When you hear the word, “cross-dressing,” what readily comes to your mind? Well, to save you any bogus interpretation, it is simply the practice of wearing clothing usually associated with the opposite sex. While women can cross-dress by wearing trousers, agbadas, and other attires typical of the male gender with much ease, and even behave like tomboys, that could not be said of men who cannot take the bold risk to dress like women without looking odd and drawing the wrath of stereotypes and stigmatization. This means what it takes to cross-dress is far more rigid for males. But reading through this essay, you will realize that the narrative is gradually changing because the male gender – especially the young ones – has dominated the cross-dressing scene in Nigeria.
Now, to think that Cmoni would consider cross-dressing a burning topic for week 40 of the essay competition after it was up for submissions as at week 25 suggests a lot. Does it mean he was unaware of Nigeria’s 61st independent anniversary celebration during the past week? Is he unaware of the nose-diving fall of the Naira in recent weeks which Emefiele blames on abokifx? Of all the burgeoning events that made news in the last few days, what then must have informed the choice of the topic?
Anyway, without probing further, the reality is that any content around cross-dressing would sure generate more traffic and Pay Per Clicks (PPC) for any blog more than any of these recent events would do. A short video showing Bobrisky twerking on Instagram for instance will draw more attention than a post on President Buhari’s Independent anniversary speech. This is just the weird truth!
Citing an example, a post on the verified Facebook page of instablog9ja on January 11, 2021, read, “Panic as Cross-dresser, James Brown threatens to snatch married men from their wives.” Within 3 hours, the post had generated over eleven thousand (i.e., 11, 861) comments and over two hundred thousand (i.e., 247, 186) views. But have a post about a businessman give financial advice, and see if it would generate such an incredible amount of traffic within a similar time frame.
To put it succinctly, cmonionline captions it thus; “’ Businessman gives financial advice’: 8hrs… 1k6 comments… 25k views; ‘Cross-dresser to snatch husbands’: 3hrs… 11k8 comments and 247k views. ” Little wonder cmonionline would then add a quote by Idowu Koyenikan, an internationally acclaimed organizational consultant and author to the caption. It read, “Show me the heroes that the youth of your country look up to, and I will tell you the future of your country .” Was he referring to Nigeria? Did he refer to cross-dressers as the heroes of Nigerian youths? Well… this essay examines the factors around the rising trend of cross-dressing in Nigeria and what it portends for our teeming youths.
Truly, the conservative nature of Nigeria’s social culture gives little or no tolerance for binary debates to conveniently see the light of the day. While Nigeria has laws that punish same-sex marriage, no legislation is yet to prohibit cross-dressing. Yet, Nigerian society seemingly has had difficulty drawing a fine line between cross-dressing and homosexuality.
There remain stiff socio-cultural boundaries that tend to define the clothes and activities that should be associated with a particular gender, and society does not treat those who exist outside these boundaries kindly at all. The Bible does not spare them either. Deuteronomy 22:5 puts it thus, “women are not to wear men’s clothing, and men are not to wear women’s clothing; the Lord your God hates people who do such things.” All these socio-cultural and religious constructs inadvertently or deliberately condemn cross-dressing in its entirety.
However, some youths have defied the odds to evolve from being condemned to embrace cross-dressing. Ever since the likes of Denrele and Bobrisky became famous for their cross-dressing, the practice has gained popularity and is gradually becoming accepted amongst Nigerian youths. These two are regarded as the “poster boys” and front liners of Nigeria’s cross-dressing business. Their emergence took social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter by storm. They garnered for themselves an incredible number of followers in the process. This ultimately translated to fame, celebrity status, and brand promotion deals worth millions of Naira for them.
While Bobrisky, whose real name is Idris Okuneye could be described as a highly sought-after brand influencer owing to the vast number of followers he attracted to himself on social media, Denrele Edun has remained a TV presenter and media personality whose bold, fearless, and eccentric style and sense of fashion typical of the feminine gender has been able to carve out a niche for himself in the showbiz and entertainment industry. Tellingly, it is a no-brainer that the likes of James Brown, Jay Bugatti and other young men who exist within and outside the public eye must have gained inspiration from these two foremost cross-dressers.
