I am a cross-dresser.
I am also a professional footballer. I’m 18. I play in the Nilemwian super League and also for my country. It seems likely I shall be playing in next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon. At the end of the cup tournament I shall be transferred to a club in a major European League. I shall earn a lot of money which will be very useful to help me pay for my mother’s hospice care. She is dying of AIDS and I want to provide, for her, the best care possible during her final few months.
This evening I am resting with my leg, in a splint, supported by a small table. I suffered a hair-line fracture in training this morning. Later I will go to the clinic for a scan to determine how serious my injury is. It is likely I will be unable to play again for a month. The injury is not serious – these injuries occur all the time in my line of work – but I want to write about it to emphasise that actually, people like me, who cross dress, are not the queer, effeminate pansies that much of media in my country suggest. Football, physically, is tough way to earn a living. Often it’s very painful and you need to be strong, fit and resilient to make any sort of grade. I am five feet ten inches (1.7 meters) and I weigh 11 stone. 70 kilos. My thin and wiry frame obscures a tight muscular build. I can run a 100 metres in 10.8 seconds. I can lift (clean and jerk) 130 kilos – nearly twice my bodyweight. You wouldn’t want me to tackle you on a soccer pitch! And the reason I’m telling you I’m such a tough guy is to affirm that cross dressing has nothing to do with physical attributes or feminine characteristics. Next time you’re on the train, or the bus, see if you can identify a cross dresser. You won’t!
I am certainly not effeminate in physique – although sometimes my gait – the way I walk suggests a certain sensitivity, if I can put it like that. In short you would not suspect me of being a cross-dresser and this is an advantage because of my job. My team-mates would not only flip if they knew my secret they would probably alienate me. Chastise me, mock me, perhaps even beat me up. They would think I was gay. Queer. A homo! Furtively lusting after their pampered cologne drenched bodies. They would certainly ask that I change in a separate part of the training ground. A Cross Dressing room! (which actually I wouldn’t mind, it would save me having to listen to their endless fatuous schoolboy humour. Lots of the time it’s like being trapped in a boy’s toilet!)
Then there’s the Press. Ever hungry for the minutest detail they will pounce on me like flies after bleeding meat. My team mates are always desperate for press attention. They could no more keep their mouths shut than a Blue Nile Catfish. Their hysterical comments would be incorrect and unsuitable. Like lube at a funeral.
The press would frighten my mother too. They have no moral standards.
‘Did you know your son was a queer? Did you use to dress him in girl’s clothes?
I am used to criticism. I was raised in the slums of Nilemwe. People avoided me as though I smelt like a wet dog.
And it’s not like that is it? They just don’t get it. Very few people in my country know what a cross-dresser is. They associate cross-dressing with homo-sexuality. For my team mates calling someone ‘queer’ or ‘homo’ or ‘faggot’ is the lowest form of insult. They use these terms a lot. Perhaps it helps them with re-enforcing their raving heterosexual masculinity. Although recent research by a major Californian University indicates that one in every five males is gay – which means when I board the plane to the Africa Cup of Nations with the 22 man Nilemwe squad and three coaching staff – five of my team-mates will be gay. Two players in the Portugal side who won the European Championship are gay! Statistically.
To be a cross-dresser in Nilemwe is to be homo-sexual. Homosexual activity is illegal in Nilemwe and is punishable by life imprisonment – and execution, when the world isn’t watching closely. In 2014 three convicted homosexuals were hung after a long and controversial public trial that caught the attention and censure of nearly every country in the West. Gays and lesbians are regularly beaten up and often executed by the Secret Police – and sometimes ritually stoned to death by The Midnight Avengers, the anti-gay militants, who know the authorities will turn a blind-eye. Not reporting that your relative or neighbour has come out as gay, lesbian or transgender is a criminal offence.
Nilemwian law says that a transvestite is a person who likes to wear the clothes of the opposite sex for sexual pleasure. Wrong on two counts really.
Many cross-dressers just feel comfortable – rather than sexually aroused – when they wear the clothing of the other sex. They might feel the need not just to dress, but to behave as a member of the opposite gender. Recently, many people who go in for wearing the clothes of the opposite sex have become unhappy with the word ‘transvestite’. They prefer to describe themselves as ‘cross-dressers’.
In 2012 more Californian University research suggested that 7 perhaps 8 per cent of the population are into cross-dressing. However, I have no idea how they established that figure or whether it bears any relationship to the truth.
Some women dress up as men, but according to the same research it’s overwhelmingly men who like to dress as women. Recent research has confirmed that most transvestites are not homosexual. Lots of gays however do like to ‘drag up’ – particularly for special occasions.
My name is Tiko and I am an international footballer for Nilemwe in East Africa. Those names are fictitious but you must understand that my story is true. I have a longing – a need, like an itch you cannot scratch – to cross dress. One day when I was just a kid a pool of alluring blueness opened at my feet. I dived straight in. There was no bottom!
This desire is a secret. One day people will know. Then I don’t know what will happen. International football is not ready for such disclosures – it hasn’t reached that level of maturity – even though I am proud of being a cross dresser and want, someday, to turn up for training in a blue pinafore or be interviewed on TV and show the world that I look absolutely scrumptious in a red-halter neck!