When my sister was born on December 2008 in Dubai, U.A.E, I remember peering into the glass incubator and marveling at how much her face resembled a ripened plum.
Her hands were clenched into a tiny fist, her lips purple in color quivering with every gentle breath she took. My mother was catching her breath on the hospital bed and my father and other sister sat close to her. My baby sister crinkled her nose in her sleep and I could feel my chest caving in with immense affection. She hadn’t been in the world for more than a few hours but even so, my eight year old self knew she would do great things. The door behind me swung open, a plump nurse strolling in with a smile spread over her kind face holding a clipboard. She walked over and fussed with my mother only to spot the card of details on my sister’s glass incubator before frowning, her eyes going from me to my sisters.
She clicked her tongue in pity, “Three girls?” Her left eye flickered at my mother, “Hopefully, next time it would be a boy.”
On a pilgrim’s journey to Saudi Arabia, an old woman with deep crowfeet set by her eyes, hair the colour of melting silver sat with us against a pillar. She stared at my sisters and I with such intense ferocity, I was forced to look away. She reached forward to grab my mother’s hand and pointed at the clear blue sky that spread above us and told my mother to beg the Almighty to gift her a son.
All my life, I have been looked down, trodden down on and pushed aside all because of the fact I’m a girl.
Being a girl meant I had to be submissive. Being a girl meant I had to practice flexibility and ground my teeth against each other all my life because I had to serve my husband one day. Being a girl meant I had to dream but not to a point where my thoughts looked similar to a boy’s. Being a girl meant I had to be smart only to teach my future children. Being a girl meant I had to know how to cook food, fix a cup of perfect tea, learn my table manners and smile without teeth to be a trophy wife. Being a girl meant I had to be ready to sacrifice everything I ever worked hard for my future family. Being a girl meant my bones were weak and I couldn’t stand up for myself. Being a girl meant I had to learn how to hold my tongue because how in the world would I ever please my mother-in-law if I had a little bit of fire?
There was a point in my life where I’d lie down in bed in the middle of the night and stare at the crack running across the ceiling, just wondering how different my life would have been if I was born a boy.
Would I have been scared to go out at night when the sun had sunk in deep? Would I have been advised to dress looser to hide my figure because the men on the street liked pretty faces? Would I have been asked to be quiet, to walk with my head bowed low and my shoulders pushed forward because the way I walked wasn’t right for a woman? Would I have been laughed at for dreaming to reach out for the stars? Would I still have to worry about the old man sitting with me on the bus? Would I be terrified of showing everyone who I truly was?
The answers to these questions are seemingly easy; no boy would ever be afraid to walk down the street at 2 A.M., they wouldn’t have to learn any defense techniques and they don’t have to reach out for the stars because they’re all already at the place where most of us struggle to simply catch a glimpse of.
After a few years, I reached a turning point in my life where exhaustion had been poured into my body that I no longer could muster myself the energy to feel anymore. I was burnt out – tired of so many things and tired of the fact I was penalized for something I couldn’t change. And that was when I realized there was no point in hiding in the shadows anymore because no matter how much I struggled to melt into the darkness, I was always being accused.
Being born to two educated people who wanted nothing but for me to strive for independence and stability shows how incredibly fortunate I am. And because of their faith I tried to finally discover who I truly was.
The art of stripping yourself bare is difficult when you don’t know where to begin. It also hit a new level of difficulty when you realize the idea of being truly yourself displeases everyone around you. Especially the ones who don’t matter but always have something to say.
But the thing is I’ve had enough.
The thought of someone telling me what to do because of my gender displeases me. The fact someone would attempt to limit my capability because of my gender and the idea that I need a seal of approval from every little person in my life, even the ones who create no great impact, makes me see red. One can only take a certain amount of hits before they decide to stand with the thought of never going back down. The amount of frustration and anger I bottled in my body for years has finally spilled through the cracks. I have had enough of being penalized for something I can’t travel back in time to alter. I’ve had enough of having an apology on the tip of my tongue every time I open my mouth to speak. I’ve had enough of looking down and enough of being scared.
Yes, I’m a girl. And no, I won’t apologize anymore.