I was at a gathering of kuchus the other day. Interesting guys and gals. Gender benders, I call us. I had a sudden revelation, insight into my perception of our challenge to established custom.
I have blogged before of our Kuchu identities. I thought that I had accepted all of us for what we are. The different identities, the shades of differences. I was shocked to find that I may not have, that there are some things which are seemingly beyond my liberal mind.
One of us decided to teach us the Salsa. A brazilian dance I believe.
He is a good teacher. Took us through the initial steps, baby steps, easy for one with two left feet like me. Then came the point when we had to have a partner.
Usually, that makes me uncomfortable. I cannot lead in a dance, and someone has to have mercy on my partner’s feet. I like disco. No form but what is in my head. I dislike dancing which has a pattern. I become awkward.
The teacher told us that it was a dance for a couple. A man and a woman. And he started showing us how the man stands. I laughed, asked him what if it was two women? He shrugged it off.
We paired up, and the teacher took my partner. I was left without one, that is, until someone noticed that someone else had no partner.
(You will forgive me if I am politically incorrect.)
My new partner was a woman. A woman dressed as a man, butch and burly, acted and mannered like a man. I joked with her, telling her that we were two men, so who would be the woman?
The joke quickly turned sour. My partner, she wanted to be the man. She refused to be the woman. I held out my hand as the man, she refused it. Impasse.
I commented before that I am quite firm in my gender identity. Just an explanation, we are born with ‘sex organs’ which determine our sex; male or female. We are socialised into a gender role in our societies, male or female. And we also identify with these roles; what is called gender identity. For most people, the social gender role and gender identity are the same. But for the transgender they are not.
I am a man. That has never disturbed me. I am a man who is attracted to other men. A homosexual. Once upon a time, that disturbed me, but not now.
I don’t want to be a woman. I have been socialised to think that women are somehow, by that accident of genes, below me as a man. An African man. It is an unconscious assumption, prejudice, cemented by my upbringing, challenged by what I now see on a day to day basis of its falsehood, and its consequences.
I have met many other biological guys who embrace the female gender role. They want to act like women. African women. They want to dress like them. And of course, those of us who do not tend to be irritated, and wonder what exactly is going on. I thought that I had accepted them as part of our diversity as kuchus.
I was shocked to find myself balking at the chance to play the woman. I just literally could not.
The lady of course is a transgender. She identifies as a man. And to her, growing up in the same African culture as I had, she did not and would not identify as a woman. Regretfully, we failed to learn the dance together. Later, I took my lover to introduce her to him. He took one look at her and asked whether she was a man or woman. A man, she said confidently. The voice low and firm, puffing on a cigarette.
Now, thought I, that is an African man.
Go on brother!