Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here. This is Zikoko’s What She Said.
The subject of today’s What She Said is an 18-year-old lesbian who is living her best life. She talks about wanting to be a Reverend Father when she was a child, her hatred for skirts partly because of assault, living in a glass closet, and being scared of men.
Tell me a memory from your childhood.
When I was four years old, I was very short. I’m still quite short, but then I was way shorter. In the Catholic church, there’s a time where they ring bells to raise the bread during the liturgy of the Eucharist to signal the breaking of the bread. Although we sat in front, our church was built in a way that if you knelt you’d be forced to look up. Because of this, I couldn’t see the altar boys who used to ring the bells. I thought the sounds came from heaven. When I grew older and taller, I realised that the altar boys were the ones that rang the bell. I was crushed, most especially because I wanted to be a reverend father.
Reverend father? Why not reverend sister?
Well, their clothes were cool. All of that layering appealed to me and I liked how they looked. My brother was an altar server, and when he got dressed for church I was always in awe. Also, I was jealous of the ability of reverend fathers to talk to God directly and relay his message to the masses. Communication has always been hard for me, and so talking to people is difficult. Imagine talking to the person that created you? I wanted to be able to do that with the ease of which Father explained in Sunday mass. The thought of being a Reverend sister was never appealing to me because they had to wear skirts, and I hate wearing skirts.
What’s your issue with skirts?
Men. I grew up with a lot of guys around. Some were good, but there were irritating ones. The ones who used to rub their hands up my leg because I was wearing a skirt. At first, it started off as a joke, but then as I grew older the touches became more suggestive. Our house was connected to the company my dad owned and so most of the goods needed were in our house.
It started when I was six and spanned six years. The tiler, the painter, the bricklayer, my uncle, one guy that was always around, the PHE teacher when I was in secondary school and the catechist. I had a skirt on every single time they assaulted me. My school uniform was a skirt and as the last girl, my mother said I had to wear skirts every single time. It started with them grabbing, asking me to sit on their lap, running their hands up my fucking skirt.
It also is one of the reasons I crave attention. Growing up, I never got the good type of attention, so now it’s all I want. When people give me that type of attention, I get so attached. When they care about me, it feels nice.
Oh my God. All those men? I am so sorry. Did you ever tell anyone?
I told my mum, but she always told me I was lying. So, I just stopped telling her and I haven’t told anyone else till this interview. If my mother wasn’t listening to me, who was going to? My only defence mechanism from the assault was to act more masculine. I thought that the more masculine I acted, the less these men would be interested in me.
Did acting masculine work?
Yes, it actually did. The men laid off my back, but then the problem changed. It became people constantly hounding me to “act like a girl”. I don’t know what acting like a girl meant. To me, I was a girl. What they wanted me to do was follow a strict set of rules and regulations and frame it under the guise of “being girly.” I was not having it.
Being masculine makes my mum disappointed, but she has always been disappointed in me. At this point, it’s normal. My elder sister is the good one that followed the rules and regulations. I think since I am the third child out of four, my mother already had the impression that third children are the unruly ones. It also didn’t help that I never listened and always wanted to do things my way.
Sounds like you and your mum have a rocky relationship
Yeah, we do, but it has gotten better than it was before. During COVID lockdown, we had time to be in each other’s faces and bond. Friction still comes up whenever she wants me to do something and I refuse, but we’re good. She’s there for me financially. Emotionally? She tries her best. Spiritually? She should be. I don’t know. I don’t really fuck with the whole spiritual thing anymore.
Wait, from wanting to be a Reverend Father to this? Why?
The whole idea just seems weird. There’s supposed to be one man who we all refer to as God, and then he created us to vibe, but then he also sprinkled so many misunderstandings into our life. Is all the conflict and death necessary? Like he’s playing games with us. Is this squid game?
As a child, believing was easy. It was just that you had to obey God, but as you grow older, there are things that you never bothered with as a child that are now considered sins. It’s hard. The whole idea is unnecessarily hard and I want no part of it.
What are the things in particular that became hard?
Everything was hard. It was like who I am is a sin. I don’t fuck with people that don’t fuck with me. I want to be a free spirit. I want to go with the flow and be spontaneous and I felt like I couldn’t do that as a Christain. You have to live life a certain way so you can make heaven and that’s so stressful.
Also, because around the time, I thought I was bisexual. At the beginning that wasn’t a problem for me. I thought liking women was something everyone did. I had loved women since I was a child. I wanted to be their friend and protect them from everything. Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of women around me. However, that changed when I went to an all-girls boarding school. I went from barely seeing women to seeing them all the time.
As someone always trying to remove women from uncomfortable situations, I felt like a knight, and knights were meant to fall in love with women. It made sense to me. When I was 15-years-old, I realised I was a lesbian. Men don’t move me sexually or romantically. I could never bring myself to just touch them or let them get close to me.
When I got into my first year in university, I met a guy. He was nice to me and I don’t like hurting people’s feelings so we got closer. At this time, I had tried being feminine again. Then one day I went to visit him at his place and he tried sleeping with me. That just solidified the fact that I am not interested in men in any way and I am definitely a lesbian. I also went back to my masculine ways and that drove all the men away and brought the women closer.
Now you identify as a lesbian?
Yes. I am gay as fuck 100%. Men don’t just do it for me and that doesn’t really sit well with God and his people. It seemed like everything on the “do not do” list is what I embody. It’s hard.
I haven’t officially come out to anyone yet, but they know. My closet door is made of glass so people can see right through it. I avoid the whole marriage conversation, have a rainbow flag in my room and never ever talk about men in a romantic or sexual way. I openly talk about how much I think women are perfect, so anyone that asks the right questions will know.
What’s life like for you now?
Living life afraid of men. I am studying engineering and there are so many men in my department. They make comments about how all they need to change me is a good dick. The fact that there are so many men constantly around me just scares me. I just want to live my best life, no matter what that looks like. I want to be a happy person and just vibe.