When I was nominated for this I knew it was probably going to be one of the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I thought of things to say and discarded ideas halfway. Some were too personal; some were too glossed over while some were just too stupid. I want you to picture a dead man’s fist. How tightly the fingers coil upon the palm. How dark the space between the fingers. How guarded. How twisted. I am that hand. Not dead, just dark, twisted and guarded. But I have to start somewhere
I will start at the beginning. The time when I lived as a cross between a boy and a girl.
When I think of my early years the only thing I wanted to become when I grew up was my brother. He was older and I looked up to him. I studied the way he rode his bike and rode just like him. I watched wrestling just like he did and even stole his marbles (bano) and became one of the best marbles ‘pushers’ of my age group. At one time I think my marble collection rivalled his (Probably because he had stopped playing since he is six years older).
The difference between me and him came when I had to get my hair done. I hated being squeezed between the thick thighs of the estate hairdresser while she braided row upon row of my dumu zas hair. I would wonder at what my brother was up to while I was being tortured and lay dying because of holding my breath for too long. Sometimes when my mind strayed too much the lady would hit me with the wooden comb to make me behave. That usually ended with me inhaling which was not something you wanted to do when you are eight and stuck between a woman’s thighs. There was a compromise though, I could be stuck in this death grip for half a day but I wouldn’t touch my hair for the next month or so. This taught me compromise and delayed gratification.
Apart from the salon trips I was basically amorphous. Some days I was more of a boy, going fishing for tadpoles and swimming in ponds while other days I made my mom teach me knitting and crocheting. That was until puberty hit. For most people the transition is seamless. For me it was HARD! I hated every moment of it. I felt like choice had been taken from me. Why would God allow me to have my own choice for about fourteen years then take it away? Even as a kid I loved to be in control of my own decisions. But here I was flying blind.
So, I did find a way to minimise this tragedy. I would wrap a piece of cloth around my chest until it appeared flat against my uniform then wear jean shorts under the dress to camouflage my hip arear. A huge sweater would go on top as an invisibility clock. It worked well for a while but it eventually became awkward to do some things with all those clothes. When I was just getting a hang of this new me the story of how a woman should behave kicked in. Suddenly all the guys I would play police and robbers with had become too macho to see my point of view. Then it became news if I stood with a guy for more than ten minutes. The innocence of being ‘just friends’ suddenly took on a new meaning.
I retreated into a favourite pass time which was books. I read everything in our house. From the lyrics on the back of tapes to the reader’s digest my dad collected. I started to enjoy my own company more and more. Until it was the only thing I knew how to do.
The first time I benefited from being a woman was when I wanted to change my course in first year. Seated across the dean with my papers stretched towards him I waited with bated breath for his decision. A few minutes after perusing my papers, he stamped and signed the form and on top in huge letters wrote “because she is a girl”. If I was a boy I would have missed the chance by half a mark.
So yes, it is because I am a girl that I write this. I spent so many years dreaming of my amorphous years. Not because I hated being a girl but because being a girl came with so much restriction. Because when you are weird and have tits, it is just harder for you. This is me saying, I am still getting a hang of being a girl.