Most African parents have unrealistic goals for their children, or they impose the life they wished they had as children, on their offsprings. If a child walks up to their parents and announce that they want to be a YouTuber, or a vlogger, chances are they’d receive a slap that would not only dent their face but ripple all the way to the Far East. These African parents are not ignorant or over ambitious morons, they are just set in ways that sees ‘new waves/trends’ or the inthing as wrong. In fact, there are memes all over the internet that poke fun at African parents and their absurdities. There’s one where if a parent finds you relaxing after doing all your chores, and because as far as they are concerned relaxing means you are idle and therefore a hopeless human being, they’ll find the most ridiculous chores for you to do e.g. clean the roof, bath the cows or iron the grass. The lost generation [watch this space] knows this only too well.
There was this young university student of African descent who decided he wanted a gap year because all his white friends were taking a gap to travel and rave through Europe. He approached his parents to ask for money to sustain him as he tours Europe and for their blessings. The conversation went something like this:
“Dad…… Mum…… I feel I need time off from studying”
The dad looked at the mum as if to say ‘please translate what this child is talking about because if he’s about to say what I think he is about to say, I’ll see him six feet under’. The mum had the same look but being mum and less of the bad cop she asked.
“What do you mean by …….. time off?”
“A group of us have decided to take one year off and travel across Europe, get to know our European mates and their cultures.” The lad explained enthusiastically.
The mum stood up, raised her hands up and made a guttural weird noise that seemed to come from the depths of her stomach. She proceeded to her bedroom all the while calling on Jesus to give her strength because she now understood why some animals maul their youngs. She then dropped to her knees and started praying and wailing in her mother tongue. Someone listening from outside the house would think the son had announced he was devil incarnate. The dad poured himself a shot of whisky, changed the TV channel to sky sports and said to the boy in the calmest voice he could master, “let’s sleep on it and talk more at the weekend”. It was Wednesday. The weekend arrived and instead of talking about it as a family, a group of people turned up and talked to him all at once. The presiding pastor looked ready to pounce on him and go for his jugular, ready to spill blood and watch him bleed to death. Eventually the dad said the only way his son or any of his children, would take a gap year or any time off education was when he was dead and buried in Mars.
That is not even the half of:-
Makena was born of a prominent Kenyan family and lived a life of luxury. Aged seventeen, his parents sent him to the UK to study medicine at a prestigious university. He would be joining the crème de la crème in a family of lawyers, doctors, scientists, business owners and engineers to mention a few. He was excited and grateful, not only for the opportunity, but for the distance – he knew he could express himself more in UK than in Kenya. He could finally live the life he was meant to live. Since the age of four or five, Makena knew something didn’t sit right with him. He had an ever-present feeling of living in someone else’s space. Whenever he would look in the mirror he saw a stranger; the dangly bits on him felt foreign. It was hard growing up hating parts of his body; he couldn’t reveal these feelings to his parents because although he was young, he knew this was a hard topic and one that wouldn’t be viewed lightly or objectively. His father, for example, was already up in arms with frustrations because his son ‘didn’t possess the natural propensity for all things boys’.
By puberty things were at breaking point – he hated the stubble on his face, and his genitalia repulsed him. When all his age mates were getting excited about the upcoming initiation ceremony, he was battling hell. In a way he envied them, happy as clowns, and wondered what wiring went wrong in his brain at conception or birth that made him feel the way he did. On some level he knew it wasn’t his fault, but the obsession had plagued him forever. He wished he knew what to do: he thought of googling, but he didn’t know what to google and it wasn’t like he could group discuss it, besides google was still an infant. He lived in his private hell until the day his parents threw him a life line: to study in the UK was the greatest gift. A more diverse tolerant country was what he needed to explore this part of him that he didn’t understand but wanted to; it was his epiphanic moment and couldn’t wait to arrive in UK.
In his first few lessons in medical school he learnt (in the simplest terms possible) that when humans are conceived, they start off as female and at some point, the genitalia and brain take one of two routes. It occurred to him that his genitalia and brains may have taken different routes, which explained his out-of-sync body and mind. But now living in this wonderful country and talking to these understanding professionals, he found out there was something he could do. However, before anything could happen, he had counselling to quieten the voices that said the journey he was about to embark was evil. On his 21st birthday, the transition begun – from hormone therapy to breast implants to sex reassignment. It was an arduous three-year journey because he’d undergone natural puberty, but determination and strict adherence ensured a smooth transition. That was the easy part; transitioning his parents would be a whole new ball game. There was a very high chance that one or both his parents would die from broken hearts or severe-disappointment-induced illnesses.
