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‘Female’ men: choice or self hatred?

Men are leaping female bounds to become more like women.

They are painting their nails, gesturing and dressing femininely. our main feature, by Racheal Ninsiima, investigates this trend.

In this age of metrosexual styling, the concept of what is manly has become rather confused. While it’s unlikely that men will go out fully to exhibit feminine behaviour, they are slowly taking on ‘girly’ behaviour, blurring the gender lines in the process. Some grow long nail (which they paint bright colours) and others style their hair the feminine way.

Remember Shaban Amanda (RIP) of Amanda’s Angels? This category of men is termed ‘effeminate’ by the Oxford dictionary. I did not know where to find one until a friend tipped me. Uncertain whether I would be allowed access, I stormed the place with confidence and checked out a clothes shop. A friendly man approached me and asked what I wanted.

Although he was hesitant to let me into his life’s journey at this moment, my affable demeanour disarmed him and he opened up. We shall call him Wilson. Wilson has an arresting face. He has a pointed chin, his jaws are square and above his pale eyes, his thick black brows slant upward. His oiled hair glittered in the afternoon sun complemented by the golden studs in his earlobes.

After the introductions, Wilson laughed and cautioned me not to reveal his identity if he was to tell me his story.
Here he goes:

“When growing up, I played football with my younger brother, although all this changed when he was taken to live with our uncle in Jinja.

“Thereafter, I adopted a ‘girlie’ lifestyle, playing puzzles and dodge ball with my two sisters and aunties.
“When a girl was hit with a ball during the play, there was a way she gestured and I thought this is how we were supposed to gesture so I picked up the behaviour.

After bathing, my aunties, perhaps fascinated that I was the only boy around, adorned my face with make-up and encouraged me to model like a girl.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, my aunties left when I was joining P.5 and I had to join boarding school because my ‘caretakers’ were gone. Since I was a fat kid, my butt was big and my walking gestures made it worse. Teachers often told me I behaved like a girl.

“During school games, the bigger boys placed me among the girls who were cheerleaders.
“When I joined Kiira College Butiki, the boys here thought I was gay. Henceforth, I was bullied, which made be become a lot smaller and less macho than I was.

But Sunday was my free day and I used it to meet girls from Patel Muljibhai Madvhani Secondary School. As my friends headed back to school in the evening, I was to be found in the company of girls in their hostel.

“Here, they painted my fingernails different colours and gave me tight jeans. No wonder I still engage in both oddities today.

“Later I joined St Kalemba Secondary School in Kayunga and because of my good brains (I always topped my class), I became tight with the opposite sex. No wonder I was nicknamed, ‘DVD Player’; I would interact with all sorts of girls.

“One even had the nerve of piercing my ear and the idea of donning studs and big diamond rings took root in my adventurous life. Can you imagine that I learnt to underestimate girls with rolling my eyes up and down? Nevertheless, I was expelled from school and I later joined Kako Secondary School, Masaka, for my senior six.

“Here, we staged a play ‘Daisy’ and I played the slut.”
In the midst of our sizzling conversation, a customer walks into the shop and as he wiggles his bum, tilting his head sideways, Wilson proceeds to serve the customer.

I almost burst out into laughter for Wilson’s girlish gaiety was so hilarious, but I restrain myself. No wonder his girlfriend of one year broke up with him. What leads to effeminate behaviour?

Gowan Kalamagi, a professional counsellor, says the effeminate man, not knowing who he is as a man, and sensing that manhood is beyond his reach, may pick as his role models, not men but women; often selecting the woman who is outwardly strong like he wants to be, but inwardly tender and vulnerable, like he feels he.

“It is reasonable to say that such behaviour is learnt (either voluntarily or unconsciously) and is to a certain extent chosen or at least tolerated by the individual concerned,” Kalamagi says.

Dr Paul Nyende, a psychologist at Makerere University, agrees. He says there is no evidence that effeminate behaviour is genetically determined. Instead, such complex behaviours tend to be an artefact of a particular society nurtured by child rearing and other socialization practices.

“Sometimes, it is an issue of style and fashion where many of the young men adopt the in-thing which is to dress feminine as they try to break away from the normal social convention,” he says.
He also attributes such behaviour to a condition, gender identity disorder, where males are nurtured to be feminine.

Michael Bailey, in his book ‘The man who would be queen’ puts a scientific explanation to such behaviour: Men with higher levels of testosterone tend to have a more masculine appearance and behave in a more masculine fashion while those with less testosterone tend to look and act somewhat more like women.

Overcoming the condition

To deal with the condition, Nyende advises parents to have their children counselled so they accept their male identity.

“Consistence is the better way for effeminate men to embrace change as they appreciate their roles as males and nurture that role,” Nyende says.

With such sons, Nyende says, it’s imperative that they are complimented on anything muscular they engage in like trimming their hair and dressing as males should. ‘Hair on your chest makes you a man’, ‘Boys don’t cry’ and many other sayings like these illustrate the mixed vibes society sends every day.

Whether it’s to stifle their emotions or prevent them from getting in touch with their feminine side, men are often left questioning what it exactly means to be masculine.

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© 2016 Observer Media Ltd