“I had to learn to shed a skin”

Kadie Kposowa, although born in London, is originally from Sierra Leone. Throughout their life, they have struggled to identify with a gender. Now at 29 years old, they describe what it is like being a non-binary person of colour, what beauty means to them and how non-binary people are treated back in Sierra Leone.

Story by Zara Garrido Jimenez

“Being non-binary feels obvious to me now, but it was difficult to even start to associate myself with the term; partly because of societal stigma, but also my own internal fear stopped me from allowing myself to think about it. That changed around last year. I began to look inward and consider my relationship with my body and with how I present myself honestly.

I do not believe the society I live in, or even any to be frank, accepts non-binary people. I would even go as far as to say society does not accept gender non-conforming people as a whole. This impacts women who are secure in their femininity but present themselves ‘differently’. The same goes for men who are secure in their masculinity and still choose to present themselves ‘differently’. Merging this with an already racistsociety equals a cocktail of issues in trying to live life and navigate various environments.

Picture: Kadie Kposowa

My perception of myself has changed massively. I no longer feel like an outlier, but I feel that the world views people like me too narrowly. I’ve realised I’m not the issue in a sense. Beauty is a billion, maybe even trillion-pound industry hustling women into chasing an impossible perfection. My sense of beauty standards was changing before I realised I’m non-binary. I was concerned with how society treats me as a black person. I was also learning about intersectionality, and learning that society has various layers of treatment for us all depending on socioeconomic status and a cocktail of factors such as age, abilities or disabilities, race and so on. I’m at the point where I believe beauty is a hollow but powerful weapon and I wish we could look past physical attributes and actually treat people based on how they behave. We exclude the ‘undesirable’ amongst us at every turn and the goalposts for beauty have changed immense amounts even since I was born.

My desire to be true to myself has cost me relationships with my family. I grew up in
what I now realise was quite a conservative household and most of my family is quite rigid in what they accept and that thinking has followed me all my life. I have had to learn to shed a skin in ways to be able to stand and declare mytruth to myself. To love myself for it, and not in spite of it, is a whole other journey.

I do not believe the society I live in, or even any to be frank, accepts non-binary people.

Sierra Leone is notoriously hostile to the LGBTQIA+ community. Expressing yourself out of gender norms and trends must be done in secretalways. The media does not hold back on demonising and haranguing gender non-conformists or on ‘anyone’ deviating from what is seen as unacceptable. It makes it difficult to imagine ever being able to live there safely.”