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David Ades: Bacha Posh

I am daughter

of parents who needed a son,

who needed someone to go out

into the world, to work

and support, to be a man.


I was a girl

who dressed as a boy,

who learned the freedom of a boy,

to be outside, unconfined,

to be able to play under the sky.


I became a woman,

blood between my legs,

breasts I tried to hide,

but I could not become a woman,

confined indoors to a woman’s life.


I became a woman

with the strength of a man

and the heart of a woman,

with a man’s thoughts and dreams,

with a woman’s courage.


I am a woman

who is more than a woman

and less than a woman,

a woman who dresses as a man

but is less than a man.


I am a woman

who does not avert her gaze,

who lives in the world outside,

without children or husband,

without the life of a woman.


I am my father’s son,

a woman called Uncle,

a woman who goes where women

cannot go, who does what women

cannot do.


Out of necessity,

I became more and I became less,

I became half and half, outcast

yet respected, choosing one life

so as not to live another.

Author’s note: Bacha posh (Persian: بچه پوش‎‎, literally “dressed up as a boy”) is a cultural practice in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, in which some families without sons will pick a daughter to live and behave as a boy. I read a couple of extraordinary books about girls who chose to go beyond the accepted cultural practice and continue as boys/men into adulthood, basically for life, because of the greater freedoms it offered them, but of course at huge cost to them in terms of identity, femininity and so on. It is yet another peculiar manifestation of the distortions and contortions that women in various parts of the world have to undertake in order to survive. 

Copyright 2017 David Ades. 

David Ades’ collection Afloat in Light is now available from UWA Publishing.


One comment on “David Ades: Bacha Posh

  1. johnlawsonpoet
    September 29, 2017

    Fascinating cultural practice and excellent poem, David. I’m sure it will be read in the specific context of Islam, but it speaks more broadly, I think, of the trade-offs that all cultures impose as conditions of membership.

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on September 29, 2017 by in Poetry, Social Justice and tagged , , , , .

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