Saturday, June 20th, 2020

Sidney and Friends : the lives of a group of intersex and trans youth in Kenya


Nearly every documentary that depicts someone’s transitioning journey is tough to sit and watch.  Mainly because as they struggle with gender dysphoria they are made outcasts by their families,  and facing poverty and unable to be employed become sex workers which puts their whole lives at risk. Very few are able to take this journey with the loving support that they deserve.

Imagine then how much worse this situation can be when you live in a Third World Country such as Kenya.  This is exactly the setting for this powerful doc from Scottish filmmaker Tristan Aitchison that looks at the impossibly tough  lives of a group of very brave young trans and intersex kids 

Sidney is intersex,  not that he knew that for years , and actually its a miracle he is alive as usually when kids like him are born they are consider a product of the devil and killed at birth.  He is the central figure in the film and after he met Aitchison by accident, he introduced him to others in similar situations. 

Sidney was raised as a girl even though he insisted on acting as a boy and he simply failed to develop in the expected way, either psychologically or physically.  Initially his battles with his parents were simple ones like the right to wear trousers (a big culturally no-no for women) but when they realized he wa attracted to women, he was thrown out of the family home and they threatened to kill him..  After initially staying with his Grandmother he made his way to Nairobi to live life as he wanted but without n ID he was simply unable to find work and was forced to rely on the charity of his few friends to survive.

In fact many of Sidney’s circle who are trans or intersex face similar employment problems . .  If their ID cards were marked female  and that have female names but they looked male, no-one would hire them.  Which forced several into being sex workers whether they liked it or not.

Martin, a very glamorous woman,  had decided the way out of her predicament of still being legally identified as a man, was to find a wealthy lover to sweep her off her feet and solve all her financial problems too. Then there was Ben who had been disowned by his parents who saw him not as a man but as a lesbian even though he insisted on doing all the men’s work around the home. 

Their families in complete ignorance of the true nature of their children’s plights which they  saw as being cursed by demons so they would  try to physically beat or ever starve out of the , or have whole church groups have special exorcism ceremonies to pray the devil away.

The added struggle that this group of individuals that Aitchison covered was that they themselves had no knowledge of what they were feeling and dealing with.  In their culture words such as transgender were totally unknown, and so when the discovered them, the main feeling was relief just discovering that there were others like them 

As part of their real fear of wrongly  being identified as gay they made a point of stressing that they wanted to distance themselves from the whole LGBTQ community

Aitchison filmed this over three years  which thankfully gave him time to see some happy closures on some of incredible moving stories he followed .  Nevertheless living in Kenya still exposes them to the potential harm as they are simply no rights for anyone on the LGBTQ spectrum.  Sidney at least is now working in a Support group to help others like himself and although he faces an enormous task but at least he appreciates that change must come from within.

P.S, The film is now streaming on Amazon Prime.


Posted by queerguru  at  13:49



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