Growing up different can be a blessing or a curse. You either attract love for your unique traits or you get shunned for being way out of the spectrum of normal. For instance, a male child has no business exhibiting stereotypically female characteristics and desires. This is a no-no, especially in post-colonial Africa with its religions and strict applications.

Back in primary and secondary schools, I envied all the ‘normal’ looking children and wished I was like them. The girls caught my eye the most, with their flowing school uniforms and braided hairs; this was what I considered normal for me to be – I would look in the mirror at home and not recognise who I saw. Being a boy was not right, there had to have been a mistake somewhere. The boys who bullied me in secondary school did so because of how they’d been conditioned to think that being me was not right; but some of the girls seemed more open minded and considered me a friend.

I mentioned in my last post about how I had a crush on one of the boys at school. Demola was his name. The thing with Demola however ended in sadness, due to the lines that were created on what is acceptable behaviour.

I didn’t understand why people felt so threatened by me. I recall the first violent attack I experienced from bullies back then; I was chilling with my girls and we were making paper dolls out of our notebooks – we often got punished by our parents for this, but we loved crafting beautiful things out of paper and this was a wonderful way to bond. I often had the most creative concepts for my dolls, with dresses and hair options that ended up getting stolen by the less creative girls in my clique. I didn’t mind, it was simply another opportunity to create more fabulous things.

On a particular day after class, we were done with our paper creations and sat around in a circle, playing a word game, which was one of my favourite pastimes, when one of the boys in my class, John Macaulay, came over and snatched the most colourful of the dolls on my desk and ripped it in half, following that by crumpling the other dolls. We all screamed and stood up to confront him. He was a portly-looking boy from one of the popular families in the city, which granted him an entourage of boys, lackeys who wanted his snacks and football, which he managed to sneak into school occasionally. These friends of his crowded around him as me and my girls confronted John Macaulay. At the back of the class, where he’d been playing with these boys, I saw Demola staring blankly at me. I wished he would do something – we were friends after all – but he just stood there, looking at the commotion unfold. I got more furious.

I was so angry. It had taken me several minutes to colour on faces and clothes on those now-ruined dolls. I snatched John’s shirt and screamed at him to stop and for that, I received a series of slaps from his friends, who simultaneously rained abuses on me, screaming “ashawo”, “girl-boy” and “woman wrapper”. Their menacing tones were aimed to make me feel bad; instead they just affirmed who I felt I was inside – a girl. And well, if it was a fight they wanted, they got it. My army of six girlfriends went on synchronized screaming fits and fought back on my behalf, grabbing at the boys closest to them. Fists were thrown and buttons were ripped off, and at some point, there was nobody for me to fight. The girls had taken over. And at this point, I burst into tears. The slaps I received had stung, but all I could think of was how Demola was just standing there, doing nothing to help. A lot of emotions poured out from me and that seemed to cause a calm to come over everyone. The boys retreated, threatening to continue the fight outside the school premises.

I was soothed by my girls, who had proven how fearless they were for one of theirs, even if it was over the ‘death’ of our paper dolls. When school was over, I grabbed my backpack and left, hoping not to meet John Macaulay and his lackeys. I walked alone and later noticed Demola walking behind me.

He ran up to me, saying, “How are you… Are you okay… I’m sorry…”

I ignored him until he tapped my shoulder and said he was sorry again. Then I turned around and saw remorse in his eyes. At this point, it’s key to point out that we were both preteens and didn’t know how to handle complex emotional situations, but I could tell this boy cared for me in a weird way. He was simply overwhelmed by the attacks I seemed to attract. He caressed my cheek and told me that there was a hand print left from one of the slaps.

This infuriated me and I screamed at him, “Why didn’t you do anything? I thought we were friends!”

He didn’t give any excuse and simply said, “I’m sorry.”

At this point, my young mind knew that I would have to fight my battles alone. My girls would grow older and not care for paper dolls and childish games anymore. This expectedly happened a few years later, when girls were more interested in boys and in their looks. They left me and my non-binary self to fend for myself.

Alienated with no one to defend me in fights, I learnt how to run away from bullies, leaving school immediately it was time to go home. The bullies came for me consistently throughout my secondary school years and took most of the joy from that period in my life. My mum often told me to fight back and my dad didn’t know what to make of the situation. Their persistent concern was: why aren’t you normal like your siblings?

Then it was my final year of secondary school, and due to my lack of interest in normal teenage things like parties and dating, I could only focus on my studies and tailoring classes from my neighbour who took me in as her overly-eager apprentice. I learnt fast and started making stylish versions of my formerly baggy uniforms to the admiration of most my classmates. But looking good as a boy was not enough to make me happy. I envied the girls over the skirts they wore in senior class. They now had breasts and curves and some of them were sexually active and were not shy to gossip with me about their boyfriends, some of whom were my past bullies. I comforted them when they were heartbroken and helped others when they needed sexy outfits for parties. And still, I felt like an outsider looking in, never really participating as an active character on the stage.

