, “The sad part is that this client is from a disadvantaged background and even the mother has no idea on how to support the child. As far as she [the mother] is concerned, she gave birth to a boy who preferred to associate with girls. She clearly never knew that a person could change their sex.”
At school Kabo only managed to reach junior level (Form 3) and was forced to discontinue studies because of poor results probably made worse by the difficulties faced at school when one has a gender identity crisis.
Monareng said, “When Kabo when was the age of 12 or 13, he told the mother that he wanted to be a girl but the mother did not understand why her son now wanted to be her daughter and had no idea such a thing was even possible.”
Monareng continued, “Kabo`s journey has not been an easy one as no one understood what Kabo was going through. I really salute Kabo for the courage to come all the way from the Kalahari District to Gaborone to seek assistance.”
The doctors and nurses at the hospital did all they could with regards to Kabo and it was them who referred the case to Rainbow Identity who will now see how they can help Kabo.