5 Nigerian Women Talk About Being Masculine-Presenting In Nigeria

February 24, 2021

Living as a woman in Nigeria is sometimes an unpleasant experience but masculine-presenting women are often faced with violence simply for looking the way they do. In this article, we asked five Nigerian women to share their experiences as masculine-presenting women. 

Bimpe, 23

People look down on me for looking the way I do. Members of my extended family message me on social media telling me I am a disgrace to the family because of the way I dress. Last week, my aunty told me again that I looked ugly and I need professional help. These things affect my mental health. I have to constantly remind myself that my existence is valid. My elder brother is the only person in my family who accepts me as I am. 

Ada, 18

I am the only girl out of four boys in my family. When I was in primary school, my teachers and classmates called me ‘boy-girl’. Every day, I would tell myself that I won’t play in school or talk to any boy so everybody would think I was becoming more feminine. At home, my mum would call me ‘tom-boy’ whenever she was angry with me. My younger brother would also use it to insult me in the middle of arguments. 

Till today, random women walk up to me to tell me to dress more like a lady. One time, I entered a tailor’s shop and a woman said that I was too tall and beautiful to be acting like a man. I don’t even understand what that means. 

Jai, 23

At work, one of my bosses once called me a faggot at a staff meeting. He never misses a chance to tell me how uncomfortable I make him. It doesn’t bother me as much as it used to because I don’t work directly with him. Also, I am used to it. My sister said I can’t visit her anymore because she doesn’t think how I dress is normal and she doesn’t want her children around me. 

One day, my friends — who are also masculine-presenting — and I went to a bar. While we were waiting for our drinks, a random man came to our table and asked weird questions like, “What are you guys doing here? Why are you dressed like this?” None of us answered him. That must have infuriated him because he started shouting and insulting us. He said just because we were dressed like men doesn’t mean we are men and we can disrespect him. People were watching him do this but no one stood up for us. Eventually, we were asked to leave.

Alex, 25

Being masculine-presenting in Nigeria affects how you interact with your family unit, your friends and the world at large. Growing up was tough. In my secondary school, girls who looked like me were called blokes and we had a set of rules to abide by — much like the larger society. If you failed to play by the rules, you were clowned or beaten. The rules told us how we were supposed to look and what to wear. There was also an amount of pain you had to be able to tolerate. 

From time to time, senior girls would send for all blokes in my hostel and punish or beat us for no reason. Growing up like that made me feel like I was wrong for looking the way I did and the world was punishing me for it. I believed that I wasn’t supposed to interact with the rest of the world like everyone else. Till now, I find it difficult to be as social as I would like to be, especially as I have stopped performing femininity. Now that I have come to terms with who I am, I don’t even want to interact with cisheteronormativity. For example, interacting with my neighbours is difficult because I think they have the idea that I am weird and as a result, I avoid them. It is very difficult to find cishet people who understand other experiences outside theirs in real life. I stick to queer spaces, where I am accepted as I am. In such spaces, I find that I am more open, entertaining and jovial. People need to learn that humanity is diverse — there is no one way to be. 

Zola, 20 

Whenever I am at the mall, people can’t get their eyes off me. This also happens at school. Recently, I was rejected for a job I wanted. It was a receptionist role at a hotel. The day I went there for the interview, the manager shouted at the person that asked me to come. He asked, “what is this? we are looking for women and you are bringing this tomboy here.”. That experience hurt me. 

For more women-centred content, click here

Mariam Sule

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

consequences of teen pregnancies
June 10, 2021

I read a lot of books growing up about the consequences of teen pregnancies and it was always interesting to me how teenagers were treated without a care in such conversations. Nothing about how they feel or how it happened and how to prevent it — just age-old fear-mongering. In this article, four Nigerian women […]

Watch

Now on Zikoko

Recommended Quizzes

December 11, 2019

In the past month, we’ve made quizzes that guessed the last time you had sex, how many people you’ve slept with, and just how good you are in bed. For our latest attempt, we will use your taste in Nigerian music from the 2010s to ascertain what you’re like in bed. Take to find out:

September 1, 2021

August is over, and here are some of our best quizzes from August. Enjoy: 1. QUIZ: Only Ajebutters Can Get 10/21 On This Quiz Some people like to form ajepako when they’re really ajebutter. Are you one of them? Let’s find out. 2. QUIZ: Sorry, If You’re Under 25 There’s No Way You Can Pass […]

June 14, 2020

Have you ever been with someone so horrible that you swore to never date again? Yes? Well, do you know that one or more of your exes probably feels the same way about you? You never thought about that, huh? Thankfully, this quiz is here to let you know just how much of a hassle […]

November 19, 2019

Regardless of what society has tried to tell us, enjoying sex is not something to be ashamed of. So, in a bid to celebrate our generation’s sexual agency, we’ve created a quiz that will accurately (again, keep your complaints to yourself) infer how many people you’ve spelt with. Try it out: 11 Quizzes For The […]

December 5, 2019

We already tried to guess how much you have in your account and your current net worth, and we think we did a pretty great job (keep any complaints to yourself). Now, we’re going to try and guess your monthly salary based on your relationship with money. Oya, take the quiz: 11 Timed Quizzes For […]

More from Her

black woman with afro smiling
September 20, 2021

Hair lice are tiny, wingless insects that live in the hair of humans. They feed on tiny amounts of blood they get from the scalp. They spread easily from comb to comb. It is especially rampant among kids.  It’s not easy to get rid of hair lice but here are a few tips that have […]

woman lying down on bed
September 15, 2021

“He said a lot of things. He cried too. This continued till 5 am. Eventually, I gave in because I wanted to sleep. He is currently a gospel musician in Kaduna.”

11 Nigerian Women Talk About Being Coerced

Read here:

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.
X