Although she had male organs Audrey Mbugua indeed socialised as a boy, she says that as she grew up she felt deep inside that she was a woman trapped in the body of a man.
Andrew recognised himself as a woman but battled with the feelings, afraid to let anyone know. It was at the age of 19 that her real identity as a woman was defined and she began working towards becoming one.
“I have suffered depression almost all my life. The struggle to be someone that I am not in a conservative society has been a horrendous journey,” Audrey says.
She believes gender is what is between the ears and not what is between the legs.
A pleasant person, Audrey’s tone keeps changing from mellow to hyper then melancholic as she narrates her moving life story.
She occasionally breaks into laughter that seemed to echo the message, “I can’t believe I have been through this.”
She says one of the greatest challenges of dealing with the Kenyan society is that people are highly opinionated on issues they know nothing about.
She wonders why people treat transgender people harshly, yet it is a quality as natural as being born short or dark-complexioned.
The transformation from woman to man or vice versa is dictated by changes in male (testosterone) and female (oestrogen) hormones, unlike sexual orientation, where biological hormones play a less significant role.
She had succeeded in passing a message — a confusing one while at it. That is how she fell out with her parents.
They thought she was being rebellious but there was more to it, as a doctor would later explain. Her father collapsed on learning that she was transgender.
“I haven’t talked to my parents for years. But wherever they are, I know they still love me. I appreciate everything they have done for me, but I had to live my life and them theirs,” she says, sounding melancholy.
Her friends from university and even home viewed her stand as obnoxious and shunned her completely, thinking she was either bewitched or running mad from reading too much.
Others thought she was gay. “After agonising, I asked myself, ‘so what would being in good terms with them add to my life?’ There is always an expiry date for pleasing parents and the society.
What matters is that I am happier now and the only thing I can do is make life better for my transgender daughters and sons, sisters and brothers. They are now my family, my species,” she said.
Her siblings are however more accommodating, now acknowledging her as a sister, and her nieces and nephews calling her aunt.
In January 2012, by gazette notice Ms Mbugua published by a deed poll, she renounced the name Andrew and assumed Audrey Ithibu Mbugua.