One foot in the closet, one foot out.

I was about fourteen years old when my younger brother asked me how to kiss a girl, he was twelve. An ordinary teenage girl would think of this as cute and novel but I was not ordinary; I was and still am, queer. I grew up with four brothers, three older and one younger than me. I was never fully aware of myself growing up, I was an inward being, always engrossed in a book or some form of learning. I performed poorly at games that required hand eye coordination, games that girls would play like ingedo or skipping rope or umgusha and even hopscotch. I enjoyed time spent with my girlfriends but somehow always knew I was different. My family remarks that they noticed at seven years old that I had a funny walk; an unusual masculine gait; I could not respond to this because I automatically walked, never thinking if it was feminine or not. In the years before puberty struck my aunt would teach me how to walk like a lady and said I needed to place a box of cornflakes on my head to get rid of my slouch. I agreed because I did love her and she was much older than me; I thought she knew best. My mother was a hairdresser who straightened my hair with chemicals and plait it in various styles that had my school mates green with envy. She also bought me very feminine clothes, the ones usually adorned on Sundays at church; blouses with flowers and mini heels. I smiled for the camera when the time came to take photographs of these outfits but deep down inside I knew it was not a full or even the real representation of me. Growing up with brothers I had no hand-me-downs to wear but I wore their clothes regardless, my grandmother would scorn me often but I did not care. I watched them play soccer and was sometimes allowed to join and sometimes, reluctantly, they would allow me to tag along to the fields where they caught cat, mice, doves and other small animals and spliced them open, investigating their internal organs. Sometimes they roasted the doves they had caught over an open fire- I was not there on those days. My heart ached when they got slingshots and I did not but then again there were no doves to shoot in the yard or in the kitchen where it was deemed I belonged. At twelve years old I already knew what my difference meant but there was no outlet for me and so I kept in.
At twelve years old my younger brother knew he liked girls and when he asked me the question on the technicalities of kissing, I thought he had found me out but he just simply wanted to know from a girl’s perspective. Over the years my brothers had girlfriends, were shouted at for having them sleepover; my younger brother once was found with two girls in his room. My family was livid and always threw light on how good I was and had never brought trouble. They did not know or maybe threw a blind eye at the fact I was queer. Being queer does not afford one privileges like telling your parents about your girlfriend or being scolded at for sleeping at a girlfriend’s place or vice versa. My family is pretty homophobic despite being non-religious or traditional in anyway and so over the years I have had to keep flings and relationships hidden, going away to university made that simpler but still I feel I am being cheated out of living a full life and I wonder at times if I am not to blame because of my reluctance to explain myself, but also, I have a strong feeling on how it will turn out once I affirm my queer identity outwardly to them- basically it will not be good. I highly doubt they would cast me out but they would very uncomfortable and I hate uncomfortable situations. Other points for not coming out is that I believe it is quite evident what I am, I do not want heterosexual people’s affirmation of me as if I am winning a medal for being me and I am gender queer which would be difficult to explain to a people who only know about gays and lesbians. I would like to believe that my family loves me and I love them too, they have stopped trying to rectify me and so for now that is enough. The uncomfortable comfortable silence on my gender and sexual identity is but a small hindrance which over time, I hope, will no longer exist.

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