With social media's consummate ability to bestow celebrity status on anyone willing to share their talent or themselves with the public, Nigeria's latest love affair with Snapchat star, Bobrisky, should come as no surprise. With a legion of fans interested in his every move, the highly contoured self-proclaimed entrepreneur is undoubtedly an internet sensation and a topic of interest for those who follow his 10-second vignettes on the social media platform.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Bobrisky, a quick Google search will misidentify him as Nigeria's "male barbie" (a term he has never used to identify himself). A few articles in, you will be able to deduce that 25-year-old Idris Okuneye is a business man or in the words of Hov, a business, man. Okuneye has profited considerably by selling skin bleaching products and clothes, but it is his style of dressing and makeup - which is perceived as feminine - and the growing interest in identifying his sexual orientation that makes him so popular.
In the last three years, we have seen a large influx of personalities find fame on social media - comedians and makeup artists are two popular types of people who have used various social media platforms to share their talents and build their brand. The ability to successfully deliver a punchline, stage a skit, or highlight the steps of an intricate makeup routine in less than a minute is an attractive feature and one the reasons that we have continued to support social media's growing personality circle. But Bobrisky is not a comedian or a makeup artists (or maybe he is a convoluted version of both?) so it isn't a particular talent that has made him so popular, but it is his antics with his "bae" who's gender he is yet to reveal that piques our interest.
In an interview with veteran journalist Adesuwa Onyenokwe, Okunleye fielded multiple questions about his sexuality from the interviewer and from fans posting questions via Facebook. Although Okunleye denied being gay, there was a disturbing persistence and invasiveness to the line of questioning that voided journalistic objectivity and suggested that no one believed Okunleye's claim that he is heterosexual.
There are many reasons why if Okunleye were gay, he would refuse to publicly acknowledge it. Nigeria's prohibitive same-sex marriage laws, which promises 14 years in prison to anyone who identifies as a homosexual is one of them. But the other, and the one I believe is the most important, is our public perception. I have encountered more than one video of a man who has made claims to physically harm Bobrisky if he ever encounters him, which one might assume is a result of attempting to pursue Okuneye before realizing that he was not a woman or the contempt and disgust that is a result of them not agreeing with his way of life.
I don't think that Bobrisky's business should be our business. When it comes to issues of gender and sexuality, we believe it is our job to categorize people not to empathize with them, but to know how to treat them. Our intentions when it comes to knowing how Bobrisky identifies is another selfish way of making someone else's life make sense to us. It is not a by-product of a more inclusive community or an honest conversation about sexuality or identity as a spectrum, it is our way of putting him in a box that he doesn't want to be in for our own selfish purposes.