TransgenderExpat by Andy Mayer
Subcultures have been on my mind a bit lately. I am a fringe dweller, always floating around on the periphery and I have been yearning to meet and understand life as one of the many “persona non gratis” in Nigeria. Having met gay and trans Mongolians living under the cover of darkness and hiding their identity from family and friends, I am keen to know more about what happens here in Nigeria.
I recently took my eldest son on a mental health day ( AKA wagging school) we went to the Lekki Conservation Park to walk the Longest Canopy Walk in Africa. Our small guided tour was joined by two Nigerian men who both worked in call centres and had the day off. One of them was celebrating his birthday and his friend had surprised him with a canopy walk and was then taking him to a late lunch followed by a night of clubbing.
Both men were extremely camp, uber friendly and very entertaining. I desperately wanted to ask where they were clubbing just because I have wondered where the subculture dwell in a country where being LBGT and / or Q is illegal. However, the day was about my son and not my fag hag tendencies so I didn’t enquire and just enjoyed their banter.
Last week I was alerted to a post on an Expats in Nigeria page to see an expat was lynched when on his way to meet a male prostitute. He was badly beaten and some of the comments in the post were about how he deserved it as gays are disgusting. There is a jail penalty involved for homosexuality.
Today I was perusing FB again ( it’s not good) and watched an Australian video on called Transgender101. It was really interesting. I found out I am Cisgender which is the opposite of Transgender.
Anyway what astounded me most was on Friday I visited a local market on Lagos Island called Idomoto. It was manic. It was stinking hot. It was congested and I was forced to walk half on the road, half wedged between KeKe’s and Buses and partly on a narrow and very dodgy sidewalk. As I was squeezing my way past another stall selling crappy jewellery I had to stop to let a hawker pass me. At first I didn’t register her as any different to the other girls with a silver bowl perfectly balanced on her head. The ubiquitous hawkers selling ground nuts all seem to have a similar dress code; a tight fitted spandex dress or denim skirt and tight t shirt clinging to their ultra slim and tiny bodies.
This one had a denim skirt and a purple t shirt. How on earth did I remember that? I apologised for blocking her way and sidestepped passed her. My brain registered some kind of difference or perhaps indifference or insult. I turned to see her stopped a little down the road staring at me . Truth be told she kind of sneered, turned back and minced off. I realised she was a he.
There are many words used for a cross dresser, “shemale” , “hebitch” and “ladyboy” come up on , you guessed it .. google and in my experience of bars in Thailand and Malaysia!
Now in my Transgender 101 lesson this morning I am supposed to use the word “they” . So the Hawker was a they. In my 45 year old preconditioned brain I just saw a bloke dressed as a chick. She was very slim, with a woman’s body, it was just something in her face that made me turn.
I quickly ran to my market companion and asked if it was common to see hawkers who were man dressed as women. He said yes in some tribes in Nigeria it is common . I asked if they were gay. He said no not at all. He said there are two tribes from Delta State, the Esans and the Ijaws who commonly dress in women’s attire and are married.
I have been googling like crazy about transgender, binary, non binary, bloody cross dressers in Nigeria and I get two drag queens a handful of models and some hairdressers. Jaws and Esans only speak of tribal culture and nothing about cross dressing.
This hawker was no drag queen.
Dying to know more I shall investigate this subculture more next week.