Nele Anju: Firmly Fem

To find a safe -sometimes unaccommodating- space between being thoroughly feminine and ostentatiously masculine has played out over the years of enlightenment is a miracle.

Or not.

For a boy who grew up in one of Nigeria’s abounding conservative households without the littlest reception to gender fluidity, I was brought not just to the focus and belief of having a severe character flaw but was thrust into the vulnerability of hurt from derogatory remarks.

This usually came from an unconsciously well grounded space filled with a malevolent hate and disgust they’d never accept a relation with, as it is always being relegated to the devil or some other demonic force.

So, many times, an Aunt yelled at me to quicken my pace and stop acting like a woman, A brother who wouldn’t let me play football-which I hated anyway, but then everybody expected boys to play football- because I hated brawls and rough play, A sister who would intentionally smirk when I walk; demanding to know why I walked like her, A nosy neighbor who wouldn’t fail to call general attention to my oddly matched dressing, An Old Lady who smirked when I talked, and would term me a she, consciously or otherwise I wouldn’t know.

However these problems abound, and has even been passed onto this present generation of ‘millennials’. People who are way more vehement towards the things they hate without tracing the truest and varied print of their object of disgust.

On social media the feeds shredding complaints and many other (not so) subtle forms of emotional assault abound on the daily. Feminine men with the restraint from every basic structures of living starting mostly from their homes, and out on the street where we are forcefully labelled LGBT even if some of us aren’t, and are cussed at with the backing of the law and the moronic belief that effeminacy is a character which gay persons use to spill our own beans, still find it hard to find love in the LGBT community, on the claim of partial misogyny, which is in theoretical truth,an undiscussed self-hate.

And yes, we’ve heard these stories, we’ve seen these occurrences, like me, some others have first hand experiences of it, which haunt us for life, keep us away from reaching for our highest prospects, and allow ourselves without complain to be placed in a box marked: sub – manly.

On the backdrop of this came a savage need to align with society.
Although there are series of other uneventful fragments that builds up to this notion, the times spent on the dating community virtual and otherwise, drilled in me a spiteful sense of self rejection, of alteration, and hypocrisy.
So many had me up like “you know you can stop walking like a girl if you want to,”
“See eh, this your way of talking like a girl wouldn’t even on a normal day will get you in trouble oo,”
“Why are you always gesticulating?”
“You are too expressive, too emotional, it’s unmanly,”
“You need to work faster, only girls work as you do!”

And then because I couldn’t question what they perceived as manly enough or less feminine, I went on a character conversion.
It manifested in many forms of self-denial, of cultivating hatred for my voice; so I made sure to deepen it, my full brows or naturally lush lashes; which I carved and found ways to sit respectably, my walk; I made sure to count as I walked, judging every movement in my hip, making sure I sling, I slack, I add no possible flair, and most importantly, groomed a silent despise for people like me.

But the flaw with perfecting this act of correction is a sense of guilt, cowardice and futility.

Recently I feel less brave as I believe myself to be when I see firmly feminine men living out their true nature.
I am forced to question my part of inclusion and commiseration; a part of me that vehemently looked away when a fem friend was being bullied, a part that sighs in relief when the bully baton slides past me and sometimes share in the cocky hilarity that follows the ridicule of a fem person, a part that subconsciously adjusts his walk and talk, at the sight of a boldly fem person, so as not to be fixed in.
I have always been terrified of being fixed in, and because I have never braved it, it has always haunted me.
But now I know it is never enough to leave things as they are, there isn’t a way that I can fight for myself and yet against myself.
There isn’t a way I will not possibly evolve into a critic of character yet be in denial of it as my early community was, ironical isn’t it?
The space I supposedly inhabit grants me an ease an average fem person hasn’t got, and there is no way I cannot feel demonic about it.
Perhaps this space isn’t a miracle afterall, at least not in it’s highest form of probity.


Featured Image from TimeOut.


Nele Anju (a pseudonym) is a proud Nigerian gay man. He describes himself as a Memoirist and currently blogs at Not a Butterfly.


The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this Op-Ed by the Writer are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Rustin Times.

1 thought on “Nele Anju: Firmly Fem

  1. I can so relate with this. Being Fem in Nigeria is hard with people calling you names like woman wrapper and making smirk comments like “This one isn’t it a woman that would marry him” But Hun such a space exists sadly we might have to create it for ourselves. This is beautifully written.

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