If I told you I know what it is like to be ridiculed for being a homosexual male, would you believe me?
Would you believe that I have feared for my safety when riding on the bus, or walking along the streets?
Would you believe that I have seen every look of disgust the human face is capable of configuring into?
And it all started with a simple question.
Are you are boy or a girl?
I was 13 then, flat as a ruler, all limbs and sharp angles. But there were girls as thin as I was, who had never been asked such a demoralizing question. As a 13 year old girl, just at the beginning of puberty. Till that very moment, I had never thought anything of my gender. I looked like a girl, or at least I had thought I looked like one.
I cried my heart out that day, I still cry till today. Despite the majority of people who don’t see how I can be mistaken for a man, it is still a shock when I’m referred to as a female in public spaces. I dread interaction with people on a day to day basis, because I am afraid they will notice my peculiarity and mention it.
People say South Korea’s standard of beauty is unforgiving and unyielding, but at least I wouldn’t get hounded for being so spindly. If you have ever been to South Africa, I’m sure you quickly realised that spindly is not a sought after ideal. Interestingly, with the level of democracy the country is known for, compared to most other African counterparts, one would think I should be the perfect example of being fluid. Right?
But I’m not fluid. I don’t identify by anything other than female. Or perhaps that by itself is just a construct. It’s maddening, live a day in my shoes and see. Waking up today female, but somehow becoming a male crossdresser by the end of the day. Being called beautiful in a moment, and within the next few hours, sneered at for trying to look like a woman. I have thought of suicide to end the trauma that reminds me of how utterly strange I am from the normal female. Tortured daily by my peculiarity, some would merely call melodrama. Girls get called guys all the time, big deal. Or, just wear makeup and dresses. But it hits differently when all I’ve been likened to is a man trying to look like/be a woman.
I’ve scoured the internet for women like me, women who have no interest in bodybuilding or transitioning to the opposite gender, and have found none but two or three stories.
Are we rare? Or am I just a rare case?
When I am forced to interact with people, this niggling question of what are they seeing eats at me. My hearing has sharpened over the years, however flawed with a bias towards the negative. Why wouldn’t it? When I am on constant alert in public, listening and observing for any sign of danger to my person. Trust me, despite being the first African country to legalize gay marriage, it’s hard being gay in South Africa. And so, with the passing time, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing conceivably female about me. It was all in my head, a placebo effect borne from my childhood before moving to South Africa. An out of body experience when I get my period, or seeing my female organs during routine sanitary upkeeps. A detachment from reality, that has shaped my life view.
You see, I’m broken. Broken to the point I question a man’s sexuality when he shows so much as an attraction to me. I shun sleep, replaying the disgust on faces I had marked to heart, remembering the tiny snickers that came after. How could I possibly forget the looks of discomfort the polite would give at my nearness?
I used to cry every night. Crying into my pillow so my sister wouldn’t stir beside me. Now, I cry because I appreciate the headache that remains after I become numb. It’s amazing that I can still manage to cry, right? After all these years, I can still shed tears. Maybe I’m not as numb as I’d like to think?
Since moving back to Nigeria (five months), with my ears even sharper, I haven’t been mistaken for a man. Even though my sporadic escapades throughout Lagos revealed my height as above the average (male and female), perhaps by just a few inches in a few instances. A total contradiction to a perception 15 years in South Africa had nurtured. Or had they confirmed the stifling masculinization of Nigerian women fervently perpetuated in South Africa?
I’ve put on some weight and filled out my thighs, still Team Lean, and it seems that was the missing factor. Although, I can only be sure after returning to South Africa. But for now, I’d like to hold on to this promising theory that I might be female. I hope someday, that I eventually come out of my head to tell that broken 13 year old girl, that it wasn’t all in her head. That she was female. A girl then, a woman now.
A woman always.