I wanted the female experience badly. But all I had were unwanted facial hairs and large feet as my body changed, which depressed me so much that I kept to myself even more. I felt ugly and unlovable, and I didn’t know how to explain this to my parents. I shaved my legs and wore my sister’s makeup, and still I felt like a beast.

I drifted through secondary school with very good grades and was awarded by the school for my brilliance. I remember how hard I worked on the prom party with a few other girls, but when it came to my outfit, I hated the suit my mum bought for me. I wanted a dress. I don’t have any pictures from that day; I refused to take any. I didn’t want any reminders of how miserable I felt when the girls brought out their gowns and cocktail dresses with matching dainty heels. I felt truly depressed. God must hate me – of that, I was sure.

Like I said, I graduated from secondary school with excellent grades, which made my parents very proud. I got admitted to the university shortly after, ahead of most of my classmates, but I was still a joyless teenager, not looking forward to anything. I just went through the motions of life.

University was however a different experience for me. I was seventeen in my first year, and barely a week after I moved into the hostel, two guys had already winked. This was an experience I wasn’t ready for, and yet, they were here, circumstances that helped shape my young adult life.

Written by Naija-T-Girl

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ONE STEP AT A TIME (Episode 3)

Cherie and I recently went through a hard time. It was quite something, the kind of rockiness I was very glad to see us survive. It got to a point


  1. Eddie
    January 28, 10:29 Reply

    Finally!!! A Trans perspective!
    Thumbs up,girl!

    • NaijaTgal
      February 01, 14:09 Reply

      I will try to post more frequently, I am glad you liked it!

  2. D. O
    January 28, 15:37 Reply

    Some things you said reminded me of my childhood.. lol… I used to put my round neck shirts on my head as my hair lol… flicking it from side to side… I got bullied … a cruel time in my life… now I know that the parents that produced such monsters were the problem. I remember in primary 5 then I started making clothes designs and mine was always better than the ladies around me… they would take them and I’d begin again… so that part of your story spoke to me… yes a couple of fights here and there but nothing like slaps else my mother would have shown up in school the next day to raze hell lol..no matter who the person was… she was a fighter for her kids .. I’m eager to read from you and see how similar our times were… you sound so strong now and I’m eager to learn from that as well as remember my childhood with nostalgia.. some of those memories have been shut down for the longest time… for reasons we both know… chai it is well

    • Bee
      January 29, 06:23 Reply

      Cloth hair!!! I never attempted that at school tho, but at home??? Oh, it wasn’t just round-neck T-shirts. I used trousers on days of scarcity. I also used wrappers but didn’t particularly like them because they used to make me look like one kain Pharoah. When my aunt spent a holiday with us, and brought with her a proper wig, mhmmm. That’s when our drama became very interesting, me and my siblings. Oh, and my mom’s shoes suffered a lot.

      But I don’t know if I’ll be able to go out in drag now, even without the homophobia. It’s not shame; it’s just … I’ve lost it. I’m still a very ‘spottable’ femme tho.

    • NaijaTgal
      February 01, 14:12 Reply

      Sigh…you said it.
      It took a lot for me to process these emotions but I knew I had to write as authentically as I could.
      There’s a lot more I skipped due to the pain attached…like how I lost people I genuinely cared about to homophobia.

      We will survive!!!

    January 29, 14:20 Reply

    Ah. 2nd part, finally.
    Cld relate with the whole ‘bullying and parents not getting you yl growing up’ thing. I was very effeminate growing up. I even got punished for being effeminate as a child. Had to consciously loose a lot of it yl growing up to put bullies and other idiots at bay and get some peace.
    Pls dear, I hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next part.

    • Pink Panther
      January 29, 14:40 Reply

      You were punished for being effeminate???!!! ??

        January 30, 21:16 Reply

        Yup. I’m very sure I’m not the only one. From being scolded and chided to actually being punished. Well, that’s all in the past now

        • NaijaTgal
          February 01, 14:16 Reply

          I still wonder why people think its OK to punish us, did we create ourselves?
          I got punished as a child and still get punished as an adult socially and in the corporate world.

          My skin grew thicker…but we shouldn’t have to bear this…there must be some relief…there has to be.

  4. D. O
    January 29, 23:29 Reply

    Thank you Bee and Bryan for sharing … I think a lot of us were more effeminate while growing up than we would love to admit … I wish we could own it.. there is no perfect way a boy or girl child should be… we were just children who should be left to grow and find our paths… oh yes I got called the names “woman wrapper”, “hey you girl”, “boy girl” or was it “girl boy” and for some reasons I felt at home with the ladies cos they didn’t judge me and saw me as a sister … I look back and the stereotype makes me wanna feel uncomfy about that… but i won’t cos life is bigger than identifying with a particular gender and stuff.. sometimes you go hunting on profile and see “no femmes@ or stuff like that and when you eventually meet these people.. they are as femmes-y as can be .. it’s sad.. we can’t run away from who we are.. every man has a feminine side… we run away from it but it’s who we are.. we need to own it… I just wish the world was less judgmental … even more by us to ourselves

      January 30, 21:19 Reply

      Well Said. Owning it and being comfortable in one’s skin are very vital ingredients for inner peace.

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