6 Things LGBT Nigerians Can Do To Proclaim Our Right To Exist
I know the recent global mood hasn't been one of celebration and some of us have been really struggling. We are here to sprinkle some rainbow goodness on your day and hope it is more colorful and bright!
We are still in Pride month, and since Pride is all about asserting our right to exist freely, I will share ways we can proclaim our right to exist without fear of persecution or prosecution in Nigeria.
Let's get into it!
- Create - It is no news that LGBTQ people are some of the most creative and talented people in the world, and LGBTQ Nigerians are no exception. We dominate the arts, fashion, music, literature, photography, and film industries in Nigeria. We are full creatives at our core. So, put those juices to use - make music that speaks to our reality, design fashion that shows how complex and simple our lives are, write books that tell our stories, start a blog (even if you have to start one anonymously). Offer discounts to photograph LGBTQ couples. Do something to document our lived realities and tell our stories. You do not need to share publicly if you don't want to, but creating alone can be deeply satisfying. If you decide to share within the community alone, there is love is sharing.
- Virtual Pride events - COVID-19 has made it very difficult to throw parties physically, but we can connect with each other virtually. There are quite a number of virtual Pride parties holding between the 28 and 29 of June this year. For instance, One Action Foundation, in collaboration with The Equality Hub, ICARH, Advogaycy, and other organizations, is organizing The #NGANGA Party. You can RSVP by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Seek out these events and participate as they're a great way to celebrate Pride, learn about the work organizations are doing, and connect with community members.
- Show up in court - Many LGBTQ Nigerians celebrate court victories in other African countries and look forward to the day when such victories will happen in Nigeria. They have not happened yet, but there are a few cases in different courts in Nigeria that challenge the SSMPA or parts of it. One of such cases is the Pamela Adie Vs. CAC, which challenges section 4 of the SSMPA because it violates my right to register Lesbian Equality and Empowerment Initiative organization, an infringement on our freedom of association enshrined in the constitution. The case is currently at the Appeal Court. When court dates are announced, show up and just sit there. You will not only be witnessing history, but you will be part of it too. If you're feeling up to it, wear rainbow socks or bracelets, a t-shirt, or even bring a rainbow flag. Don't worry, no one can arrest you for showing up in court. So, you're safe and it's a great way to remind the court and others that you are here and you deserve equal rights.
- Come out of the closet - this is a hot button issue as many people maintain that it is unsafe to do so in a country like Nigeria where homophobia is rife. It is true that some people may not be at that place in their lives where they can afford to come out of the closet. When a person comes out, even in countries where they have laws that protect LGBTQ people, there is a tradeoff, some level of risk, and sometimes personal discomfort. These are the realities of living as part of an oppressed group. If you look at the history of the world, people have never demanded their rights by being invisible. Sure, you do not have to carry a placard or make a public announcement, but coming out to yourself makes a world of difference in how you see yourself, your place in this world, and how you interact with society. Then, when you are ready, come out to the people you want to. Nothing says "I am here" like saying "I am here".
- Add your voice to other causes - our lives are complex and we live in a society that subjects us to multiple layers of discrimination and degrading treatment. For example, being a woman alone could be said to be a crime on its own. Being a woman who is queer, or lesbian, or trans adds another layer of discrimination - from the property owner refusing to rent their houses to unmarried women, to being blamed for sexual violence, to being fired after being outed. Our struggles intersect, and so our fight cannot be about LGBTQ rights alone. We must speak up and be actively engaged in other struggles. This is a great way to broaden our understanding of the world, to build partnerships, and to show others that discrimination is discrimination and it affects all of us, so we must join our voices to oppose it in all its forms.
- Employ Queer people - Nothing boosts your confidence than seeing a great offer of employment. You know what's even better? Getting an offer of employment from an organization that will not require you to hide your sexual orientation at work! So, if you are in a position to, hire that photographer you know is queer, employ that graphic designer who's lesbian, pay that makeup artist who's gay, hire the production manager who's trans...you get my point. The ability to be visible is closely linked to financial independence. Where and when you can enable queer people by giving us work, by all means, do so.
This list is not by any means exhaustive, but it's a starting point. I would love to hear your own thoughts and suggestions on other things we can do to proclaim our right to exist in this country. So, leave your comments below!
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Till next time.
Pamela and the rest of the team at EH Online Store
About the author: Pamela serves as Executive Director at The Equality Hub. She is a 2018 Obama Foundation Leader, a filmmaker, writer, and a proud LGBTQ-rights activist. Pamela is part of the content team at EH Online Store where she shares her views on creating a more vibrant and engaged LGBTQ community in Nigeria.