Mehran, age 6, first arrived at her kindergarten in Kabul as Mahnoush, in pigtails and a pistachio dress.
When school shut down for a break, Mahnoush left and never returned. Instead a short-haired, tie-wearing child with the more masculine-sounding name of Mehran began first grade with the other children.
The Afghan Girls Who Live as Boys
Nothing else changed much. Kaley croco naked teachers were surprised but did not comment except to one another. When the male Koran teacher demanded Mehran cover her head in his class, boy baseball cap solved the problem.
Miss Momand understood perfectly. Officially, girls like Mehran do not exist in Afghanistan, where the system of gender segregation is among the strictest in the world.
But many other Afghans, naked, can recall a former neighbor, a relative, a colleague, or someone in their extended family raising a daughter as a son. Often, as in Kabul, it is a combination of factors. A poor family may need a son for different reasons than a rich family, but no ethnic or geographical reasons set them apart.
And to most of them, the health workers told me, having a bacha posh in the family is an accepted and uncontroversial practice, provided the girl is turned back to a woman afghan she enters puberty, when she must marry and have children of her own.