“Effeminate” is a disapproving term, to describe a man or boy, that looks, behaves, or sounds like a woman or girl.
The Nigerian male experience can sometimes be weird. Even though more people are embracing themselves for who they are, other people still have experiences that make accepting themselves a bit difficult.
Read about some of them below.
1. Dayo, 31
Growing up through primary school I had no idea I was “different”. I remember just living a normal primary school life and maybe the only thing of note was that I was bad at sports or I cried at the drop of a hat but it was never anything people pointed out or made me conscious about. I was pretty normal. That is until I got to secondary school and the social alienation and name-calling started. Picture A skinny tall dude who basically catwalks because of his bowlegs, an effeminate flamboyance and a finessed speech pattern and you had yourself a target of homophobic and emasculating rhetorics which only got worse as the years went by.
I remember a point in senior secondary school where I had this best friend and people always made this joke about how he was the husband and I was the wife because we always spent time talking to each other and just generally enjoyed each other’s company.
I also remember that there was a point where everyone kept calling me a woman as well as some homophobic slurs as if my effeminacy made me less of a man. It was a lot for a 13-year-old to handle. In a desperate attempt to fit in, over the years I ended morphing and mangling myself into someone I didn’t even recognize anymore and it took me a long time to find and love the real me again.
To this day I still wish I hadn’t been put in these situations growing up and I still bear the scars of the trauma it caused me. I really feel for people like me who went or are going through it like I did and I hope they are eventually able to find who they really are on the other side.
2. Ikechukwu, 22
The most common statement people make is “guy you be gay”? I’ve lived with groups of guys, and this statement comes up especially when I’m about to go take a shower and even when I’m dressing up – I have this men care kit box where my toiletries are kept and I have a collection of perfumes too. So guys are usually quite surprised when they see these things. But funny thing is that these products are for men so I really don’t get what people don’t understand.
I also just randomly get questions like “how many sisters you get?” or “are you the only boy?”.
I visited my friend’s hostel in school one time and he told me that when I left, the guys in his room said I was “too neat for a guy”.
But I don’t care though, because on the flip side, people look up to me and I get a lot of compliments about my good looks and how great I smell.
3. Peter, 35
I’m usually responsible for playing music in the office. One day, I played some Sam Smith and the guys in the office took some offence. It turned into this big argument. We went from music where they clearly told me that playing music by women or “subtle” guy artists was girly.
Somehow the conversation moved from that to:
“It’s weird for a guy to use his own picture as a lock screen, that’s gay”
“Only metrosexual guys cut their nails and then file them after”
“How can you tell a fellow man you love him, or hug your guy friends?”
“Why would a guy ever plan his outfits ahead?”
I got so pissed, I wrote an article about it. I hate that society tries to make men who don’t conform to its standards feel some type of way.
4. Emmanuel, 25
For as long as I can remember, I was always on the sidelines because I was not ‘man enough’ to play on the field with the other ‘boys’. I didn’t fit it because I used to cry, and talk and walk in a certain way.
Even in my final year in University, I remember being so excited for the Departmental Dinner – literally the most anticipated event of the session and the first I would ever attend. I’d planned my outfit, which was meant to be a combination of black shades, to be accompanied with black nail polish. It was all a nice plan in my head until I got to a boutique in school to buy the black polish. I probably spoke the way I normally would and maybe made some mannerisms that triggered them, but immediately I asked, the store attendant, as if it was her business, asked: “For you or your girlfriend?”
There was quite a number of people in the shop that day and it’s weird saying it now, but I got interrogated for a full ten minutes. I had to shamelessly lie that it was for my girlfriend.
I didn’t even have a girlfriend.
But I’m sure nobody would interrogate a bulky deep-voiced guy that wants to buy black nail polish.
I felt my self worth leave, as I paid for the item. I didn’t even use it anymore.
Unlike many men who have embraced their femininity, though, I am very much still coming to terms with the fact that different doesn’t always mean bad, sometimes it’s just that – different.
5. Victory, 20
No jokes, people have been calling me gay since I was in primary school. They called me gay because I used to draw, and dance, and because I didn’t do sports.
As time went, if I drew women, they would say I was gay because I was drawing only women. I started drawing only men, and they would call me gay for drawing only men as well.
I’m a fashion designer now. It hasn’t been easy. One time in school, I saw some unique outfit on the internet and I decided to try it. The entire faculty went wild. Everyone said everything, but the guys talking came back to meet me to ask where I got my outfit because they were interested.
Another time, I went to Ibadan, Dugbe market, to get some art supplies. I wore baggy jeans, combat boots, and a tight t-shirt. People’s eyes wanted to fall off because they could not stop staring.
The crazy thing about my experience with being shamed for not being “manly” is that I know that it is all pretense because society wants men to fit in a mold. Many men desire to do stuff like skin care and dress well, but don’t because other men who also want to do the same thing would shame them. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken.
Man Like – A series about men, for men, by men. This Sunday, 12PM.
Watch this space.