The Struggle of Being Trans and African

by Arrow X 10 months ago in lgbtq

Ruth Niyonzima

The Struggle of Being Trans and African

I was raised in a culture that believes crying and admitting you’re hurting is weakness. A culture that believes depression and other mental conditions should be frowned upon, and are unbelievably funny. A culture that believes women are to submit to men, always. A culture that believes whatever genitals you’re born with determines who you’re for the rest of your life. I was raised in a culture that believes opposite attracts, always. A culture that believes men are supposed to wear pants and women dressed. That is why I’ve ALWAYS felt out of place.

See, I’m no ordinary “girl.” Matter of fact, I don’t believe I’m a “girl.” Yes, I was born with a vagina and the whole female reproductive system, but I don’t believe that means I’m a girl or should identify as one for the rest of my life. I don’t believe that means I should wear dresses and submit to men. I don’t believe a vagina makes me who I am. After all, it’s just a body part that can easily be replaced. I do not believe this means I’m abnormal if I’m not attracted to men. What makes this even harder is that my culture and the world at large believes I’m not only abnormal, but also do not deserve to be alive.

I remember how all my life I just wanted to be in pants and sneakers. I loathed dresses. I hated makeup, I HATED heals. I couldn’t even tell anyone how I felt because the people closest to me openly and freely said they’d love to see people like me killed and wiped off the surface of the earth. Which is why for 22 years of my life, I was literally living in a prison that nobody else could see. I thought I’d be able to handle it by hiding it until I was safe and financially stable to come out. But in the fall of 2018, it got to me. They say no matter how much you want to keep a time bomb silent and hidden, it’ll eventually go off, so I had kept it in for way too long. I had been clinically diagnosed with depression two years prior, but I was still able to hide it. But when fall of 2018 came, it overpowered me. I remember spending two weeks in my bed during the day and in the closet at night…literally. I had a dorm room sized closet, which was only big enough to hold about 13 pairs of my shoes, and a few clothes. I’d put my shoes in a box and make a bed in the closet and spend the night there. I’d cry whenever I was awake, but if you asked why I was crying, I know the only reason I’d think of was “I don’t wanna live, but I don’t wanna die.” The only reason I didn’t wanna die was because funerals are for the living. I felt guilty that I’d leave people hurt. The main reason was because if I was gone, my poor, hard-working mom would be forced to pay for my school loans. I didn't want her to go through all that. Those were the only things keeping me alive.

A week after sleeping during the day and night, I got worse. I had panic attacks at the most random times. One time I woke up in the middle of a day feeling like I couldn’t breathe. I had just been woken up by another panic attack, this time it happened in my sleep. I was so scared, nobody to talk to, didn’t know what to do, and I started crying again. A few minutes later, I grabbed a blade, took off my pants, and sliced my thighs, and burnt myself with an iron for the very first time. After that, I took the longest and most peaceful nap I had had in a long time. From that day on, whenever I was miserable, I had to fight so hard not to cut myself. Cutting was extremely satisfying, but deep down I knew I was causing harm to myself and marking my thighs with scars that might be there for a very long time, and I didn’t want that. A few days later, I cut myself again. I did not tell my family of anyone close to me. During that time, I had applied for the National Guard, and they called me for tests way sooner than I had thought. I went with no hope of being processed through because of my scars. I couldn’t lie that they were just cat scratches or anything, so it was either I told the truth or didn’t say anything. When they asked me about the scars, I kept quiet. I ignored them for a while and then they threatened to kick me out. I knew there was no way out, so I told the truth. I was forced to tell the story three times; first after they talked me into admitting I cut myself and why I did it, and then forced to write the whole story on paper again, and then they sent me to the lady that was examining me and I had to tell her the whole thing again. I broke down during the whole three times. A few weeks later, I learned that my scars got me disqualified because they “can’t put a gun in the arms of people who self harm, because they might use the gun on themselves.” I don’t blame them for disqualifying me, matter of fact, I thank them, because I really don’t know if I wouldn’t eventually use it on myself. Things get hard sometimes.

I started seeing a therapist, which was another thing that helped me come out and even avoid self-harming again. I’d go in there and say everything I had buried inside and she’d listen. Whenever I was there, time flew by so quickly because I felt like I’m talking to a friend who wouldn’t take my secrets beyond that room. She listened and asked questions. I started looking forward to the sessions but then I began to feel like a burden. We spoke a lot about me being gay, but towards the end of the semester, I told her I was suffering from gender dysphoria and wore chest binders, which to me felt I wasn’t gay, but probably trans. She said she suspected it, and we started talking about it again. I sometimes feel bad because I honestly feel like I’m burdening her, even though she’s told me that she enjoys her job and doesn’t mind.

I still didn’t wanna live, but I didn’t wanna die either, but I was so miserable being in the closet that sometimes I felt I was as good as dead. On October 11th, National Coming Out Day, I decided to come out. I couldn’t call my family and tell them, I couldn’t go see them and tell them, I couldn’t face them. So I recorded a video, spoke about the mental health, the self-harming, being in the closet, and then I admitted I am gay. At that point, I think I said I was gay because that was probably the closest thing to the truth, but I’m not gay. Yes, I like women, but I also deal with gender dysphoria. I hate looking at my naked body in the mirror. In fact, I avoid it. I hate being called “her” and “she,” and I hate my female name. I work out and lift weights to look more masculine, and as less feminine as I can. I long for my voice to sound different, my face to be hairy, and most of all, my chest to be flat. I naturally have an almost flat chest, but I want it completely flat. My chest binders help, but I long for a day when I can walk on the beach shirtless, or workout shirtless. I long for a day when I don’t have to bind my chest. So, I’m not gay…

Anyways, I came out. That night I didn’t sleep. My family told me they were disappointed, said I embarrassed them, called me stupid, satanic, rebellious, disgusting, and everything else I always dreaded hearing from them. My father doesn’t know, I couldn’t tell him. My brother sent me a bible scripture that says he was allowed to kill me and my blood would be upon me. I’m glad I wasn’t home during that time. They said whatever they needed to say, and haven’t discussed my sexuality ever since. Oh, my mom claimed I needed healing, and four months and four days from today, I’m scheduled for a two-week long conversion therapy in Uganda, one of the most dangerous countries for the LGBTQI+ community in the whole world.

My family still makes the worst comments whenever they see a gay person, or a trans one, even in my presence. My sister in law gets upset whenever I tell people I’m gay, and even lies to her friends and family that I have a boyfriend. She still asks me if I can agree for her to bring a priest to pray my gayness away. My other brother claims he “has nothing against f*gs,” but would love them to stay miles away from him. I don’t know how they’d react if they found out I was trans.

So until then, I have no clue on what to think about, or what to write about anymore about my sexuality. I’ll just wait until I’m back from the conversion therapy to write an update on this.

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Arrow X

Gender non-conforming, revolutionary, fitness, [LGBTQI+, refugee, immigrant, women, minority, etc advocate], writer, photographer, anti-social extrovert. 

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