Pride Month – Open conversation on homosexuality in Nigeria
When *Shubzy was ten years old, he knew he was different. It was that age where boys would race to the playground to try their legs at soccer or play police and thief. Shubzy would remain in his classroom, hanging out with the girls, he would comb their hair and play with the dolls they had smuggled into the class.
Twenty years later, Shubzy is well aware of the thing that makes him different. He is a boy that loves other boys.
As far back as 1969, in Greenwich village, New York, the Stonewall heralded the first wave of the LGBT liberation movement in America. LGBT rights in the US has changed since then. Although it varies on a state by state basis. Sexual acts between same sex individuals is legal nationwide in the U.S. since 2003, pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas.
In spite of Western gravitation over time towards more progressive laws, Nigeria in 2014 under former President Goodluck Ebele Johnathan signed into law a bill criminalizing same-sex relationships. The bill proposes a 14 year jail time for individuals who engage in these acts. For many northern states under Sharia law, the penalty is death.
Same sex union is illegal, unconstitutional and unrecognized. Since the law criminalize homosexual relations, Gays, lesbians, and transsexuals live in fear as there is no protection against discrimination. In 2017, a Nigerian, Edafe Okoro was granted political asylum in the United States after facing various threats as a result of his sexual orientation.
The lack of acceptance stems from the fact that Nigeria is a highly religious nation. According to a 2010 census of The Association of Religion Data Archives; the entire population of over 180 million Nigerians was calculated at 47.5 percent Christian,45.5 percent Muslim and 7.0 percent practicing other religions. It is safe to say that religion permeates every facet of Her society, influencing the collective mindset of Her people.
A common denominator among all religious beliefs held across the country is that homosexuality is taboo. Although not much is said in their books to proof that same sex relationship is an abomination. Genesis 18:16–33 in the Bible tells the story of Lot in Sodom. In the Quran 11:78–79; 15:67–69 Lot becomes Prophet Lut ( the Arabic term for homosexual anal relations ‘liwat’ comes from his name). He argues with the mob outside his door, offering his daughters to be raped rather than his guests. He further condemns their desires In 7:80–81; 26:165–66; 27:55; 29:29 saying
“Indeed, you approach men with desire, instead of women. Rather, you are a transgressing people.”
It is in this religious, moral and conservative background that *Shubzy and other young homosexual persons who live in Nigeria are raised. There is a deeply ingrained homophobia even for people with same sex attractions. “I knew I wasn’t normal, in secondary school, was when the actual attractions started.
“My teenage years where I was supposed to develop an interest in boobs, *bumbum and girls, I couldn’t stop staring at some guys, I loved the way they talked and walked, their chest and arms. I spent most times at the field, not because I liked football but because I loved to watch guys and how they freely ran to hug you after scoring a major goal.”
As the years pass. Shubzy’s fear of a future is his strongest, whether he would be forced to live a life in shadows or come out, face being alienated or take the high risk of settling in an heterosexual relationship to fulfil all righteousness.
“it’s saddening to think that this is what it is, I live in fear of being mobbed if I speak to a guy I find him attractive, it’s even more scary to use dating apps, you never know if it’s a homophobe on the other end who would take your pictures then blackmail you.” he added.
A state of loneliness and fear is what the male homosexual in Nigeria lives in. This month of June, As a few countries of the world including America celebrates gay pride month. A flamboyant month marked by colorful celebrations and gay displays in a move to demonstrate their rights, encourage mainstream acceptance and honor pioneer leaders of the LGBTQ movement. Nigerian homosexuals can only celebrate silently via social media. They adorn their pages with the rainbow flag which is synonymous with being gay. Backed by other liberal citizens to celebrate and offer some form of support to their plight.
Despite the legal backings of the American LGBTQ community that includes same sex marriage, right to adopt children, and protection from violence. America’s LGBTQ community still faces it’s own challenges. How much more a country where being gay is not something to be said or heard?
Even though in 2017, a survey carried out in comparison against a 2015 pill revealed a 7 percent increase in acceptance of the LGBTQ community in Nigeria. The figures still remain insignificant to effect a major change and legal acceptance that would enable homosexuals in Nigeria fly their flag with pride.
Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.
- Photo by Laurent Dior on twitter