I was 7 or 8 when I started noticing my aunts’ face creams and lipsticks, and how they would make themselves beautiful using them. Growing up with my grandparents in a rural village in Kenya, my aunts and uncles (my mother’s younger sisters and brothers) were in their 20s by the time I was realizing myself. I never paid much attention to my uncles who I thought were good guys and were always buying me nice things. My aunts were persons of interests, especially the way they would transform themselves from these farm girls who had been working and getting sweat and dusty in the farm to these gorgeous ladies. So when they were not around I would sneak in their rooms and try to make myself beautiful also. I would use their face creams eye pencils and lipsticks. Of course, being a kid, I would not pay attention to details of retuning the things as they were, so they would always know I had been in their rooms. They would make noise threaten to cane me next time but they never said to me: stop acting like a girl or act like a boy. I would only be punished for wasting their ‘things’. NEVER HUMILIATED or made to feel shame. I don’t think this was a conscious decision on their part, but my grandfather’s education is every family member has value, and no family member should be ridiculed for who they are or their choices. So, I was never conscious about this, at least not at home. School was a whole other thing. Bullies’ feed on one being different from them, one not conforming to their notions of what is normal. This is true for childhood bullies, it true for adulthood bullies too.
I remember this evening I had been sent to the village provisional store to buy sugar or something. My aunts were not in so I had used their make-up and snuck through the back door before my grandma noticed me. On the way to the shop I met with two of my school mates who were shocked to see me in make-up. Of course I became the butt of their jokes and insulting comments. But I don’t remember feeling humiliated and feeling shame. In my mind they did not know nor understand what beauty is.
At school I was a strange kid but at home nothing was strange about me. I was neither embraced nor shamed, I was ‘normal’, just like every member of the family. But thinking about it now I realise that family members and the workers in my grandparent’s farm could see that I was different. I remember one guy, I was about 12 years by then. He was somehow an intelligent guy in his 30s; he used to read stories to my cousins and I, teach us English songs and even help us with our homework. So, this one night one of the cows was about to give birth and my grandmother sent him and I to check on it. I could smell alcohol in the his breathe. After we checked on the cow he took me to some hidden and started touching my growing manhood and made me touch his. I always wondered why I was his only target then it hit me; he had noticed I was different, he knew who I was and that is why he did it.