I did my very best to fit in while growing up, it drained the heck out of me physically and mentally but I fought the good fight.
I am a masculine-presenting woman and the first daughter of my parents. Where I come from there are certain values expected of women, especially first daughters.
Women were not supposed to be active in sports, get too much education and/or even hustle to have money and most especially, a woman is supposed to be “owned” at every point in her life either by her father, her husband or her children, we are expected to behave a certain way, speak only when permitted to and not have an opinion on even our bodies and what happens to them.
My mother said I ground knowing what I wanted and I did all I could to get them. Imagine being the first female who dared to wear masculine clothes in my whole neighbourhood. A place popular for raising “virtuous women”.
People would stand outside to see me go out because they needed to get a firsthand look at how I go out those days and others just to confirm the rumours, that “Bisola now wears trousers”.
My father threatened to disown me but I did not budge, my mother always stood up to him for me but my family was not all I had to deal with, the entire neighbourhood was out to get me and I had nowhere to hide. I would go well dressed and come back half naked because boys in the area would see me and assume I was competing with their gender and then “teach me a lesson” on how I am just a mere woman and not part of their almighty gender. I was raped, stripped naked and beaten on different occasions just because “Women need to be submissive and not rub shoulders with men” which was exactly what they thought I was doing but I wasn’t, I was just living life the only way it felt good to.
The pains made me try to conform many times but that isn’t just me, I don’t feel any joy when I dress like my gender. My mother gave me her savings twice to leave for a big city for safety but I couldn’t. I chose to stay and face my demons in the face and so I learnt to fight them off, from one of those episodes where I was battered as usual I met a woman who opened my eyes to many things I could do in the city. I was tired of the pain so I agreed to go.
Life in the city was not easy even though I didn’t assume it would be. I lived with my maternal cousin in Asaba. After my first week in the city I realised I could use my mother’s savings she had donated for my trip to start something, it was 50k and was enough to register and start a POS business. I didn’t have any competitors on the street and before long I became very popular in the area, my business was popular as well but I was still barely surviving after paying my ration of the bills I shared with my cousin, soon enough I was able to rent a small space close to my POS business where I cooked and sold noodles and before I could fathom it I was making enough to send home when I could.
Being in the city and seeing women who were doing great things was my biggest motivation to get an education. I got a girl I paid a fraction of what I made so I could go for my evening classes, it was a big struggle for me at the end but I saw others doing it and I knew I could do it as well and just kept going. It took a few years but I was able to go to Open University after my rigorous evening schools.
My growth was not an instant miracle but I am better now than when I left where I grew up, I studied Law and I came out a better person and having “Barrister” added to my name felt like the miracle I needed.“Barr Bisola” is more than just the person the society dictated for her
By the time I went back to my old neighbourhood I was the talk of the town once again but on a different note. My parents (more my mom) were very proud of how much I had changed my life in a few years. Many years have passed and now I look at the boys (now men) who molested and battered me and I see many different ways I could hurt them back but I see no need to because I look at what they are doing with their lives and their kind of exposures and I feel more sorry that anger for them.
The same year I came home for the first time after eight years, I started a building project for my parent’s house, I remember my mother always saying “You are a better man than those who own the gender” and that gladdens my heart more than anything else. I saw no need to come out to them about my sexuality and all, they figured that out on their own.
Subsequently, I came home with my girlfriend and nobody asked any questions, they either figured it out or I have become too big for questions. My younger siblings actually called my girlfriend “Our Wife” throughout our stay so I guess they put two-and-two together and that makes things easier for us all.
This is not aimed at downgrading the male gender but at the society to allow everybody to become their unique self, it takes nothing from you and removes nothing from your individual goals. Peace!