MEET Mike Sichaze who was born with both smale and female sexual organs but raised as a girl due to a more female dominant physical appearance. Mike now narrates how difficult it is to grow up as an intersex person in Zambia.
Individuals classified as intersex are people born with physical or biological sex characteristics such as sexual anatomy, reproductive organs, hormonal patterns and/or chromosomal patterns that do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies.
For some intersex people these traits are apparent at birth, while for others they emerge later in life, often at puberty.
It is only logical for someone to introduce themselves if they are talking about their lives, but in the case of Sichaze he has fear about his own safety given the conditions in Zambia because people like him are often judged based on how they appear.
Sunday Times Chief Reporter Delphine Hampande Zulu gives us this detailed article about Mike who has decided to break the ice. He confirms he is not the only intersex person in Zambia but that they there are many more like him living in fear.
Question 1: When were you born?
Answer: I was born on January 26, 1999 in Mazabuka District Southern Province. I am number eight in the family of nine, and I was born as an intersex person. I grew up in three different townships.
Question 2: How was your school experience?
Answer: I started school in 2006 in Central Province and by then I had some questions in my head such as why am I different from all the other kids, I got surprised whenever people asked me a similar question all the time like … are you a girl or boy?.
I later moved to another town and when I turned 11 years curiosity started increasing because I started asking myself more questions as to why I was different from the rest and my friends at school always teased me about how I looked and how I behaved.
It was never an easy experience, I always left out of a lot of school activities as well as community activities, because I always felt like I did not fit in any situation and this forced me to always lock myself up.
I did not associate with a lot of kids my age because I was afraid of being made a laughing stock.
When I passed my grade nine examinations I thought things would change as I was going to join another group of people whom I thought I understood things better and would actually help me but hey, the journey became more difficult as mockery was at another level too. I had a few friends who helped me despite others who always picked fights with me.
As tough as it was I managed to pull through and completed my grade 12 although I did do well in other subjects, but I was determined to clear them all which I did and now am preparing for my college life which I know is not going to be easy as well.
Question 3: At What stage did you discover that you are intersex
Answer: I got really curious as to why I was different from other kids and at the age of eight I started asking my mother why ‘I am the way I am’ and my mother told me that I will understand when I grow older
I realised that my mum too never really had the full information about myself, and at the age of 13 I watched a documentary on BBC Focus on Africa that is where I saw someone for the first time who spoke about being an intersex person.
He explained some of the key things I was not aware about that is where I got the term intersex from, in the evenings later that day I asked for my relative’s smart phone and Googled the word intersex. That’s where I got a lot of information I needed and from that documentary I got some really good information and some comfort as well as knowing that at least I was not alone.
So from that time I wanted to have more information buy to date, I don’t fully have the full information.
Question 4: What is your identity?
Answer: After understanding the explanations of who an intersex person is especially from my little research I discovered my identity at the age of 16.
This has been always in me but then I came to a full acceptance at the age of 20 that I wanted to be identified as a male although raised as a female.
I am attracted to girls not guys even if I have a female sex organ but it is not as active as the male one ……hope you understand how confusing this is. I have just resorted to wearing jeans thus casual.
Question : Any stigma from family members or are they supportive?
Answer: My parents and my siblings always gave me the love and support that I needed even when people in the community were calling me all sorts of embarrassing words and names. They are always comforting me and giving me the love that I need.
I only told my parents about myself wanting to be identified as male-someone being attracted to girls in July this very 2022, and they accepted it fully and told me, «if that’s the way you want it to be, we can’t force you to be someone you are not, Just know that we love you no matter what”.
Question : How different is intersex from gays and lesbians?
Answer: Many people often mistake intersex people for homosexuals, when it’s totally different. An intersex person is born with all sexual organs which is male and female parts as for a gay or lesbian people are born with a clear identity as any other person.
These they do it for money while others for fun but least to say they are some who could be born normal but have issues with hormones and find comfort in becoming gay or lesbian while intersex is natural.
Question : Are you in any relationship?
Answer: In the meantime, I am not in any relationship but I have had some relationships in the past.
Question : Have you worked before?
Answer: I was working at a receptionist at a named lodge and being an Intersex am more comfortable wearing men’s clothing but on my ID it read female so it was quite difficult at first because my boss wanted me to wear women’s clothing. I don’t have problems with that but what is scary is the level of stigmatisation.
I was afraid to tell my superior the truth at first about myself because I was in fear of losing my job so I was forced to adjust a little bit and wore women trousers but as time went by I started feeling uncomfortable with the conditions and the type of clothing I was forced to wear, so I decided to gather the courage and tell my boss and my coworkers about myself,”.
I reached out to my workmate who encouraged me to explain it to my boss which I did and was surprised to see that she was aware about intersex people, I felt a bit of relief, I then started wearing men’s clothes since she understood my situation.
Only clocked 10 months at the company after getting comfortable everything was okay until August this year when my boss suddenly scolded at me to switch to the female dress code or else I risk losing my job.
This really confused me and it got to a point where I would go for work stay the whole day without talking to either my boss or my coworkers they ganged up against me and I felt the stigma!
She finally said it’s either I change or I don’t show up for work, I tried pleading with her but it was to no avail until I got fired.
Well, I must say it was not an easy experience, I was not lucky enough to be born normal like other people and the truth is what I feel inside is not something that I woke up and decided to say that’s how I’m going to be or this is how I am going to dress.
It’s just something that is natural and believe me if I was born this way it’s because God wanted me to be born this way.
“Our community and society at large need to first of all understand the difference between intersex and gays we are leaving with people like me who are being judged and called all sorts of names, this is sad not everyone is born the same only God allows it ours is natural way of being born,” he said.
All we want is acceptance in society, to be considered or treated like any other person, to be given opportunity just like any other person we are intersex people, YES we and want to enjoy our human rights.