This undoubtedly has triggered many Nigerian youths into the cross-dressing scene since it has proven to be a means to make money and launch themselves out of unemployment and poverty. In the build-up to this essay, I ran into a post about James Brown on YabaLeftOnline.com. The popular cross-dresser disclosed that the unemployment situation in Nigeria made him discover his career as a cross-dresser. In his words, “I will always be a man; a proud one… so don’t be quick to judge brethren. Cross-dressing is just a business. ” Needless to say, isn’t the business paying his bills?
In a related development, online comedy has proven to be a source of income for most youths who use it for entertainment and then get paid for it. But that’s not all; some comedians (mostly males) have catapulted themselves to stardom and wealth by dressing like a female while exhibiting their craft. Therefore, there’s no gainsaying that cross-dressing, apart from being a means for these youths to express themselves freely, is fast becoming more accepted because it can be a means of survival for them.
Apart from the harsh economic realities of present-day Nigeria, the rise in the trend of cross-dressing is attributed to technology and social media. Largely, the emergence of Smartphone technology and data affordability has resulted in a globalized society where information acquisition and knowledge are readily available at the fingertips of these youths. These developments were absent in the time of our parents. This is why cross-dressing as a lifestyle wasn’t so popular during that period. Today, young people are exposed to various forms of media content and are now using the opportunities offered by social media to project themselves and sell their brand as cross-dressers.
While cross-dressing has become a trend spreading across the country, some have decided to use it criminally. Sunnewsonline in its 12th December 2018 publication reported how the Police unmasked some men in the nation’s capital who dressed as women to allegedly defraud wealthy men and politicians they met at bars and hotels . These cross-dressed men posed on the streets, clubs, and brothels like ladies to lure and cash in on unsuspecting randy men. It sounds funny at first that some men could easily be deceived in that manner by their fellow man, but, hey… what is wrong remains wrong no matter the guise.
From many conspiracy theories, concerns have been raised that the rise in the trend of cross-dressing could result in same-sex marriage being legalized in Nigeria. For those who conjure these theories, they fear that the mere fact that some politicians have been allegedly seen frolicking around famous cross-dressers could lead to the relaxation of the law prohibiting same-sex union. The presence of notable personalities at Borisky’s 30th birthday anniversary party just recently has gone a long way to heighten their apprehension. Others have described cross-dressing as ungodly and an abominable trend capable of eroding the moral and traditional values of our indigenous African culture from the youths. There are concerns that moral decency, procreation, and marriage may mean nothing to these youths who engage in cross-dressing.
When you hear statements like, “Panic as Cross-dresser, James Brown threatens to snatch married men from their wives,” and “cross-dressers are responsible for the high rate of divorce in Nigeria, not Kanyanmata,” you shudder at the extent to which the trend has rearranged societal and cultural values all in the wrong direction. If Kanyanmata (love enchantment and aphrodisiac) merchant, Jaruma, can openly disclose this on her Instagram page, then, you wonder if cross-dressing is doing more harm than good to the Nigerian society.
In a nutshell, there exists a rising trend of cross-dressing in Nigeria, especially amongst young men. For some of them, it has become a means to express themselves freely. For others, cross-dressing has lured them from doing drugs because it has offered them a means of livelihood, and legitimate business.
To this end, there is the temptation to say, “cut cross-dressers some slack;” but then, this must be said with every stint of carefulness because, with cross-dressing, comes a few ugly effects as well. It is now left for young people who engage in it to be highly discretionary and decide wisely the fortunes they want for themselves.
References https://tinyurl.com/4s4ymxh8 (accessed on September 30, 2021, @15:00 hrs.)
 https://tinyurl.com/ykp9ddft (accessed on September 30, 2021, @18:00 hrs.)
 https://tinyurl.com/52ywjxk4 (accessed on October 2, 2021, @10:00 hrs.)
Chukwuemeka Oluka is a graduate of Electronic and Computer Engineering from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State. He is a research enthusiast and a passionate writer. He writes in from Enugu and can be reached via “firstname.lastname@example.org”