Under varying circumstances and prompted by differing events – my paternal uncles, my father’s two surviving brothers have affirmed my status as a rebel (read feminist).
For years, I suppose my refusal to conform was mistaken for an ‘inability’ to do so – a handicap as it were.
It seemed I would be the object of pity, the misfit who just couldn’t make the mark but perhaps they have come to realize that I was never a misfit, that it was not a matter of me failing to follow the rules and live up to expectation – but rather a choice I made to never live by any dictates except my own.
Like the homosexual who is glad that their sexual orientation has been accepted, albeit with resignation, I feel as if my feminism has now become an acceptable ‘deformity’ in my family.
I have, without making the effort won their grudging respect.
So it amused me no end, when a year ago my youngest uncle called me and said that I should have been born a boy – amused me because
I knew he meant it as a compliment and it amused me because I knew that becoming a boy has never been a thing aspired for and to be told that I had reached the point of being ‘equal’ to a boy child told me a lot about my patriarchal parentage.
He was now deciding that I had not ‘turned out right’ for a girl and perhaps it could be that I was never meant to be one!
It gave him a measure of comfort to be able to explain my feminism as a weird twist of fate that trapped a boy’s mentality into the head and body of a girl child.
Then a few days ago, my other uncle makes a remark that I suspect was the result of hours of pondering and finally the conclusion was drawn – I had the ‘spirit’ of a man he said.
It amused me again that my feminist inclinations should be given male attributes and my modest achievements be given a masculine interpretation — for the remark belied that my being a woman was incongruent with the success, confidence and self-assurance with which I lead my life.
By the ‘spirit’ of a man, my uncle was trying no doubt, to excuse my ‘unfeminine’ approach to life, my ‘unwomanly’ convictions and my insistence on living life on my own terms – a thing that requires no small amount of courage in a society that rewards conformity and ostracizes those who deviate from the norm.
Yet I find irony in the fact that, I turned out the way I have without making much of an effort – my keen sense of justice has always made me sensitive to any forms of injustice, even the more subtle forms of it disguised as cultural pride and keeping tradition.
Questioning the status quo to me, did not derive from a desire to stand in antagonism but emanated from a desire to understand why the world I lived in was so hell-bent on denying me the space to define myself – why was I being boxed in and silenced?
And what did my anatomy have to do with it? Everything!
I was born a girl in a society that celebrated boys and I had to fight to be recognized as a worthy individual; outside the constraints of the roles assigned to me and away from the domestic sphere from which I was raised to believe was my one true domain.
So now these men, who fathered me since birth – they find traces of the rebellious child I was in the militant woman I have become and they – finally, they come to terms with the fact that I will never change and that it is they who must change – who must accept me as I am.
And they call me a man — because it would violate everything they have believed in to admit that I am a woman; for the patriarchal edifice must be preserved.
But I am not a man neither am I a boy – I be what I am.