From childhood, he had experienced utter confusion. Born on March 16, 1987, Nigerian Oluwaseun Fajilade cannot say boldly whether he is a male or female. The confusion started from the labour ward when he was born.
His mother, Kehinde Fajilade could not understand what the nurses told her— her baby had both male and female organs.
Recalling amidst tears, she said, “Immediately my child was born, I was very excited about knowing its sex. My husband wanted a girl but I wanted a boy. After the labour experience and I was relieved, I persistently asked the nurses for the sex of my child. None said anything. Then, one of them, who was a little hesitant in telling me, invited my husband.
“My husband came into the labour room, sat beside my bed and said we had to bear this pain. He said our baby was neither a boy nor a girl. The baby was a hermaphrodite. I still remember hearing those words; it was as if someone poured cold water on me. I kept asking why it had to be my baby in that condition.”
Medically, humans with reproductive organs of both male and female sexes are referred to as a hermaphrodite.
Fajilade, the agonised mother went on: “On hearing the words, a pang of pain ran through me. I couldn’t believe it but my husband consoled me and said we would bring the child up with utmost care. He told me not to cry, but it was hard, I couldn’t hold back my tears.
“I was perplexed, what had I done that warranted such an injustice? I searched my heart for answers. I wondered what to tell relatives, I knew my pain had just started. I told myself I would hide him from the public, I could not bear seeing him stigmatised and humiliated.”
If they hid Oluwaseun from friends and family, they could not stop nature from rearing its head when the child reached teenage years. The breasts began to show and this kick-started another torturous journey of finding answers as the struggling family made desperate visits to several hospitals. It was an expensive search for answers.
Mr. Babatunde Fajilade took over his wife’s narration: “We ran from one hospital to another in search of a solution. We couldn’t stand the look people gave our son as his breasts protruded through his shirts. We spent quite some money during the search for a good hospital that could operate on him. We just wanted him to live a normal life; we wanted him to be that male man we all dreamt about. We wanted to put an end to his misery.’’
It was a fruitless search as there was no hospital which could carry out the surgery without charging the family millions of Naira.
“I’m just an engineer, how much do I earn? My wife is a trader; she doesn’t make so much money. Where will we get millions of naira from? My son didn’t wish this upon himself, my only prayer is that Nigerians come to his rescue, he wants to live a normal life,” the frustrated father said.
At 29, how does he feel?
“Yes, I want to live a normal life,” Oluwaseun said shyly.
“I want to be a whole man,” he added in a small voice.
“I have lived in darkness for 29 years; I can’t do things like other youths, my life has been a life of misery. Every day, I ask why I had to carry this burden.”
When asked why the family had to wait this long before publicly seeking help, Mrs. Fajilade said, “I thought I could deal with it. I thought keeping Oluwaseun away from public limelight was the best thing for him, but it didn’t change his genetic condition.”
At what point did he become conscious of the fact that he is not like other boys? Oluwaseun said it was during his secondary school days.
“It was so hard for me accepting the fact that I was born with male and female genital organs. It made me withdraw into my shell. I love playing football but I couldn’t play any longer with other boys. I kept wondering what my friends would say if they saw that I have female breasts. Words fail me to describe the pain I felt and still feel on a daily basis,” he said.
Because of his anatomy, Oluwaseun has to be careful with what he wears. He can’t wear anything too tight so as not to draw attention to his groin and if he chooses to wear shirts, they are usually big.
“I still have a big dream; I know God has great plans for my life. I just pray that God puts an end to this traumatic situation I’m facing,” he said.
Currently enrolled in one of the Colleges of Education in the South-West, he hopes to become a great man in future.
Meanwhile, the founder of the Non-Governmental Organisation who is seeking financial help for the Fajilades, Mr. Oluwaseun Funmilayo, said the family needs all the help they can get.
He said, “Oluwaseun’s parents are not financially buoyant and the organisation had to wade in. Already, they are helpless.
“I know they don’t have the money to successfully make Oluwaseun the man he desires to be. When I learnt about his story, I was moved to tears. It is more painful to know that Oluwaseun has lived a life of pain for 29 years. I’ve known Oluwaseun’s family for several months and after visiting the family, and speaking with them, I made independent inquiries at a hospital which I chose not to disclose.
“I obtained the medical records of Oluwaseun. According to the doctors, the male organ is the dominant one and can be corrected. I gathered from the doctors that the breast could be ingested and the female organ closed while the penis would be enhanced. The doctor further disclosed that it would take about two or three corrective surgeries for his condition to be remedied. For this reason, the family and I are seeking assistance from individuals to help,” Funmilayo said.
Hermaphrodites though rare are not a new phenomenon. A former Super Falcons forward, Iyabo Abade, is arguably the most celebrated hermaphrodite case in Nigeria. Abade subsequently had surgery in 2004 and is now living as a man, with a new name, James Johnson.
Sharing his travails with The PUNCH, Johnson had brushed aside any form of pity.
“There is no need for me to be feeling sad that God created me the way I am. I am happy with life but I feel sad because some people are out there to cut short your happiness,” he said.
Hermaphrodites are however yet to be fully accepted by members of the public. Many of them face stigmatisation and humiliation.
For traumatised Oluwaseun, he wants his male life back. He said, “I want Nigerians to help me. We have gotten a hospital in India, where the surgery can be performed. My parents don’t have the wherewithal for the surgery. Neither do I. The hospital has demanded for millions of naira which my family can never garner in 50 years. I just want to be a man and not a woman. I need to live my life like a man.”-Punch