For four years Makena, now Lynette lived blissfully as a woman. She didn’t travel home because she had more guts letting a surgeon open her up, than opening up to her parents. She’d however confided in her younger sister Mweni, who, at an early age was intuitive enough to know something was up. On the night the boys were to be initiated into young warriors, Makena was a bag of nerves and had been crying for three days. Mweni, being the most inquisitive of the family interrogated him, he didn’t open up to her that night but he was confident when the timing was right she would be it. When he finally did, she was amazingly understanding and warned him about ‘borrowing’ her bras and shoes. They spoke almost every night thanks to the internet, and Mweni persuaded her to visit and face whatever might be. “You can’t hide in the UK forever!”
The flight to Nairobi was the long and the food bland, partly because the anxiety levels in Lynette were at frightening levels. She took a sleeping pill and a shot of whiskey to help her sleep but all that did was give her nightmares and hallucinations. In one, her mother’s head was dangling from the overhead compartment, her eyes bright blue and shedding dirty tears. The thought of her parents, and how they’d react to see the son they sent abroad to further his studies was now a woman kept him awake. He changed his course too, but that bombshell would pale in comparison. As her sister Mweni had advised, “take it day by day.”
To avoid an airport total meltdown, no one was to meet her – she was to check in a hotel downtown, take a day or two to acclimatise and rehearse. Mweni would then pick her up and drive them home. It goes without saying that the parents had organised a large ‘welcome home’ party for their only son. They’d invited anyone worth meeting a surgeon – so the crème de la crème had gathered in her parents’ home. Mweni omitted this tiny detail because she knew Lynette would freak and take the next flight out of there.
A car pulled up, and everyone stood up straight like meerkats eager to see the dashing surgeon. Two gorgeous women emerged, and the waiting party assumed the beautiful woman with Mweni was Makena’s girlfriend or wife, and waited in anticipation for Makena to emerge from the back seat. He didn’t. Mweni was edgy and called the mother to one side, they spoke in low tones, the mum collapsed and wailed horrendously as she went down. The dad ran to her aid asking what was happening. “She will explain,” Mweni said pointing to the beautiful woman. Lynette walked up to her father, tapped him on the shoulder and nonchalantly said: “Dad, it’s me…… Makena. Everybody now calls me Lynette.”
The dad stood up. Stretched his height to capacity and surveyed the beautiful woman in front of him. “Excuse me, ah you are what now? WHO?”
“Lynette. I’m sorry you had to find out like this, but I am a woman now and have been for the last 7 years. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I am the person I was meant to be.” Dad had stopped listening at …I am a woman… The temperature around his ears increased, his mouth dried up, his eyes bulged, and there was a ringing at the back of his head that echoed, and everyone’s voice faded.
The pandemonium that followed knew no bound – gasps, screams, and utensils dropping as the news spread around compound. The farm animals knew something was up because they stopped doing whatever they were doing and stared at the humans as they bumped into each other. Within minutes the news had travelled to the town centre and curious people were converging in the compound – there was a news crew among them – power of the internet. For the first time in her life, Lynette was not ashamed, and she was happy to explain how Makena morphed into Lynette. Meanwhile her mother mumbled things about the devil and a workshop. The dad was lying down because the ringing wouldn’t stop. Her siblings, friends and neighbour were curious and asked endless questions. She was happy to answer them all, because she’d had since decided this was her life calling: her mission was to find people like her and offer counselling and help.
Her grandmother, who was observing events unfold and saying nothing finally spoke.
“People, and by people she meant her daughter, you have to stop blaming the devil for everything. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t make it evil!”
Lynette grandmother, who had never set foot in a classroom was more intelligent than most. And as an afterthought she said, “Makena is unisex, so I’ll continue calling you that.” She was insightful, wise, compassionate and a bit boastful – she never let anyone forget that she was a direct descendant of Wangu wa Makeri.
Lynette smiled and believed that one day everyone will accept her.