When next you see a traditional image of what society has labeled a woman or a man, don’t jump to conclusions. There’s always more than what meets the eye.
Consider, for example, two Nigerian celebrities who defy the gender binary myth.
Denrele Edun is a Nigerian TV presenter/personality, known for his “crazy” outfits and fun persona.
Over the years, false claims have circulated over the internet that he is homosexual, because many are confused about how he has chosen to represent himself in the public glare. Underlying that confusion is society’s difficulty in understanding gender identity, gender expression and the relation of those to a person’s sexual orientation.
Consider also Charly Boy, whose real name is Charles Chukwuemeka Oputa. Charly Boy is one of Nigeria’s most controversial entertainers in the music and TV industry.
He too has been labeled a homosexual and called various terrible names. He has denied the claim about his sexuality and even sued a media organization that published an article about him.
Of course, his small kissing media stunt with Denrele Edun did not help matters. Many people seized on that performance and concluded that he truly is gay.
These two Nigerian celebrities are redefining what gender means to many, and they are doing it fearlessly.
Many people in Nigeria argue that, once individuals are assigned a certain gender at birth, then they must continue to express themselves in traditionally acceptable manners that have been constructed by society, according to the gender that they have been assigned at birth.
Those who challenge these stereotypes, including celebrities, are often called terrible names, labeled and discriminated against. But in truth gender is fluid, meaning that people are just people, and may choose to represent and express themselves differently, depending on how they feel at a given time.
For example, a person may identify publicly as a woman, but may choose to dress and express a more masculine persona, while this person on the inside identifies as a man. Confusing? Yeah, it is as complex as that.
Gender expression and gender identity are two separate things, and do not necessarily relate to each other. How a person expresses gender in public is different from a person’s identity on the inside. Gender identity is more personal, internal, deeply rooted, a central part of many people’s sense of self.
We applaud Denrele Edun and Charly Boy for not bowing to pressures, despite Nigerian society’s harsh treatment of people who choose to be their true selves.
An earlier version of this article appeared on NoStringsNG under the headline “These two Nigerian celebrities have redefined gender in Nigeria.”
- Hate, gender non-conformity: Topics of Nigerian podcast
- Definition of Terms: Sex, Gender, Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation (American Psychological Association, 2011)