7 Queer Nigerians Told us About Their Lived Experiences and Battling Erasure

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“It’s an abomination.”

“It’s corruption from the West.”

“It’s against our culture and religion.”

These are phrases and arguments which are widely uttered when the topic of queerness is involved in Nigeria. From conversations with families and friends, newspapers, radios, television, discussions on twitter or instagram and many other places Nigerians converge. 

Most people seem to have an opinion on the way other people are born and live their lives. Homophobia is the unifying factor in a fractured nation; a country with tribalistic beliefs, religious differences and a broken government. The irony to this is that there is an erasure of queer people in the discussions of their own lived experiences. 

Their realities are hugely absent in the mainstream dialogues present in our nation. The erasure of this rising debate drives us away from capturing the truth of queer people. It is damaging for this community as it spews dehumanizing narratives such as painting people as predators set on converting others or immoral individuals corrupted by outside forces. 

With this piece of work, I was able to gather the experiences of queer people living within Nigeria and the diaspora so as to retell their own stories, correct the false narratives and put them at the forefront of their lived experiences.

*Aliases have been used to protect identities.

Liber (They/Them), Nigeria

I am trans female, non-binary and queer. I vividly remember that at age six was my earliest identification with the queer community. Playing games as a child, I always felt more in touch with the feminine roles. I was raised in a very free space where gendered roles were not enforced. This changed going into high school as it was a very different world for me. I was told constantly that the way I acted was gay.

With this, I found solace by dreaming that I was a girl but my gender was switched as a child. This gave me hope that as I would grow older, I would become the woman I am intended to be. During the lockdown gave me that absolute truth that this is truly me. 

A joyful moment for me would have to be the littlest things, like even a stranger using the correct pronouns, being able to exist freely among friends and even feeling proud when looking at the mirror. 

I hope people can understand that the more you push back instead of listening will make it more complex and difficult to understand us. The actions you are taking against us creates more complex ways to navigate.

Omenza (She/her, They/Them), Canada

I identify as pansexual or queer. It has been a journey to getting into this label but I have found that this suits me. I love people and energies above anything else and finding peace in my pansexuality has been awesome.

I was queer before I knew the language for it. It started off in primary school with a group of friends where we would all “mess around” which was fun. It was later going to catholic secondary school that I realized there was a word for it and not only that but having those feelings were wrong if not demonic. I had to be homophobic for my own safety.

I also grew up with devout catholic parents who are homophobic too. My upbringing showed that growing up  as anything which was not cisheteronormative was wrong. Moving out of Nigeria to Canada got me exposed to diversity which made me educate and open my mind. 

For me, LGBTQIA+ rights are human rights. LGBTQIA+ issues are a matter of advocating for my fellow human beings to live a full happy life. We are no different intrinsically to cishet people. So why do we have to live under so much unnecessary duress. I believe we all have a right to live on this earth and be happy especially when we are not hurting ourselves or others. Love is freeing and light. Animosity takes a lot of energy.  Also, it is important to make future queer people’s lives easier as our queer ancestors have done the same for us.

Kalil (He/Him, They/Them), Nigeria

I am non-binary and bisexual. As far as my memory stretches back, I have always known. I would have deemed it normal around that time as I grew up playing with the heteronormative toys for boys but also was in touch with my feminine side as I would wear my mum’s dresses. If anything, I would say the discovery was liking women as opposed to men. High school was a very hyper masculine space. I was not really myself but rather created a facade.

I always felt like I had this massive secret where I could not be myself. Faced with this, I felt my only choice was to do the honorable thing and wait for my parents to die. However, having queer friendships and relationships made me feel validated. 

I want people to see how dynamic the queer experience is. Every story is valid. For me, even though I am masculine presenting, the queer light still found itself towards me. There is not just one universal queer experience. 

Carmen (She/her), USA

I have not clearly come to terms with my sexuality. However, I know I like women. Going back to my childhood, I had always quenched that feeling as that of admiration with all the crushes I would have. There was this constant fear on the possibility of liking women which I did not want to come to terms with. Till this period, I do not think I have fully accepted myself due to fear of disappointing family and friends. The pressure on being the golden child has made me not dare to live my truth.

Coming to America, I am able to partially be true to myself. My close friends know of my sexuality which I can show without any form of fear. But I am saddened that I would never live my truth beyond that as I would never come out to my family.

I would want people to understand that this is not a choice. If it was, we would never choose to be disowned or separated from our families. The act of listening and respect goes a long way and allows you to see from our perspectives. Homophobia has placed many of us into hiding and living an unhappy life so as to satisfy our family and friends.

Rayo (They/Them) & Kene (He/him, They/Them), Canada

Rayo & Kene: We identify as ethically non-monogamous. We love in our truth which is that love is abundant and not a finite resource. The same way that you love your friends and family without it exhausting can be applied with romantic relationships as well. Love is love and relationships are just that, relationships. They come in different forms, platonic, romantic etc. but love can live in either of these. The question is then how to move with the intention of respecting all the values of your individual relationships. That is our worldview and the question we strive to answer within our queerness. 

Kene:  Polyamorous issues are important to me because there truly is nowhere near enough representation of the many ways love could look. It would have done me so well to have spent the time I did unpacking my compulsory monogamy on just loving myself and all the people in my life.

Rayo: Outside of queer people, people live blissfully unaware of the harm that queerphobia causes. They refuse to critically look at how their actions affect the whole population. So many people are queer but dying inside from hiding it. Living in your queer truth has no victim, yet it has a plethora of Nigerian social police who want to hurt us for not complying to their unnecessary restrictions. We are free, and not willing to be sacrifices for people that choose not to understand a different reality from theirs. 

Rayo: I  hope people can take away that living in a different reality does not have to be a bad thing. It can just be different. It doesn’t mean there isn’t value in our experiences. We need to stop demonizing people because of what we have been taught and actually lead with kindness, empathy and understanding.

Rayo: My most blissful moment was when my partner and I discovered Relationship Anarchy. It was while watching a YouTube video and it explained how we both felt. I felt seen in a way I hadn’t before in any past romantic relationship. Something about that shared understanding of love without borders really made me hopeful for what beauty our future could behold.

Zam (He/Him, They/Them), Canada

I identify as a non binary trans masculine poly bad boy extraordinaire.  I have identified as a number of things and believe that will always be the case. I have identified as a cis sapphic person because the word “lesbian” just irked me. It irked me as I had traditionally believed that to be a term only reserved for women (having a very bastardized definition of who a woman was) and I genuinely was not one. I identify as non binary but I am also a trans masc at the moment and transitioning does not seem too far off for me. 

There is so much animosity towards queer people because many fear what they do not understand unfortunately. We are proof that reality exists outside that of which they have experienced. At the end of the day, it is a hard pill to swallow. It is hard to admit you may not completely understand the world, you have biases, or that you are even a judgemental person. I feel they do this to make themselves feel better or they feel they’re keeping the “order.”

I would say that I have found community through friends and strangely enough, I have met a lot of queer Nigerians being unhinged on twitter.

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