Dear Self: You Don’t Have to Be Ultra-Masculine to Be Loved
You’ll learn that the human species is far more diverse and resilient than the society of your childhood is willing to acknowledge
I know you’re having a hard time. I remember your secondary school teacher telling your mother, “This boy is too soft. Let’s hope the homosexuals do not get a hold of him.” You’re an anxious ball of stress because you know whenever you loosen up, people pounce on your queerness. Your grades have fallen. You dread mornings, knowing you have to face your classmates’ taunts: “Obaabesia, why do you act like a girl?”
What does it mean to “act like a girl,” anyway? You’re only being yourself — but society has decided you are somehow inappropriate. Your beautifully soft voice used to be considered endearing before your teenage years; now, seemingly immune to puberty, it draws suspicion.
Ghanaian culture, like many around the world, assign privileges and rights based on sex and gender. Society only allows for two distinct genders, each with its corresponding characteristics and privileges. At the apex are men — the ones “chosen by God” to be the leaders and the heads of households. “Being a man” means you have to be stoic, speak with a deep voice, and meander with a brawny gait. Women are relegated to supporting roles as caregivers, expected to be vulnerable, speak softly, glide gracefully. These societal roles and privileges continue to be so strictly enforced that any deviation from your corresponding gender roles remains strictly taboo.
You believe that you can not be Ghanaian and gay; homosexuality is for wealthy White men on Will & Grace who sip something called ‘martinis’ in their lofty Manhattan apartments.
If you fail at masculinity, you think, you’ll be rejected by your family, friends, and society. So you work on deepening your voice. You change your gait, emulating the restrictive boxlike stride of other men around you. After months of thinking you’ve gotten that down, it falls apart when Mummy sees you walking down the hall and shrieks, “Are you a…