One of my very first crisis in my life was when my Dad left my family when I was very young. I never dare to ask what the reasons were, but once I overheard my Mom talked to one of her friend about this sensitive matter and she stated that my Dad left us because neither me or my sibling were born male*.
I don’t hate my woman qualities now, but there was period in my life where I really wished that I was born a boy. Boys seemed more significant than girls in my young eyes; they got to recite the Azan, being an Imam in daily prayer, etc (I went to an Islamic school before). I was a curious and bright young lady, but at that time I think “I’m going to be more than this if only… I’m not a girl.”
More ‘troubles’ of being female arose when I was 11; I’ve got my first period. I was so freaking embarrassed and disgusted by the fact that I emit blood from my vagina. In Islam, women who are currently in her bleeding time are forbid to pray (and some of them even believe that in this ‘impure‘ state, women are also forbid to enter the prayer hall). Every day in my elementary school day, we prayed together in the mosque (all the students and teachers), some of my friends (who also got their period early in life) pretended to be ‘pure‘ and faked their prayer. At that time I was very pious, I’m afraid of the sins of faking prayers, but I also didn’t want to stay at the class waiting for the other students to get back and mock me for ‘bleeding’. So I chose the ‘best’ option my 11 year old mind could decide: I hid in the bathroom. For two years of my elementary school time, 7 days in a month for an hour each, I stayed inside the bathroom cubicle nearby the mosque area waiting for my friends to be done with their Dzuhr prayer, and then when they were done, I held my praying gown in my hand, went out from the toilet pretending I was there for 2 mins peeing instead of hiding.
I was naive and stupid indeed.
I also hit puberty relatively early compared to my peers. Once when I was in third grade, we were playing basketball in P.E. class and one of my friend passed me the ball which I didn’t successfully catch and it landed hard on my chest area. I remembered it was so freaking hurt and on the next day, suddenly I found two mini ‘bumps’ there. I tried to ignore these woman lumps that are growing bigger and bigger each day, but one day a teacher of mine whispered to me and asked me to ‘buy a bra’— I was so upset and ashamed of my body. My breast size are normal right now, but when I was young, because most of my female friends hadn’t developed their boobs yet, mine seemed pretty huge. I remember how boys used to tease me for having that ‘shaky’ moment when I was running or doing sport (that is why I stopped playing ball games altogether).
Even in high school, when I had no more issues with puberty-related subjects (I had mine early on in life), I still was longing to be a boy. The reasons were not because “I feel like I was born into the wrong gender” sort of things, but because of the unfairness and abuse I received as a girl. I hated my body curve, because I experienced many inappropriate touches in my teenager period. I remember one day I was walking home from school and there was a man in a motorbike suddenly stopped behind me and hugged me from behind, he grasped my boobs for a second or two and then just got back to his motorcycle and gone. I was so surprised I can’t think straight at that time. There was also another time in a packed bus where I had to stand up all the way to school, a crazy man behind me jerking off by scrapping his penis to my butt.
Those were only two of many more unpleasant experiences of mine related to sexual abuse… But still, those weren’t the worst. The worst one that still hurts me until now was done by my own Mother.
I was 15 and we lived in a real slum area where all of our neighbors are either goons, ojek-drivers, or factory workers. We lived in a small tenement where my Mom and my sister chose to sleep in the ‘living room‘ because it was so freaking damp inside the ‘bedroom‘; and yes I was the only one who slept in the gloomy room (I sacrificed my comfortability for a piece of privacy). Despite of our lack of fortune, I was a relatively smart student, I never really scored low on test and I had likeable attitude at school. I had a dream of pursuing higher education and be a successful individual… and my Mom knew she couldn’t afford it.
One day, she told me that her friend of her (our previous neighbor from our previous neighborhood) wanted to marry me. His age was twice of mine, and he was working in a motorcycle factory. He came to our ‘house’ bringing the newest sony-ericsson phone that I wanted so bad and my Mom said this to me, “You want this phone right? You want to keep going to school, right? So please do it, he’ll helps us.” He wasn’t necessarily a ‘bad-looking’ or ‘ill-mannered’ guy, but the fact that my Mom wanted me to marry when I was 15 just made me so mad. Of course I rejected the idea, and I locked myself inside the room for three-days straight.
On the fourth day, I went out the room and did all my normal activities like usual; helped my Mom selling ice-lolly and went to school. I thought she realised her mistake and we would never talk about it again, until one night… I woke up in my room finding this guy from before caressing my body, my leg, and my thigh in sexual manner. I was so afraid and was broken inside: my Mom let this guy to sleep with me, she basically sold me. When he started to grasp my bosom area, I can’t help it anymore, I woke up took my bag and went outside. I stayed at my friend’s house for a while, devastated and angry.
From that point, I started to think that boys only want my body. I didn’t give my body the proper homage and just thought of it as a vessel for someone to ‘loves’ me. I felt so impure and filthy and hated my woman-ness even more. Even when I was married, I thought of sex as a price I needed to pay to my ex for letting me sleep in the place he rent. I tried to ‘enjoy’ physical intimacies I had with him, but in the end I couldn’t fake it any longer and decided to think over about the femininity I ought to embrace.
Now, I am an independent woman who talk freely. I’m no longer ashamed of sharing my painful stories, and stand tall loving all of my flaws.
I’m a woman, I am a survivor.
I’m a woman, I love my body, my boobs, my thigh, my ovaries, my vagina, my bleeding time of the month.
I’m a woman, I have every right in this world to be able to savor any kind of physical affections and being proud about it.
I’m a woman, I want to love, to touch, to grasp anyone I like without feeling like a wicked slut.
I’m a woman, I can work all day long and be lazy doing house chores.
I’m a woman, I might don’t want to bear a child but it doesn’t make me less of a lady.
I’m a woman, I don’t always need a man to stand in front of me.
I’m a woman, and let me be.
xoxo Livia Chan
*I don’t actually believe this was the only reason tho. I believe that my Mom over-the-top attitudes contributed more to his leaving.