Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hope for Jinja ‘hermaphrodite’

Tabu wants to be a man since he has been living like one since childhood. He is sexually active and frequently gets sexually attracted to women. PHOTOS BY PAULINE KAIRU
An ultrasound scan, hormonal and sex chromosome tests have confirmed that Tabu has more biological male features than the female ones, write Pauline Kairu and Solomon Muyita
Sixteen-year-old Charles Tabu has had to live with the agony and pain of hiding a deeply entrenched secret pertaining his sexuality.

But recently when peers at school learnt of his sexual abnormalities causing him to be branded a hermaphrodite, he could not bear it anymore. He not only kept away from school but also attempted to commit suicide. Luckily, his uncle counselled him and promised to find a solution to his problem.

Although his mother gave him male names, she knew he had both the male and female sex organs – a thing that seemed to bother her mind because Tabu was her first born. Before the mother, Rose Nabyana, thought of settling down to have other children, she abandoned Tabu with one of her brothers Jonah Musagala at a village in Wanyange, Jinja, in 2004 and she has not been seen again. By then, an 11-year-old Tabu who was in Primary Four at Katonte Primary School in Mayuge had started developing breasts.

The uncle, who’s a security guard at MM College at Wairaka in the suburbs of Jinja, was initially oblivious about Tabu’s sex disorders – it only came to his knowledge late last year when he saw Tabu’s fully grown breasts and he received his menstrual periods.

“He came to me crying in November last year. He revealed his condition to me and told me how he has been hiding it from other people and I. He said he was going to commit suicide,” said Musagala, who immediately sought help to correct Tabu’s condition.

It is apparent that the youngster who has developed a slouching posture, probably in an attempt to hide the full breasted chest is very uncomfortable with his condition. He seldom looks up throughout the interview as he painstakingly tries to respond to queries.

In his interview with Daily Monitor before tests were done on him, Tabu wished to remain a man, since he has been living like one since childhood, he is sexually active and that he frequently gets sexually attracted to women. “I want to be a man. I have been living as a man from childhood,” Tabu said.

As if to grant his wish, doctors at the Jinja Referral Hospital, who have done an ultrasound scan on Tabu’s reproductive organs as well as hormonal and sex chromosome tests, have confirmed that he has more biological male features than the female ones.

“We checked and he has no uterus,” explained Dr Benon Wanume, the Jinja Hospital medical superintendent. “What appeared like a vagina below his penis is actually his urethra that defectively opened at the bottom side of his penis and not at the end. He has testicles but they are atrophic (poorly developed).”

According to Dr Wanume, it is the abnormality on his testicles that has made Tabu develop breasts and seem like a hermaphrodite, because they (testicles) cannot produce enough antigens in his body to counteract the estrogens.

Estrogens are hormones from the ovary which are responsible for typical female sexual characteristics, whereas antigens are secreted from the testicles in males and are responsible for the male sexual characteristics. The Jinja Hospital does not have the facilities to correct the boy’s condition, so he would be referred to Mulago Hospital for an operation to, among others, correct the position of his urethra on his penis.

“Also, more antigens have to be pumped into his body to counteract the estrogen, so it can reverse the growth of the female-like features on his body like the breasts,” explained the medic.

Dr Wanume said what appeared like menstrual periods on Tabu late last year was a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), “Given that his urethra is so close to his anus,” making it easy for him to contract an infection.

According to the doctor, conditions such as Tabu’s are common and can be medically corrected. “I know it’s a torture to the victim,” said the doctor, adding that Tabu needed serious counselling because he is already tortured by the feeling that he was probably a woman.

Mr Musagala says he just figured out that his sister, Ms Nabyana had abandoned his 11-year-old child with him claiming that she had a business deal in Nairobi, Kenya, only never to return.

“She neither told me about the abnormality nor the boy’s father. I actually bet she too doesn’t know Tabu’s father because she was a bit unstable with men – I know she was involved with several of them at the same time.

On top of his own family of five children, Musagala narrates how he has lived on the edge to sustain all of them together with Tabu with his meagre monthly earning of Shs70,000.

He tells of how this discovery has destabilised the family. “We want to help the boy but we probably wouldn’t afford to offer the kind of assistance the boy needs, all I have been doing is praying and believing. But every morning we wake up and the problem is still with us until now, we have resolved to go open with the problem and seek whatever assistance we can get.”

For any assistance, Tabu’s uncle Jonah Musagala can be reached on 0751604633. Good Samaritans can also deposit money on Account No: 1031100040339, Post Bank Jinja Branch

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