I shouldn’t have signed up for today’s writing prompt. This should’ve been one of those days when I say, pass, and I look the other end. It’s a topic that’s tangents away from my alley, something I’m not comfortable with. It makes me shiver. I’m scratching the beards on my right cheek. I feel cornered. My stomach feels like it just got punched, my shins as though they got a kick. But here I am, taking a stab at this.
I haven’t experienced the wrath of racism. It’s probably because I’m not that widely traveled yet. I wouldn’t want to experience it. I haven’t been to an establishment that’s treated me unfairly because of how I look. I’ve read tear-inducing and heart-wrenching accounts of people who’ve been oppressed because of the color of their skin or where they come from. It’s distressing.
Racism is unfair. But the world is unfair too.
It doesn’t cost anything to be good to people who are different from you. Be good. Be kind.
“Do you know that guy is gay?” she asked me.
That question sounded like a blazing slap to my face. Or like someone had poured ice cold water to wake me up. I moved my neck backwards and wore an inquisitive look.
“What?” I responded with a question.
“Yeah, that guy is gay.”
“OMG! What? I didn’t know it.”
“Yeah. I had no clue.”
That was news to me.
“You’re probably the only person here who doesn’t know it. Everyone knows it.”
She goes blow by blow telling me how much of a gay guy that person is. It makes me wonder whether there are levels of being gay. Are there people who are quarter gay, half gay and full gay? She tells me to be careful because he might hit on me. The thought of that makes me sick.
“Wait,” I cut in, “has he hit on any guy you know?”
“No. But be careful,” she warns.
I’m in my final year at Makerere University looking to do a novel research project for my dissertation. I’m searching, asking people if they know of any funded projects that I can be part of. A guy who is pursuing a Master of Molecular Biology tells me one of his classmate’s is looking for someone to take on a project. That was perfect. I told him I was ready. So he gave me Caesar’s number. I called.
Caesar and I met at Dag Hammarskjold Hall. We talked about my interest in molecular biology at that time. He gave me an overview of what this project would be. He asked me to prepare a write-up and a presentation of my understanding of the subject. I would then present this to Dr. Richard, a man under whose docket the project fell. Dr. Richard controlled the budget. And he told me, “If you can convince him, then I think he’ll give you a chance.” Caesar gave him a heads-up and thank God, I get the opportunity.
I started on the project and kept in touch with Caesar a few times as courtesy and to share some of the project’s progress with him. He was helpful and kind to me.
And you know who the gay guy that chic was referring to? There’ll be no prices for guessing. Caesar. Yes. Caesar. That revelation didn’t change how I saw him as a person who was good to me. And to this day, that has never changed.
Caesar is now transgender. He became Cleopatra and openly identifies as a woman. You can Google it. This information is in the public domain. Sometime in 2017, I called up the number I had but it was off. To this day, that number is saved on my phone as Caesar. I wanted to ask him her what this trans thing is about. Goodness! This LGBTQI thing is something I don’t get. I’m open to hearing from people who understand it.
Would I have reacted differently or treated Cleopatra differently had I known of the secret then? I’ll never know. One thing I admit though is that I feel awkward referring to Caesar as Cleopatra. But that’s none of my business. If Cleopatra feels comfortable in who she is, then that’s the most important thing. If she’s happy, that’s what counts. I don’t think she’s changed from that good hearted person who opened the door for me to do a molecular biology project in my final year at Makerere University. Would I meet her today if she gave me a call? Yes. And if she granted me an interview, I’d write about it on this blog.
I don’t think people’s sexual orientation or race is a determinant on whether they are good or bad. Good people are good people. Bad people are bad people. It doesn’t matter who they are, what they believe in, who they love, who or what they identify as, or what the colour of their skin is.
You’ll not find me on the street holding placards or banners and marching, advocating for LGBTQI rights. I haven’t yet wrapped my head around it. I’ll advocate for children’s literacy, education, healthcare, proper nutrition. But for LGBTQI rights I’ll need to have more conversations with people who are part of the community for me to understand their point of view.
In the same vein, I won’t bash anyone for being who they are. It doesn’t matter whether you’re straight or gay, single, dating, married or divorced, young or old. We are all human. We all have red blood and salty sweat. We are all imperfect beings. And none of us will get out of this life alive.