“He has been possessed by an evil spirit pastor,” said Arinaitwe. “I need you to pray and keep him here until he is free from this evil that has corrupted him.” She continued.
”Could you tell me exactly from the beginning what happened?” the pastor asked, looking over to the mother and the boy who looked like he had been beaten recently from the bruises on his body.
Arinaitwe had brought in her 19 year-old “son,” Benedict, whom she believed was possessed by evil because he did not want to be a boy or girl.“This is my son Benedict, he travelled to the city to study for a year and came back home recently only to tell me she is not a boy anymore or a girl either,” Arinaitwe exclaimed. “Pastor, what is he then? He surely is possessed by a demon, I should have never let him go to the city in the first place. Boys his age were working and studying hard and all he can do is waste the money that I struggled to get to take him to a good school, I should have used that money for business.” She sobbed as she hit her chest in agony.
“Benedict, come tell me what you are and why,” the pastor called to Benedict, who had been standing at the back shaking with his head down. He walked slowly forward to the pastor who was seated at the pulpit with a Bible in his hand. “Tell me son, you are in the house of the Lord, speak!” said the pastor.
”I,I feel different …I…” said Benedict before Arinaitwe jumped in, slapping his back so hard it caused an echo in the church.
”See? Feel different ? How ? Why?” Arinaitwe asked furiously.
”Madam Arinaitwe, please let him speak so that we can identify the demon that has taken over your son’s body,” said the pastor who had found his way up to stop the mother from hitting her son again.
”I do not identify as ‘he’ or ‘she,’ Benedict cried out.“ I have said this many times. I do not feel like a man or woman, my pronouns are ‘they’ or ‘them.’” He screamed with tears in his eyes. He had felt he had not been heard even after he spoke. “I have always felt different, even as a child, I knew I was different.”
”So now you are shouting at the pastor? Now you want to fight us? Tell me, do you want to fight your own mother now?” Arinaitwe asked angrily, and she turned to the pastor who had been standing in shock. “You see what I was telling you pastor ? He had never misbehaved like this until he went to the city, now he shouts at his elders, see? I think you have now seen it for yourself,” she continued. The Pastor, still in disbelief of what he had seen, tightened his grip on his Bible and stretched out his hand with the Bible pointed at Benedict. “This indeed is a demon, this is blasphemy. Do you mean to tell me God was wrong to create you a boy?” The pastor shouted at the top of his voice. “I command you to kneel down in the name of Christ Jesus, kneel down your evil that has corrupted the body of this young man!” he said.
”I am not a possessed, pastor. I am still me. I just don’t feel like a male or female, how hard is that to understand?” Benedict sobbed.
It had never been in the African society that a person could not identify to a specific gender, let alone in this small town where the very few people who were able to travel out understood what it meant. Benedict’s “situation” caused a lot of alarm in the area. He was locked up in church for a week, so that the “ evil” that had possessed him could finally leave his body. Bible studies were conducted, fasting and praying all through the night, while Benedict was sleep-deprived, which did a lot more damage to his mental state than good. To them their intention seemed right, and with this drastic measure taken he would become the boy they all had known months before. After a week of all this torture he could not handle living in this town anymore, but he could not run away either, and he had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. He felt lost and trapped in this place, and so Benedict decided to take his life, leaving a note that said:
“Dear Mother, I am so sorry for bringing so much shame and pain to your life with my choices, I wish you gave me a chance and heard me when I spoke to you, I was so scared to come out to you but deep down I hoped that when I did you would still love me the same. I do not want to live in a world that doesn’t accept me and shuns me when I need help, but if God cannot accept me as I am and you my mother cannot either then I have no reason to stay. I love you with all my heart and I am sorry for putting your name in the mud. Your son BENEDICT.”
Arinaitwe woke up to find her son hanged on the mango tree in front of the house where they both lived. She cried and wailed, but he was gone and she could never have him back. Benedict’s life was short, but he brought awareness to the small town about the different gender classifications and many people started coming out of their closets and embraced their true selves because his death paved the way for them.
1 February, 2023