In this 3 part series, awareness on sexuality, sex characteristics, and societal expectations are discussed as the single story gets a second narration
By Catherine Murombedzi
“Makorokoto, makorokoto, kwava nemwana, munhui?” “Congratulations, there is a new born baby, what sex is the baby?”
This is the African way of receiving news of a new baby. The question on sexuality immediately follows.
“Chikomana, muroora,” (it’s a boy, it’s a girl). And from that point roles are set out from day One.
Pressure from society
Society has forced some people to conform to communal expectations as a norm, with the one being enforced to conform not identifying with the required and expected norm.
We have tailored the one size fits all to be the best and correct size for life.
Basically, if one is a vegetarian, why would one be forced to eat meat?
If one does not take fish, why force one to take fish dishes? We do not do this, one is left to have a choice. Forcing one to eat dishes which one does not like isrepulsive as one can vomit. It’s plain and simple to understand and appreciate.
Growing up in my traditional Manyika society in Manicaland, we had uncles and aunts who we accepted that they would never get married. It was espoused that they were not interested in unions. They were called tsvimborume if men. As a youngster, I never took time to find out why? It was given as their choice to stay like that.
But in society, a one-sided story has been told. The danger of this story lies in stereotyping the one person talked of. The transgender story has been told in the negative light, it has been told by the one judging. This article is part of a series to bring awareness to a marginalised people who require recognition like everyone else.
People are born different. Some people are born comfortable with the roles society puts on them because of the bodies they have. These people are called cisgender. An example is a person born with the male body parts who identifies himself as a man, and behaves and expresses himself in the way men in society are told to behave.
There are people who identify as men who find other men attractive emotionally, physically, mentally, sexually, and spiritually: these are gay men. Women who find women attractive sexually, emotionally, physically, and mentally are lesbians.
There are people not in any of the categories mentioned above. There are people who are born like all other children, however, they can be transgender. The transgender baby can be a boy on examining his organ, or can be female.
Sometimes a child is born with reproductive systems (internal or external) that cannot be easily defined as male or female. These are Intersex children, and are worthy of love, protection, and respect like any non-Intersex child.
Farisai was born as a girl some 20 years ago. She attended school as a girl. Her parents chided her for preferring to play with boys yet she was a girl.
“Uri jenga varume iwe, tamba nevasikana sewe,” (You are a Tomboy, play with girls like you) Despite trying hard to be like a girl, Farisai found guns and cars more fascinating than dolls. In secondary school, Farisai was attracted to fellow girls. She had no guts to tell anyone. She was worried, luckily, she had access to internet. He explains the journey of his misunderstood life then.
“I was a girl since birth. By 15, girls my age were having their monthly periods and I wasn’t. My mom was worried, I had no proper breasts, I did not like make up and anything feminine. By 18, I still had no menses, that is when I was taken for medical tests, the tests showed that I had no ovaries.
“I had male hormones and internal male organs. My parents were devastated, but they were supportive… It has been a challenging journey. All those I attended school with (school withheld) have not been surprised meeting me later as a he.
“They had always called me “Man Farisai”. I have joined an organisation that caters for us…We as Intersex people are unheard as no one cares enough to listen…its an untold story in the first person. I have had brushes with the law when they question why I am a man yet my identity card says female. It’s a whole lot of challenges requiring correction.
“Funds permitting, I will undergo a sex affirmation surgery. This process will be my answer to the mixed up expectations I have had to endure,” said Fari, who has dropped then “sai” part of his name.
Not everyone is as lucky as Fari. Some youth have been chucked out of their family units as parents are ashamed to accept the change. They believe its demonic and can be cleansed through prayer and through traditional consultations for those who believe in African rituals.
It is not by choice that Fari is a man today, he was born like that.
To be or not to be, society must not place pressure on one’s identity.
Fari has faced challenges in accessing health care at his local clinic.
“The nurse would excuse herself pretending to pick something, before returning another nurse would enter to ask, “where is sister?” three more would repeat that. I can imagine what the nursing staff would have done had I reported seeking attention with a sexually transmitted infection.
The Zimbabwe Population Based HIV Impact Assessment (ZIMPHIA) 2018, reports 2000 new HIV infections in MSM (Men who have sex with Men, regardless of whether they are gay, bisexual, or straight) out of a population of 40 000 gay men.
If we are to end Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) by 2030, we must not leave anyone behind.
The marginalised are being left behind as society puts pressure on them to conform.
● Next week, look out for the second part of the series.