My father had a thick brown color belt. It was the only one he had. When it broke or wore out, he would buy the same one. He didn’t care if it matched his shoes. Probably because you could never see him wearing it. You see, he never tucked his shirt. Always roamed around town with his big paunch and oversized untucked shirt with sleeves rolled up to his elbow. The unseen poor belt would lose its shape and tear from within trying to hold up his pants; and his honor.
Not only to save him from the humiliation of dropping his pants in public, but the belt also saved him from the humiliation of having a gay son. The first time he used the belt to hit me was when he saw Sameer in my room, a little closer than a seventeen-year-old boy must be to another. He whipped the belt continuously, not caring where it hit me, till I lost consciousness. The scars on my back reminded me every single day that protecting my father’s honor was more important than accepting who I am. Even after he was gone, I kept the belt in my wardrobe, right next to my brown belt. Over the years, when I thought for even a second that I cannot live a lie for my entire life, I would bring out his brown belt and whip myself with it.
So today, when my seventeen-year-old son stood in front of me wearing a white dress that stopped just above the knee and told me that he doesn’t identify as a male, I had no choice. It almost amused me how the new generation has come up with so many new ways of getting in tune with who they are. Nonetheless, my father wouldn’t have had it. His belt needed to be brought out to protect his honor yet again.
I walked up to my wardrobe, remembering every single whip, every single slang hurled at me by my father, every single tear of my mother cursing herself for not giving birth to a “normal” child, every single time my father warned me to keep my true self a secret. I remembered every single time my father opened the wardrobe and brought out his brown belt. I remembered how I would go numb with fear even before the belt touched my naked skin. So I opened my wardrobe today and took out the brown belts, both his and mine. Only this time, I threw my father’s belt into the trash can and walked over to my son. I handed over my belt to him and told him “this will look good with your white dress.”
Photo by Kat J on Unsplash