As a child, I was very effeminate. I acted a lot like a girl. My behind swayed as I walked, and gesticulating with limp-wristed hands while talking was the most involuntary thing for me. People called me such names like “Omekanwanyi”, “boy-girl”, “Adanne”, and about every other female name a boy would not want to be called.
I also had a doll. It was a secret. No one saw the doll. I named her Diana, the name I would’ve loved to be called if I were a girl. I plaited her hair, made her up and gave her girl advice. She was my daughter and my girlfriend. I loved Diana, but I was ashamed of her. The embarrassment of anyone finding out I owned a doll frightened me. “Boys ride bicycles and play football. They don’t own dolls!” I would tell myself. And then, I would smack Diana on the floor and curse her, angry with her, angry with myself that I owned her.
I hated that I behaved like a girl. I would’ve done anything to stop. I did a lot actually. I prayed and fasted; I was a religious kid. And each time I read 1 Corinthians 6:9, I cried. There, the scripture clearly told me that I was hell-bound. It said no effeminate person would inherit the kingdom of God. I was a little boy, I hadn’t committed any crime, but somehow the devil already owned me. I believed it. I would imagine myself burning in this big lake of fire and Satan laughing as I burned and cried. Nothing was more frightful than this.
And as a Mormon boy, I had the duty of preparing myself to receive the priesthood at a certain age. How could I receive the priesthood when I was effeminate?
My first term as a high school boy was difficult. My father died that year; I was 13 years old. That first term was the first time I was called “Homo”, by a senior student. I cringed when the name hit me. I didn’t fully understand what it meant, but I instinctively knew it had something to do with me being girly. I was thoroughly bothered by it, and I wanted to ask somebody what “Homo” means.
I would have asked my father; he was a man of books. He knew the meaning of every English word. But he was dead. So I had to ask my mother. What did she even know though? She was just a groundnut seller, I thought.
Yet I asked her. She called the full name – “Homosexual”. “A man who is married to another man,” she said.
I was afraid she would ask me why I asked, because I was too embarrassed to tell her someone called me that at school. She didn’t ask.
And so “Omekanwanyi” and “boy-girl” and “Adanne” were past. I now had a new name, the most frightening of them all. I had to fight it. And the only way I thought I could fight it was with weed. I started smoking Marijuana with boys in the ghetto. It worked. I was shedding the girl in me, becoming more macho. I continued till the day I nearly ran mad. Actually, I did run mad that day.
So I had become “manly”, and the boys allowed me into their circle. It was a victory.
This is only one of the ways the many boy-girls in our society join the male circle. I have a friend who’s a weight lifter. He said he became a weight lifter because he was effeminate. A soldier friend told me the same. I want to write a book about us former boy-girls and call the book “Cooked Boys”. Cooked in harsh fires. Cooked into boy-boys.
As an adult – in as much as I am no longer effeminate, except when I purposely want to be dramatic – there are moments I act effeminate without knowing it. It’s funny that when this happens, it startles me, and in that moment, I become very self-conscious.
“Let the girl be. She follows you everywhere, silenced but still there.” Something encourages inside me. But no, that must be Satan’s voice.
In 2013, when I told my mother some important things about me, she said, “I know. I have always known. When you asked me the meaning of Homo all those years ago, I knew why you asked, but I didn’t know what to tell you.”
I can only tell this story, but I can’t make anyone feel the way I felt as a growing child. It was not a good feeling. I mutilated myself severally. Being a church boy made it worse.
For all the kids who have questions, and the parents that do not know the answers, may you find your way out of these questions. And may these questions not break you.
No innocent child should ever have to cry and feel guilty over who they are. Religious and secular institutions must rise to end this shame they instigate in children with their doctrines and cultures.
May our children be raised to enjoy the pride of their selfness. Their unique differences should strengthen them, not threaten them.
Written by Felix Kalu