10 LGBTQ+ Activists in Africa’s Past, Present & Future

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In February 2024, Ghana passed one of the harshest and most discriminatory anti-LGBTQ bills in the world which was met with international disapproval. That passing of that bill was symptomatic of the widespread attitudes in Africa which has led to many inhumane laws like this. The legislation in these countries creates a ground for hate crimes, violence, stigmatization, and criminalization against queer people, who subsequently suffer from stifled self-expression.  

Homophobia in Africa can trace its roots to Western colonialism which contorted African customs to reflect European religious ideals of patriarchy and heteronormativity. While these contortions persist, there is a kind of irony present in the fact that amidst the many socio-political issues plaguing Africa from directly and indirectly related to colonialism, same-sex relationships is the issue that many of these countries choose to take a hard stance on.  

Pride Month is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. Notwithstanding all of this mess, over the past couple of decades, activists have advocated and fought for LGBTQ+ rights across the continent through various mediums. More Branches has curated a list of some individuals across Africa who have fought and continue to push for change and acceptance of queer people in their societies.

Area Scatter (Nigeria)

Uzoma Odimara, popularly known as “Area Scatter” was an Igbo, gender non-conforming musician from Southeast Nigeria who captured the hearts of many in the post-Nigerian civil war of the 1970s. Famously known for her thumb piano, complimented with her enchanting voice and melodies, Area Scatter captivated everyone who came across her.  Widely respected during that age, she performed for royalty with this extending to her securing her own TV show called “Ukonu’s Club”. 

In Nigeria, “Area Scatter” refers to someone who comes to disorganize or cause trouble in a place. It’s believed that Area Scatter disappeared into the wilderness and reappeared months later dressed as a woman. She claimed that the gods endowed her with musical abilities and a new identity of femininity. Area Scatter’s bold nonconformity broke established gender norms and raised awareness of how gender came to be understood through a Eurocentric lens in many African settings.

Simon Nikoli (South Africa)

“I am black and I am gay. I cannot separate the two parts of me into secondary or primary struggles”.

Simon Nikoli was one of South Africa’s leading anti-apartheid, gay rights, and AIDs activists. In 1983, he founded the Saturday Group, (Africa’s first public black LGBTQ+ organization) in response to the microaggressions from the main white Gay Association of South Africa (GASA). Nikoli was later arrested and faced with the death penalty for treason due to his anti-apartheid fights.

He was later released and founded the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of Witwatersrand (GLOW) alongside fellow LGBTQ+ activists, Beverly Ditsie and Linda Ngcobo. Nikoli organized South Africa’s first-ever pride parade and was the first gay activist to meet with then-president, Nelson Mandela. 

Binyavanga Wainaina (Kenya)

Binyavanga Wainaina was one of Africa’s best-known authors and gay rights activists. On his 43rd birthday, Wainaiana publicly outed himself in a short essay, “I am a Homosexual Mum”, challenging anti-gay laws in Africa. This essay was a deeply personal journey exploring themes of queerness, grief, and coming out. His notable works include an award-winning satirical essay titled, “How to Write About Africa”. He was also one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2014 and also founded Kwani? a literary magazine for young Kenyan writers.

Africa's LGBTQ+ Activists

Dalia Al Faghal (Egypt)

Dalia Al Faghal is widely considered as the first woman to come out as gay in Egypt. Faced with death threats and online attacks, her courage raised the discussion of LGBTQ rights. She has actively continued to fight for the basic human rights of queer people in North Africa. She is one of the few who survived Egypt’s crackdown on sexual and gender minorities. Now, she continues her activism from Sweden.

Bisi Alimi (Nigeria)

Bisi Alimi is a gay activist and HIV advocate who became the first Nigerian to come out publicly on national television. After losing his job and receiving numerous death threats, he sought asylum in the UK. He has since founded the Bisi Alimi Foundation which advocates for the rights of LGBTQ+ people in Nigeria through research.

Africa's LGBTQ+ Activists

Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim (Nigeria)

Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim is a Nigerian filmmaker whose works revolve around the stories of Nigeria’s marginalized LGBTQ+ communities. Uyaiedu is the co-founder of a production company, Hashtag Media House which provides a voice for the LGBTQ+ community. She wrote and directed Nigeria’s first lesbian film, Ife, produced by LGBTQ+ activist, Pamela Adie. The film faced threats from the National Board of Film and Video Censors which led to its release abroad in countries such as Canada and London. 

Marylize Biubwa (Kenya)

Marylize Biubwa is a queer activist from Kenya. After coming out to their parents, Biubwa was kicked out of their home. They have moderated and been part of many panels in Kenya. They are a strong advocate for gay rights, debunking myths surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. Marylize is working on securing access to education for LGBTQ+ youths in Kenya.

Matthew Blaise (Nigeria)

Matthew Blaise is a non-binary, openly gay activist. During the 2020 #EndSARS protest, they were vocal on the intersectional struggles of queer people face from police brutality. They have subsequently advocated for the rights of queer Nigerians, and facilitated spaces for members of the community. Blaise has founded a youth-led organization called Obodo which aims to provide spaces, art, and campaign for LGBTQ+ rights. 

Alex Kofi Donkor (Ghana)

Alex Kofi Donkor is a human rights and LGBTQ+ activist. He opened the first LGBTQ+ community centre in Ghana which was closed due to tensions with police. However, it was eventually re-opened in the face of local hostility. Alex has appeared on many international media platforms advocating for the human rights of queer Ghanaians.

Bandy Kiki (Cameroon)

Bandy Kiki is a Cameroonian blogger and LGBTQ+ activist. Bandy Kiki identified as a lesbian from a young age. Currently based in the United Kingdom, Kiki always feared for her life due to homosexuality being a criminal offense in her home country. However, Kiki has continued to use her platforms to raise awareness of the justice for LGBTQ+ community. She is a spokesperson for the Rainbow Equality Hub, which fights for the rights of queer people in Cameroon.

Africa's LGBTQ+ Activists

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