Upside Down

I was born a boy, or at least I thought I was until I had my first period at age sixteen. I was used to boy cardigans, shorts, boxers, vests, shirts and the like. My background was a humble one, where the only thing that mattered was that we had food at the end of the day. A meal a day was our entitlement, and I am not cantankerous, that was way better than other families in the neighborhood. I had a mom, only a mother who conceived me as a result of her night job as a commercial sex worker.



School was toughest, while boys prided themselves in football, catapults, throwing stones, exploration, fighting and automobile toys I was not amongst them. When the girls were preferential on plaiting, manicures, pedicures, dolls, and gossip, I was also not amongst them.



I was a fence sitter in the world I was born into, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was a loner, sticking to the shadows and the dark corners watching my world all around me crumble into a thousand and one pieces. I was alone physically and emotionally. I knew I was not normal, and therefore never tried to be ordinary. My world was upside down.



But then normalcy is a figment of human beings imagination, In Africa, elephants and lions at their parks have their lives turned upside down too. Elephants attack their human neighborhoods, destroy their food crops and stumble on anything that stands. Lions escape from the parks and roam the streets like human beings. This is simply man’s doing, elephants are conventional creatures, they follow the same path to the river each day now and fifty years to come. The moment humans develop a road or a fence blocking these creatures from their usual path to the water; these animals feel threatened. What they used to know no longer exists and they are frightened by every aspect of this discovery. Lions take to the streets from Nairobi National Park to Lang’ata and invade human space while elephants leave the Tsavo to the maize and millet plantations annihilating everything in their path.



Puberty was late. I know this because, at thirteen, the girls had begun whispering and desolating themselves speaking of their first periods. The boys had started lifting weights and staring at each other’s chins waiting for the first beard to sprout. I was in neither of these groups, but I still put on boys clothes.



At some point at the age of fourteen, depression took over, and I would cry myself to sleep. My mother would wake me up in the middle of the night so that I could stop screaming. Whenever she was at work, I would cry all night long until the neighbors go accustomed to the shrill therefore never came to my aid. I longed for someone to hear my scream and respond, understand what I felt but that never happened because my judgment in this world had been passed, no normalcy would be bestowed on me.



My mother pulled all strings to make ends meet, and when it was not enough, she pulled more strings until there was no more left. She preached values and Christianity to me with the hope that I would become a better person than her. She applauded good grades and condemned laziness, yet secretly beneath her iron skin and tight eyes, I could see the fear beneath, wondering what exactly to do each time and prompting questions to forces unknown for the mystery bequeathed upon her inexperience.




These wild animals go out on a rampage, the Leopards of Nakuru National Park leave the park to oust life unnecessarily from livestock, draining one after the other of blood then moving on eccentrically. Elephants instill fear on the very core of humankind by stumbling upon a lone farmer working on a lone farm in the rural wild. Elephants go ahead in Botswana raping Rhinoceros and killing them for sport. And the question that prevails is why the world largest and the serenest land mammal is turning into a despicable monster.



At the age of sixteen, on a weekend doing laundry with my mother, the unexpected occurred. I had my first period. My mother was petrified beyond words and after she directed me on what to do she told me I had to convert into a girl. The woman in me was becoming dominant and claiming human rights perhaps chanting, ‘what a man can do, a woman can do better and in heels.’



It was horrific. I had grown up being a boy and practicing the values and absence of values in males. You see, I was born with both genders physically. I had always thought myself more of a boy. Mother took me to the hospital where an old lady in spectacles announced the dreaded news that my female organs like the uterus and ovaries were more prominent therefore the objective would be a prescription to reduce the hormone testosterone until I was wholly or almost a girl. I declined the offer and cried a lot. I was determined to remain a boy even in the blink of impossibility.



The next day we returned to the hospital, and I was prescribed estrogen inhibitors to prevent my girl organs and promote my male organs. The hurdle with this is that the doctor could not determine the results, therefore, I was on my own setting a path full of uncertainty but then who is ever definite when it comes down to life?



Meanwhile, global warming shifts the marching of the penguins in the Arctic; polar bears face extinction while another series of animals are already extinct. Human beings have their character of being mean and cynical whenever it comes to issues of life and death; therefore, the wild cats are gunned down in the streets by the same people supposed to protect them. The two thousand remaining rhinos in Africa are hunted for their tasks while the elephants are also facing extinction continue to be the most hunted animal in the black continent. This is just a single bit of an illustration of what a little adjustment to routine can do to the world.



What then was I to make of myself who had my whole life upside down? Writing my rules as I encountered them because there was no Google or YouTube to tell me what to do the morning I woke up and found my sheets drenched in blood, red as crimson. When my mother had enough of the misfortune and decided to consume the same powder used to kill rats herself and leave this world? I was an eighteen-year-old living in Bondeni Slums in Nakuru in a little wooden house just a few meters from the mosque with no one to answer my ever multiplying series of questions hoping that one day it life could be normal.



I am still not certain whether I will marry a man or a woman or if any will ever accept me. Adversity has taught me better than to be hopeful. I still scream at night, now in a more civilized way where no sound comes out and its more of a soudless hiss. Upside down is my normal and I will serve you at Magnolia Resort in Nakuru as your waiter on the bar, and you really won’t find out that my life is not even a fabrication in your imagination. I will be dressed up as a lady but who cares anyway?



Upside Down.



Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri


The Writer:



Dennis Peters


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