‘I feel invisible’: The challenges of being trans in Nigeria

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11/01/2021

Tom Kola was five years old when he realised he was a boy. But it took more than two decades and a move halfway across the world before he would have an official document to prove it. Growing up in Nigeria, Tom did not have the language to articulate his trans identity. But he understood that being raised as a girl did not feel natural. Still, relatives would tell him he was one and needed to act like it – including in the clothes he wore and the chores he did. “My parents wanted me to be calmer, docile, less active and less confrontational because this was how they thought girls should behave,” says Tom over video call from the United States, where he relocated in 2019 in the hope of finding a more accepting society. Now aged 25, he is an MSc student and living as a trans man. This is not his first time away from home. He first left his family home to attend university in a different Nigerian state. With that came the freedom to dress, walk and talk in a way that felt true to who he was. But, whenever he returned home, it became a source of conflict.

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