Pin It
nigerian lgbtq youth pride
Logan FebruaryPhotography by Gbenga Smith

How the internet is helping queer Nigerian youth push for Pride

While the rest of the world celebrates Pride month, in Nigeria, the LGBTQ+ community is still fighting for acceptance

For LGBTQ+ people growing up in Nigeria, the dangers of being out and visible are instilled in all of us. When I ask Logan February, a 20-year-old genderqueer poetry prodigy who is bravely out and proud, why they choose to be visible, their answer confirms a shift I’ve noticed in the new generation of queer people here. 

“Existing invisibly – that’s hardly an existence,” they tell me. “I understand why you’re asking why I exist visibly, but you might as well be asking me why I exist at all. It’s immature, unintelligent, and deeply unfair in the context of human ethics, to put certain people in the forced liminality of here-but-not-quite-here.” 

The sentiment is one shared by the vast majority of our generation of queer Nigerians, a rejection of anonymity and invisibility as the only valid option for us. While in the past, AGAs (anonymous gay accounts) was the only way to exist safely, more recently they have been ditched entirely, with the growing community choosing to put a face to our voice and be visible regardless of the consequences. 

“Existing invisibly – that’s hardly an existence. It’s immature, unintelligent, and deeply unfair to put certain people in the forced liminality of here-but-not-quite-here” – Logan February

This revolution has been accelerated by the internet and social media – both providing platforms that amplify the voices of members of marginalised communities and eliminate the need to physically meet to foster the community and incite change. Market March is an example of this; a nationwide protest attempting to put an end to women being groped by men in Nigerian markets – born out of tweets by feminist activist Damilola Marcus

Several other initiatives have been birthed in the digital sphere before taking to the streets, with members of the Nigerian queer communities weaponising social media, using platforms like Twitter and Instagram to promote discourse surrounding LGBTQ+ existence and rights in 2019. Yet, still, no Pride parade, even with all this work and activism making the necessity more palpable and clearer than ever. 

In 2018, Nele took to Twitter to host an e-Pride, an event queer people could join from the comfort and security of their homes. “People actually dug it despite how unconventional it was,” he says. Then earlier this year, queer activist Cynthia Ugwudike took to Twitter (now deleted) to ask the important question: ‘Why is there still no Pride in Nigeria?’. The reaction was mixed, split down the middle between two camps: fear and hope. This fear is familiar, it has always been an essential part of queer existence in Nigeria, a logical reaction to a country that isn’t just out to deny the existence of its queer community, but to actively stifle it in any way possible. 

Just months before Ugwudike’s tweet, Dolapo Badmus – spokesperson for the Lagos Police – addressed the LGBTQ+ community, reminding us (should we forget) that Nigeria is out to get us: 

“If you are homosexually inclined, Nigeria is not a place for you. There is a law (Same-Sex Prohibition Act) here that criminalises homosexual clubs, associations, and organisations with penalties of up to 15 years in jail. So, if you are a homosexual in nature, leave the country or face prosecution. But before you say, ‘does this matter?’ Kindly note that anything against the law of the land is criminal and all crimes will be punished accordingly no matter how small you think it is. Anyone convicted of entering into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union faces up to 14 years imprisonment. All LGBT candidates in Nigeria should beware.” 

In Nigeria, where queerness is viewed as a foreign concept to the current reality, the immorality of queerness is one of the few things that a majority of Nigerians can agree on; whether it is deemed an ‘oyibo people thing’ (a sentiment that claims queerness is merely a construct or an extension of whiteness) or an affliction caused by a spirit. Regardless of any tribalistic or religiously fueled feud or cultural clashes between contemporary Nigerian communities, one thing they do share is queerphobia, upholding the systems that are engineered to oppress and further marginalise queer people with ostracism, or worse, violence. 

This fear we feel is justified, necessary even, and has been a significant part of the existence and history of the Nigerian queer community. Yet, we have hope. Hope that has not existed until recent times. It’s hard to pinpoint where this new hope has stemmed from. It might have something to do with countries like Botswana and India decriminalising homosexuality, or maybe it’s simply from seeing more queer people living visibly on social media. 

While Ugwudike’s tweet initially divided people, suddenly people seemed galvanised and like they wanted to be a part of it. The queer community in Nigeria were willing to be visible and stand as a community for their rights. “People are excited to march and take a stand for our rights and it makes me feel hopeful,” she says. Like Ugwudike, Richard Akuson, founder of the online queer publication A Nasty Boy, is also hopeful for the future and the newfound strength and visibility of the community. “Surely and slowly if we persist, the next generation of LGBTQ+ Nigerians will not have to live in fear or hiding,” he explains. “It means that time will come when all this will be a thing of the past.” 

“Surely and slowly if we persist, the next generation of LGBTQ+ Nigerians will not have to live in fear or hiding. Time will come when all this will be a thing of the past” – Richard Akuson 

Regardless of how we individually choose to spend and celebrate Pride month, one thing is clear for us as a community; Pride month is the prime time to reflect on our growth as a community and how far we have come and it’s an even better time to realise how far we have to go. While most of the international LGBTQ+ community will be celebrating, the Nigerian queer community will be laying down the necessary foundation needed for our collective liberation. Right now, all signs indicate that will be heralded by queer youth taking to the streets en masse and protesting for their rights to exist legally. 

All this increased visibility, hope, and sense of community are building up to something bigger. It may not come this year, it may not come next year, but it’s coming. We may only celebrate Pride online this year again, or we may spend it making plans for an elaborate protest next year. The protest may fail, but the tension is being built and it’s clear in our collective subconscious that change is in the air and coming soon. We’re all just waiting for somebody to throw the first brick.