The Bobrisky Phenomenon and Gender Fluidity in Nigeria

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It’s 2018 and yes, Bobrisky is still a thing. C’mon we know you’ve probably come across one or two twerking videos of our highly controversial, self-acclaimed male Barbie. Love him or loathe him, Bobrisky has been a major source of gags and banter over the past couple of years and it seems like he is going nowhere.

The average Nigerian’s penchant for gossip fanned the flames of the Bobrisky fame as; “Who is Bobrisky’s bae?” pursed everyone’s lips with many people guessing his extravagant and flamboyant lifestyle is sponsored by a top ranking government official. Within a short period of time he has managed to garner over 60,000 followers on Snapchat, who view his unintentionally comic content often featuring ‘Jacurb’ his former gate man.

Bobrisky, as scandalous and problematic as his personality may be has become the most prominent face of gender and sex fluidity in Nigeria. Although Denrele Edun has been in the Nigerian gender fluidity scene longer than he has, his style isn’t as overstated as Bobrisky is more inclined towards cross dressing.

There is no better time to talk about gender fluidity than now as the world witnesses a shift in gender norms and Nigeria isn’t left out. Ideally gender fluidity isn’t something discussed in this part of the world without a typical Nigerian yelling “Tufia” and immediately making a case of insanity or it being a sign of end times.

‘Gender fluidity’- a catchphrase popularized in 2015 by Western pop culture. Gender queer or gender fluid individuals are those that do not fit into the normal societal gender norms. They blur the lines of existing gender binaries. The term may be new but the concept isn’t. Famous androgynous people range from Charly Boy to Prince, David Bowie, Boy George, Janelle Monae, Pink, Michael Jackson the list goes on and on.

What many people may not know is that gender fluid people existed in Nigeria as far back as the colonial era. One name comes to mind- King Ahebi Ugbagbe of Enugu-Ezike. She was the only female king in colonial Nigeria. Her reign was notable for her performance of female masculinities and her control of all male existing political hierarchies and authorities.

Richard Akuson, Founder of A Nasty Boy, an online based magazine focused on shaking Nigeria’s conservative gender binaries and creating a safe space for gender ambiguity stated in an interview with CNN:

“There cannot be one singular kind of Nigerian man or woman, there has to be room for others who do not fit that opinion”

His magazine is outlined by fiercely provocative photo shoots featuring androgynous male and female models.

When it comes to gender fluidity, the fashion world has always played a huge role. Spring/Summer18 fashion shows saw designers like Thom Browne send out male models in grey pleated skirts in Paris. In Nigeria, one of the front runners in gender fluid fashion is Orange Culture by Adebayo Oke-Lawal who describes his brand as a movement towards making men more expressive.

But the sad reality of the ordinary gender fluid is mostly characterized by disdain and hostility. Not too long ago a Nigerian Twitter user talked about how much of a pleasure it was to beat up Bobrisky during their university days at the University of Lagos. His tone was that of pride like he had done the world a huge service by his callous act with a number of other users egging him on. The general sentiment of many Nigerians is to treat a concept that they do not understand with disdain (Take feminism for example. Well that’s another story for another day).

The acceptance of gender fluid people in Nigeria may not completely find it’s way anytime soon since most Nigerians are warped in their world of hypocritical religious tendencies. But what could be hoped for is a better understanding that difference and diversity are essential in the world we live in.

By Ifeyinwa Obi

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