The tiled steps were cold underneath the chiffon fabric of her palazzo pants. She finished strapping on her shoes, tapped her feet on the steps to adjust her foot to comfort and shifted her body to adjust to the cold feeling on her butt. While doing this, she examined her wardrobe for the umpteenth. This was one of those days when she felt the need to be extremely self-conscious. She would face her greatest fear, a task that required caution to prevent a catastrophic reaction. After two minutes of deep breathes, she stood, picked up her purse, and made her way to the car. The feel of the sun on her bare back was soothing. The rays landed kisses on her skin with an uncanny tenderness that calmed her enough to gain the composure to drive.
She ran through her speech ensuring she didn’t forget anything. At this point, she was an expert at being the crazy driver that speaks to herself loudly without trying to camouflage it. This was not her first public speech, she had actually mastered the art of talking to crowds without spilling her guts but there was something particularly special about her audience this time. On most occasion, she would speak before crowds of people who had motives, people who had judged her from the moment they saw her and her words seemed to offend the core of their beings. The other half would look at her with the adoration reserved for gods. They treated her like she was a savior who had come to rescue them from a harsh reality. The latter felt a strong tethered connection with her. She was a symbol of all they wanted in life, a statue of their victories and losses concurrently. She had nothing to prove to that audience yet everything was on the line because the truth was all there was. She wondered if it would be enough? If the truth she knew was sufficient to question all other truths
She considered herself lucky. Her inability to personally relate to half of the problems people seemed to have in self-discovery was a blessing in disguise. Growing up, her parents were too preoccupied with their rocky marriage to be bothered with what personality and interests she developed. Of course this came with its own demons like the truancy phase she had at fifteen but, for the most part, it let her be herself. She lived in a world with endless possibilities. The idea of being a physically strong female was normal to her, she had no problem being the firm decision maker at work, and her ambition did not take away from her kindness. Her first kiss with a boy it didn’t take away from the first kiss she shared with a girl because they were all right. She had the freedom to live, love and to simply be. The realization that a majority of people did not have that level of autonomy was bile to her soul. The notion that people couldn’t just embody their true selves because of some unwritten (in some extreme cases written) codes of conduct was unnatural. Most people her age had to struggle with an identity crisis constantly trying to fit into boxes. A larger majority struggled to fit other people into their own boxes and when they didn’t fit it turned to chaos. This resulted in so much confusion and hate which her present audience carried a potential to propagate.
Her introduction was received with a roar of applause. She got up the stage and an unforeseen confidence took over because she realized that one fear she had was also the strongest weapon she could have. All she needed to do was show them that there were more viable options than the ones that had been presented to them. They had the time-sensitive ability to unlearn. She wouldn’t need to spend ages trying to prove facts because their minds could be shaped. In the presence of one hundred pre-teens including her sons, she told the truth as she knew it.
” I am ambitious, kind, strong, capable, and smart. I’m a sexual being, I express my feelings, and I can sepate my feelings with facts. I have the ability to love and recieve love.I can be anything I want and be attracted to anyone because my sex has very little to do with who I am. All that matters is I am a human being which can mean a lot of things.
It’s easy to accept the obvious expressions of gender equality. Very many people can stand in a room and talk of equal pay and harassment confidently. The hard part is when we have to take it beyond the obvious when we are asked to unlearn everything we learned. It’s easy to say women can work but when she says she doesn’t want to be a mother there is a problem. We want men to be emotionally expressive but we dont want our sons and boyfriends to cry in public when they are hurt. We need to be comfortable with letting people express who they are without judgment. Yes, women can be aggressive too, some women like to play rough and that doesn’t take away from their femininity. No, a girl who knows soccer is not a rare phenomenon she is just another person interested in a sport. That housewife holding down the fort is not weak she is strong and a pretty awesome manager. That guy in a pink shirt…well color has no gender or sex. The very strong man in your life can cry because he is a human with the ability to express emotions and that happily polyamorous couple doesn’t take away from your monogamy so let them be.
There is a need to teach children the truth in its complicated form from an early age. This definitely makes it harder but our survival depends on us being unbiased in speaking the truth and accepting that the grey area is where most of life exists. True equality comes in when there is room for individuality and tolerance for differences among us. After all, if you think about it, aren’t we all outliers: none of us are completely identical.
Featured Image: #BiliNowNow campaign event in Kigali 2018 which is aimed towards a future with over 1billion African youth in charge of their culture, their destiny, and their bodies.
Context Image: #WithHer campaign to celebrate girls and work towards breaking stereotypes on what women can be or do. Done during the International Day of the Girl Child celebration at ALU Rwanda