A boy who struggled with identity because his culture did not allow the way that he felt
|The morning was very cold, the sun was rising, its colour beautifully reflected behind the mountains. Winter was giving was to spring. Some trees had recovered from the cold winter season. Fresh green leaves were developing their branches. Brand new grass was emerging from the ground. Spring had finally arrived after an ice cold winter. Excited, I made my way through the forest to the river. My mother had sent me to collect water so she could start doing her duties around the home. She used the water for mopping the house, watering her flowers and vegetable garden. This was my mother’s way of reducing the water bill.
As I made my way back from the river, the sun was already up. The cold was engulfed by the heat of the sun. I put the water in front of the house and rushed to the kitchen to help mother to make breakfast. My siblings were still asleep but the moment they woke up, the house would turn into a zoo. Everyone would be talking at the same time. Thabo and Lesedi, my ten year old twin brothers were always fighting over something. Today it is the white school shirt; tomorrow it is a pair of socks. Their fighting had turned into a routine. My twenty-one year old brother would be running around the house looking for his wallet, which he would find in the twins bedroom. Palesa, my older sister, would be parading around the house asking if her clothes fitted her well. She had just started at the teacher’s training college and she wanted to look good all the time. “You look beautiful, like a budding flower”, my mother would say. “You look like me when I was your age”. My sister was nineteen. Her body was well-built with long beautiful legs. Every clothing item she put on seemed like it was made with her in mind. “Why are you always making breakfast?” my father’s voice broke into my thoughts. I panicked slightly before pulling myself together to reply him. “No one is interested in helping mother. Besides I don’t want to go to school on an empty stomach”. I feared to tell my father that I enjoyed cooking and helping my mother with household chores. To my father, chores were a woman’s job and men who settle to do women’s work were weak; they were not men enough. “I should take you hunting and looking after cattle a lot, I can see you have grown very soft” he stared at me for a while and then made his way outside into the compound.
Quickly I rushed to the room I shared with my elder brother to prepare myself for school. He was still sound asleep. Hastily I threw on my school uniform and in no time I was trudging on the gravel road to school. “Wait for me”, a voice called from behind me. I knew it very well; it was my best friend Kesego, who also happened to have a huge crush on me. I liked her but I did not love her. I felt more like I belonged to the same gender as her. Her interests were the same as mine. She was attracted to boys and I also was. The first time I got feelings for boys was the worst day of my life. I was still sixteen and could not understand what was happening to me. A whole year passed with me trying to figure out what was happening to me. Why was I different from other boys? Now at seventeen, I was still learning to accept myself and adapt to my new self-identity. Sometimes I felt like running away to a place I do not know. My father would disown me if he learned that I was interested in boys instead of girls. He was a man full of culture; he followed it like the instruction written at the back of a bottle of medicine. The village was also very cultural; people still followed traditional rituals and performed them from time to time. My parents would be summoned to a kgotla, the moment they heard about my sexual orientation. My mother would die of a heart-attack, my father of shame and embarrassment.
After school Kesego and I would hang by the river bank. Today, she seemed to have realized I had no feeling for her whatsoever. “Kabo, tell me something, how come you do not love me. Do you think I am not pretty enough?” Her eyes were fixed into the water. “You are very pretty. I just don’t have any feelings for you” Kesego turned to me with tears filling her eyes. “Or any girl”, I finished my sentence. Kesego was confused by my confession. How could I not like any girl? I had to tell her the whole truth about my life. “I like boys” words flew out of my mouth. “You are gay” she put it in the right words for me. I was not used to the gay; it felt weird to refer myself myself as being gay. Fortunately, Kesego seemed to understand but I knew my parents and siblings would never do. I had to remain trapped in the body that I felt was not mine until I got a chance to express my inner feelings. I stared at my reflection in the water; I saw a troubled young man who had to discover who he was and get the courage to tell his family about his true identity. Until then I had to live trapped inside my own body.