Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, is known for its harsh laws against the LGBTQ+ community. Things are especially harsh for trans Nigerians, as there’s no legislation to protect their gender identity. In fact, their very existence is considered “forbidden” within society. Despite all of this, these five Nigerian women publicly identify as transgender, defying the odds to bravely embrace their truth.
Miss Sahhara is a British Nigerian beauty queen, human rights advocate, singer/songwriter, and fashion designer from Benue State, Nigeria. She is the first Nigerian trans woman to come out publicly in the international press. She did so during the 2011 Miss International Queen beauty pageant in Pattaya, Thailand. She then became the first Black trans woman to be crowned winner in the beauty competition.
In 2016, she partnered with Miss Trans Universe 2015, Aleika Barros, to raise awareness for the transgender community globally. Together, they participated in a campaign titled “I am Trans, and I Have the Right to Life.” Additionally, Miss Sahhara created an awareness campaign called TransValid, which focuses on destroying transphobia and validating the identities of trans folks.
Born and raised in Lagos State, Noni Salma attended the prestigious University of Lagos. While earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Arts, Salma was bullied for her feminine ways. Because of this, she tried for several years to live according to the gender identity bestowed on her by Nigerian society.
Salma eventually embraced her identity and decided to transition. As transitioning in Nigeria was not a safe option, Salma moved to the United States of America, where she started her transition and began attending the New York Film Academy. She graduated with a degree in filmmaking and began producing films. One of her notable works is “Veil of Silence,” a short documentary depicting the difficult reality of LGBTQ+ people living in Nigeria.
Stephanie Rose grew up with her parents in Ile-Ife, a small town in Osun State, Nigeria. Both her mother and father worked at the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University. Because of this, she attended the university’s staff school and then the university itself. During college, Rose discovered she was different from her classmates. She started wearing feminine clothes and applying make-up, which alienated her from her peers and resulted in constant bullying.
In 2001, when pressure from transphobic Nigerian society became unbearable, Stephanie dropped out of the institution and fled the country. She came into the limelight in 2015 after her name appeared in the media for being an openly transgender woman with an unapologetic disbelief in God. Rose even went on to write a book titled “Nobody Goes to Heaven Because Nobody Goes to Hell Fire,” where she shared her controversial opinions about God. The news of this book made her infamous among Nigerians.
Mandy La Candy
Mandy La Candy keeps a very low profile, making information about her life hard to find. She was inspired to come out by Miss Sahhara’s brave decision to do the same. Because of the volatility of the Nigerian environment, Mandy La Candy left the country and currently resides somewhere in Europe. While she was previously known for embracing her femininity on social media, she’s taken down her Instagram and Facebook profiles in recent years.
Bobrisky is one of the most controversial transwomen in Nigeria. In 2019, she bravely took to her Instagram page to inform her fans that she had undergone gender-affirming surgery. Bobrisky is an actress and has been featured in several movies. She continues to use her birth name, Okuneye Idris Olanrewaju, across social media in addition to her chosen name, Bobrisky.
Nigeria is a horribly dangerous place for queer people, especially those within the transgender community. To see these transwomen defy the transphobia of the society they live in and come out is highly commendable. Hopefully, trans folks in Nigeria will feel inspired by these women and feel safe taking this bold step in the near future.