A foreigner recently pointed out- “You Nigerians love to dress like women,” (referring to Nigerian men of course). Immediately Diepreye Alamieyeseigha from 2005 corruption scandal came to mind but seriously, disguise aside, in recent times, Instagram timelines have been flooding with Nigerian men in gruesome makeup, scary wigs and “life sentence” worthy fashion making jokes about the Nigerian situation (which is the direct opposite of “The American Dream”). It is true, you Nigerian men love dressing like women all in the name of alter egos. So why then do we pick on and troll a few?
No judgements here, a good number of us spend quality time laughing until we piss ourselves while watching some of the videos skits on social media but in a country where the idea of alternative lifestyle scares the average person, it’s quite intriguing that we have a way to choose which man to crucify and which one to justify when it comes to cross-dressing.
It’s a different time we are living in and that’s why documenting the changes as we see it is key. Have you ever wondered why there seems to be a surge in straight men taking up female personas either as a way of making us laugh or sending out a message? You would think the reverse should be the case considering we’ve been living in a male dominating society.
The Federal Criminal Code Section 405 provides that a male person who dresses or is attired in the fashion of a woman in a public place… Under Section 407, could face punishment- maximum of one year’s imprisonment or a fine, or both.:page: 127, yet there is increasing tolerance for genuine transvestism which is a source of amusement for us in Nigeria, and this probably goes back at least a century. Nigerians just seem to think this kind of thing is hilarious and probably one of the reasons you’re seeing random men doing it on Instagram.
This practice is most traditionally known as cross-dressing or Transvestitism (not to be confused with Transgender) and the phenomenon which some tag as alter egos to stay safe has made some people famous and others condemned.
So Why do men cross-dress?
Dr David Delvin from the Net Doctors replies: No one really knows why some men have this desire. Many men who cross-dress describe it as an outlet for stress. Some men get relief from tension simply by wearing women’s lingerie (often silk) under their exterior male clothing. These guys often go no further than that with their cross-dressing.
Most transvestites, however, want to appear as female as possible in their outer garments and want to wear elegant make-up and pleasant perfumes.
Men who cross-dress are not mentally ill. Indeed, psychologists in the USA have decided that cross-dressing comes within the normal range of male sexuality unless it becomes a compulsive obsession.
Not every transvestite is a secret transvestite. The well-known medical journalist and writer Dr Vernon Coleman has often written about the enjoyment of wearing women’s underwear.
Some individuals make their livings as transvestite artists (drag queens) on stage and in clubs. Other performers cross-dress for reasons such as seeking to break down gender barriers – reportedly including the famous stand-up comedy artist Eddie Izzard.
Comedian Nedu says his female alter ego Nkechi has always been there inside him even though he is fully heterosexual. He only decided to bring her to social media recently as a custodian of moral values for young people.
Activist Bisi Alimi who is also gay talks about his own alter ego: As a man (yes, just in case some of you are confused) wearing a dress and heels and stockings is liberating for me. I am not a woman and I do not want to be a woman. When I wear dresses, I wear them as a man and this is why it is very liberating for me. It connects with my vulnerability. As an African man, there is an expectation of what it means to be a man. Wearing a dress is also a statement of fuck you to patriarchy. I don’t do conformity. I live in my head and in my world. I would go naked and take a picture of it if I feel so good about it.
According to Light in The Closet: Many men who cross dress are not even sure why they do. Although the feelings are strong and compelling, the reason or the catalyst as to the “why” is elusive. Most are not able to articulate much beyond some vague compelling feeling. “It just feels good” or “I feel like the real me while cross-dressing” are the most common reasons given to family and friends as to why a person would pursue this expression. However, there is a concrete and knowable reality behind the need for genetic males to express the feminine through cross-dressing, even if they themselves are not aware of it. They range from curiosity and sexual stimulation, to gender identity and even, in rare cases, mental illness. Some explore the opposite gender as a way to connect with suppressed emotions. Others use cross-dressing (CDing) to experience a different life-perspective. The one thing most all cross-dressers have in common is that the need is neither frivolous, nor easily dismissed.
Photos by Leland Bobbé