Op-Ed: Society Must Cancel The Term ‘Tomboy’ Because It Disenfranchises The Queer Girl Child


Queer is strange. Queer is odd. Queer is peculiar. Queer is she. She is a queer child. Your queer child. They are our queer children. Girls yes, queer girls. And boys.

The word ‘Tomboy’ does not exist to affirm the somewhat masculine nature of a Nigerian girl child, it was not created as praise for her because when it is used, it sounds out as if to say, ‘ You are a man ’, instead of ‘ You behave more like a man than a woman ’, but it is supposed to say ‘ You are beautiful just the way you are, unique, your style is nothing to be ashamed of. We the people of the society accept that you were formed from both a man and a woman, the feminine and masculine and if you exhibit more of either trait it just makes you more of who you already are — a person. Not more of a man or in the case of your brother not more of a woman in a derogatory way, just more of a person’, in other simple words ‘ You are queer’.

That is an identity devoid of the word ‘boy’ or ‘ Tom’, it will not leave a child bereft of confidence on having an acceptable personality. A girl child may or may not be interested in the things that have been said to make femininity pop. Things like makeup, long hair, heels, tight clothes, fashion accessories that are tagged as feminine etc. those things that society has defined to be girly or chicky, most of which have proven over time to suit men as well and make their beauty pop too. It does not make her any less of a lady than others, it should not require her to be considered as less remarkable than those who choose to style themselves in with those things.

The LGBT [Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Transgender] community are grouped as queer people, they are queer people and identify as queer. That too is necessary and in fact, an urgent conversation we need to have in our society, a large number of Nigerians belong to the LGBT community and the sooner the decriminalization of that community starts, the easier it would become for us to progress as a society. There is also a group who are not necessarily homosexual or bisexual or transgender but who are heterosexual and should still be considered as queer, many of whom are still regarded to be ‘Tomboys’ or ‘Tomgirls’.

I’ve often wondered why the talk of a person’s sexuality has to be brought up every time a conversation or discourse on gender issues is had. My question was, and the general unsaid question is, ‘ can we talk about how people choose to be identified without bringing sexuality into the conversation? ’. Yes, the conversation on sexuality can be avoided but should not be avoided. As a society, we should not aim to discuss matters about a person’s identity which in a real sense is their sex i.e male, female etc without discussing their sexuality and confronting issues which we may or may not have with regards to them. A key thing I have come to note is that our very existence as human beings revolves around sexuality, it is the very thing that forms or mars us, it is the basis of whether or not humans are born or not born, it is how we satisfy our carnality whether we admit it or not, it is how humanity is sustained.

Sexuality — sex, is a matter of choice. Whichever way we choose to see it, that choice depends on two inclinations; i] Procreation ii] Pleasure, both rest on factors regarding a person’s beliefs and decisions. Now whether a person chooses to express their chosen sexuality based off one of those inclinations, or on both, or none based on their belief or decision on what they accept to be the best for them is a question of one’s chosen way of life. Whatever that choice may be, it is valid. Whether or not you or I agree or disagree with a person’s choice of how they decide to express their sexuality becomes our own dilemma to deal with and our own issue to confront. But free will is one of the greatest gifts given to us, our ability to choose and also go as far as deciding whether certain things are right or wrong for us. The gift of free will from our creator makes any choice first and foremost valid before right or wrong.

Our society needs to come to terms with this and make first and foremost the protection of the custodians of free will — the people [our people — Nigerians] a priority. Having said this, a queer person whether male, female or otherwise could be or become a homosexual or heterosexual man or woman. In clearer words, she or he could derive pleasure from having sexual intercourse with those of the same sex or those of the other sex. The latter is the way most people in our society would prefer to be the norm, that is understandable, but we live in an unconventional world and so unconventional things are bound to happen whether we like them or not.

My major point is — a queer girl child should not be referred to as ‘tomboy’, that word has to be canceled from the Naija [Nigerian] dictionary and considered rude. I aim to point out and remind everyone reading that a girl child is, first of all, a person, she is a human being, a biological female child who may exhume more attributes which we [the society] with our flawed structure have prescribed to be for only the male gender, ‘masculinity’.

We need to be careful with how we throw the image of gender on abstract things like divinity or on objects, items, materials that affect how the intellect, the mind, the will and the character of a child, a person is formed. That is how oppressive systems are built and failed societies gain structure. A dismantling is necessary. It is injustice to deny a girl child of ownership to a color or a toy or a system or an outfit simply because it is for ‘boys’ or too ‘masculine’, this is how part of the problems of insecurity, and problems of unequal access start to arise and eventually require some to speak up in resistance with hopes of fixing a broken system. A massive re-education is necessary, the work will start by remarking at every given opportunity that ‘a tomboy’ is not an abnormal person that needs fixing, rather the term ‘tomboy’ is an abnormal choice of words and if it is not considered to be one yet we have to start now to consider it as an unacceptable way of addressing her and a derogatory word. She is a normal person, a girl child who needs affirmation and access to the same privilege of acceptance without questioning that regular girl children are given.

A ‘tomboy’ is a queer girl child who may be considered strange, odd, other times peculiar and due to the irregularity of our societal structure, one who has now been required to have her own identity. A tomboy is queer. The Naija way of identifying a queer girl child is by calling her something masculine, insinuating she is not normal, that she is something damaged that needs fixing. It is not the way of love, therefore it is not the way of God whom we so openly revere as a society. This has to stop.

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