There is so much to learn about gender identity especially in the Nigerian context. This article seeks to explain words like non-binary, trans, genderfluid, genderqueer and other terms on the gender spectrum that a lot of the members of the LGBTQI community have been adopting in order to negotiate their identities and the world.
The truth is that Bobrisky is not the first transgender person that has been visible. In communities across pre- and even post-colonial Nigerian city, states and villages, there have always been Trans and Non-Binary persons and they were respected members of the community who are interacted with on a level that’s close to reverence.
The Yoruba Nation of South-West Nigeria, for example, do not have gender pronouns, rather they have words in their language for distinguishing age, because age, and not gender, is considered important. Also embedded in the language is wiggle room to disrespect older people whose behaviour is considered reprehensible.
‘They’, ‘them’ and ‘their’ are commonly used to refer to older people and gender-benders. In fact, when meeting a new person, a Yoruba person will use ‘they’ and ‘them’ to refer to the stranger. Sango mountees, irrespective of their sex, dress and wear make-up in the fashion considered ‘feminine’ which makes me wonder why they never come under attack because they are common sights on the streets of major cities. Olokun, the Oosa of the seas and wealth is sometimes referred to as ‘she’, and sometimes ‘he’, so they are actually non-binary.
Since culture is dynamic, more members of the Nigerian LGBTQ community are adopting words that fit their personalities. Some of them are:
Transwoman – a person who lives and identifies as a woman, whether she has undergone surgery or not, for example, Bobrisky is a transwoman, she is, therefore, a woman.
Transman – a person who lives and identifies as a man, whether he has undergone surgery, or not, although not as visible, Rizi Xavier Timane comes easily to mind. He is a Nigerian and a transman, therefore he is a man.
Cisgender – a person who lives and identifies as the sex the doctors assigned to them when they were born. An example that easily comes to mind is our former president, Goodluck Jonathan, who identifies as a man, the gender assigned to him at birth. His wife and former first lady, Patience Jonathan, identifies and lives as a woman, the gender assigned to her at birth, so they are both cisgender.
Non-binary – a person who is neither exclusively male nor exclusively female. This identity is sometimes adopted by intersex persons. One of the most visible non-binary persons in Nigeria is Logan February, a Nigerian poet. Logan will, therefore, be ‘they’ and ‘them’.
Although there are other identities such are agender, genderqueer and other genders on the spectrum, a lot of the Nigerians who have adopted these terms are either not-visible or closeted.
It is important to know that these have nothing to do with the person’s sexual orientation or sexual behaviour.