Sexual and Gender Minorities in Western Kenya

Health and Rights Concerns of People Assigned Female at Birth
January 2019

This report provides some of the first published findings on the demographics and experiences of lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender people assigned female at birth in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Bianca D.M. Wilson
    Senior Scholar of Public Policy, Former
  • Soon Kyu Choi
    Project Manager, Former
  • Laima Augustaitis
    Graduate Fellow, University of Michigan
  • Laura Jadwin-Cakmak
    Research Director, University of Michigan School of Public Health
  • Leah C. Neubauer
    Assistant Professor, Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University
  • Gary W. Harper
    Professor, University of Michigan
Researchers surveyed 273 sexual and gender minorities in Western Kenya assigned female sex at birth.
The majority identified as lesbian and most described their gender expression in terms of masculine, feminine or androgynous.
Economic empowerment, LGBT acceptance campaigns, and safety from violence are among the greatest needs of this community.
Data Points
of respondents had a post-secondary education
reported being unemployed
reported facing violence because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression
felt the need for legal interventions like educational initiatives and LGBT anti-discrimination laws


Research on sexual and gender minorities in Kenya – as in much of the world – has focused almost exclusively on the needs of those assigned male at birth, including those currently identified as men and transgender women, and their sexual partners. Further, much of that research has remained HIV/AIDS focused, and has missed an examination of the broad range of sexual health needs identified by Kenyan sexual and gender minority people (amFRA, 2015). In 2013, a series of community conversations with a local grassroots organization of sexual and gender minorities who were assigned female sex at birth (SGM-FAB) occurred in Western Kenya. This led to the Kufunua project (Swahili for ‘reveal’), a quantitative community needs assessment with a goal to identify the demographic characteristics of this community and to improve our understanding of the experiences and needs of SGM-FAB in Western Kenya. Kudunua was undertaken in order to inform the current political and social debate around how to best serve the needs of lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTI) people assigned female sex at birth in the region.

Prior work within this community indicated that many SGM-FAB people identify with a lesbian, bisexual and queer (LGBQ) women’s community, including not only those who identify as women, but also those who identify as transmasculine, non-binary, or gender fluid. Similarly, grassroots community organizations and support groups for LBQ women tend to be inclusive spaces for transmasculine and non-binary individuals assigned female at birth, and previous qualitative work (Wilson et al., under review) has identified that many SGM-FAB who identify as transgender or non-binary also identify as LBQ women. The term “LBQ womxn” is one phrase used by several community leaders to signify the inclusion of al individuals assigned female at birth with varied gender expression and sexual orientation identities. Given that the phrase “womxn” is used differently in a U.S. context than a Kenyan context, we refer to the community as SGM-FAB throughout this brief report and keep this diverse group in mind when drawing implications for public policies and services.

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Sexual and Gender Minorities in Western Kenya