It rained the day I entered the world. The storm that raged was one of a kind. My mother would tell me later that the town had never experienced such a destructive storm before I was born and that it would be the last. As a kid I used to believe this phenomenon was a pointer to my uniqueness. That the forces of nature had to come out in their full force to welcome me into their midst, I felt indestructible, God’s own chosen child prepared for unparalleled greatness. At my birth I was christened Victor Stephenson, but my legal documents now read Victoria Stephenson. I was a man, now I am a woman. My mother told me that she wanted a girl when she got pregnant. A devout Christian she refused a sonogram. She always said the just shall live by faith, so, she chose to believe that God would grant her wish. The baby pictures I have are those of a tiny beautiful boy dressed in pink girls’ clothes. They were products of God’s failure in his job of catering for my Mother’s every need. My mother used to be a crack head you see, she told me God saved her from the bondage of crack when she met Pastor Jones. She was a prostitute, selling herself to feed her addiction. She sometimes got lucky enough to get an occasional sugar daddy, old men who would keep her around for a while, but they always left after they had their fill. Now, God had become her sugar daddy, the ever effervescent supplier of her needs.
Mother thought it fit to have a child because of loneliness. She was tired of being alone, trudging through life on her own without someone in her corner. So she always dreamed of having a baby girl, her friend and confidant to share everything with. When I think of it, Mama probably married Pastor Jones because she needed a daughter and could not just hop on any man on the street to provide her one because the bible prohibited fornication. The memories I have of Pastor Jones are of him on top of Mama grunting, telling her to say he was the man. We lived in a one room apartment, barely had enough to eat but God was always our provider. That was what Pastor Jones told me whenever I cried for more food.
I was six years old when Kimberly came to the house. I had opened the door for her after the repeated heavy pounding that she obviously thought passed for a knock. I remember her name because I always wondered how an ugly fiend could have such a beautiful name. I was immediately distressed by her presence. She was a tall, slightly hunched, ugly thing. Her hair had receded, almost bald, probably aided by years of perming and other vanities as Pastor Jones called them. She asked for Damien, but I simply looked up at her wondering if she could also have possibly been created in God’s image as the Sunday school teacher said we all were. I was still looking at her mute when Pastor Jones and Mama showed up; they had gone to the next apartment for evangelism. That night Pastor Jones packed out of the house and left with his wife Kimberly. We never saw him again.
I was Victor, I am now Victoria. I was in High school when I realized I wanted to be a girl. I always wanted to dress like a girl but was too scared to do so. I did not want to be ostracized. High school could be a very cruel place; sometimes I wondered how young people could be so mean. The best time to let out that side was always Halloween. I would dress in cute pink cheerleaders’ clothes and pom poms. Those were the best of times. I could be myself without fear or shame because everyone had the masks of new personalities on, no one knew mine was the real me. What they thought to be the real me, was my mask.
I still think about the day I told Mama I wanted to become Victoria. I was sure she would be happy. She had wanted a baby girl for so long. The look on her face will haunt me forever. It was dismay mixed with an undisguised disgust. God, she told me could not allow something so abnormal. She recommended a week of fasting and prayers and special sessions with her new Pastor. A lanky old man aptly called Reverend Dick Slick.
I wished Mama had gone with me to the surgery. I needed the moral support. But she was in Church that day begging God to rather make the surgery go wrong so I could leave this wicked world as she puts it and meet God when he could still recognize me. After the surgery, it was a while before I could adjust to the person that stared back at me from the mirror. I finally got what I wanted. A pair of breasts, a vagina, but I still lacked the feminine figure and sparks that made men go weak in the knees.
In the loneliness that took over I started dreaming of death. Not the fearful entity with a club or a pitchfork, dressed in black robes but a soothing, gentle looking being who would take me out of the miserable world. God was the only problem. I wondered if he would still love or even recognize me. Sometimes, I pray to God. But in my prayers God is a she. A being who understood my feelings as a woman would.
I am Victor but I used to be Victoria. I go to Church, I want to learn to love God, but I do not think he loves me. At least not the way I am.
(Adediran Adeyemi is a Nigerian writer. He studied at Obafemi Awolowo University lives in Baltimore, Maryland)