Olaide Kayode Timileyin | 6:41am
During the early days of March 2020, no one could have dreamt that Queer Nigerians would hold the Nigerian Digital space, most especially Jack owned birdie app Twitter, to a ransom of over twenty four hours of trending the #EndHomophobiaInNigeria campaign. The violation of Queer Nigerians isn’t new to this digital space, and the discussions of Queer matters never seem to go off the lips of these Nigerians. Even with the continuous clamor for the address of these societal injustice towards queer people on social media and in real life, the Nigerian digital sphere had in particular, either made mockery of the Nigerian LGBT struggles or gaslight the community as seeking too much attention and playing “the victim” in a society where most things are not functioning.
No doubt in how expressive the visible and anonymous queer Nigerian folx in Nigeria have been on digital spaces, considering the level of homophobia in Nigeria, It is quite safer to say things from the comfort of your safe space knowing no one is coming to douse you with homophobia for your queerness, or your visibility enabling discussion. Before the advent of ClubHouse, Twitter had been the only safe outlet for discussing Queerness, and till date has the largest amount of queer crowd from and in Nigeria. Weighing on the strength in this number, By the 10th of March 2020, Nigerian Queer power creators and trend makers like Kayode_Ani, Matthew Blaise, Vic W0nder, and Fizzy Wezy started the #EndHomophobiaInNigeria. A digital campaign after the murder of a gay man in Anambra state, Nigeria. According to the official statement from these creators, they didn’t want the death of this gay man to be treated like “another isolated incident perpetrated by “animals””.
A youtuber and Queer Activist, who had started to make threads and videos on twitter and other social media platforms talking about queer issues, speaking both to those within and outside the LGBTQ+ community [before the #EndSars movement] which went global in October last year. Victor, speaking about how the #EndHomophobiaInNigeria campaign had helped enacted his activism said “after this campaign, I came to fully grasp the power of the internet as regards activism generally, because not only did more queer people come out to share their stories of having to face homophobic violence, but more straight people became allies as they saw the need to protect the queer community. After that campaign, I threw myself vehemently into queer activism. I posted more on my Twitter, educated those we could, dragged those we couldn’t. I started a YouTube channel to share my experiences as an openly Gay man living in Nigeria and also highlight those of others.
Otherwise known as the “Rainbow Marxist” is the Founder of Queer Union For Economic and Social Transformation ( Quest9ja ), a coalition of radical queer Nigerians fighting to end the economic & social oppression of all marginalized people in Nigeria. Kayode who said “#EndHomophobiaInNigeria was really a bellwether moment on social media. It was an avenue for community action. It provided a platform for queer people to express and voice their pain in the safety of a community, within the surety of being seen and knowing they weren’t alone. It did not matter where in Nigeria you were, you could see you weren’t alone and you knew that your expression of your trauma would not be shamed. The hashtag really served as some sort of protective gear because queer people could always find your tweet and if you had homophobes pile on you, at least you knew your community would know and come to your defense. It was a really important avenue for community building. And its particular achievement, queer people seizing back their own narrative was very important. It gave the community a way to rehumanize itself even in the midst of a country as violently homophobic as Nigeria. And humanizing queer identities is really a central step in dismantling queerphobia. The more of our narrative to take back from bigots in mainstream society the closer we are to a society that is safe for us. Because the truth is that so much of homophobia is based on moral panic and misinformation. So the more we counter that, the closer we are to dismantling heteronormativity.”
If he could build a world, Kayode would build ” a world without homophobic laws. A world without discrimination. A world where this community is guaranteed gender affirming healthcare, which is a human right. As well as other things we have been denied. Housing, educational and economic opportunity, and other rights such as the right to free assembly. These rights have all been denied queer people in Nigeria. There are so many statutes that are stacked against queer people, and these laws only reinforce society’s queerphobia and embolden their violence against us. And this sort of extremely queerphobic environment is what causes kitos, police extorting, murders, etc. And, it can be very overwhelming but the hope of queer liberation keeps me going.”
The co-creator of Nigeria’s largest queer resource contact on whatsapp ( Pride TV ) who also worked tirelessly for the campaign while remaining anonymous said that the campaign [#EndHomophobiaInNigeria] “actually changed a lot on the Queer twitter space, people started owning up to their sexuality. People now talk freely about homosexuality without the fear of homophobes even though they still later find a way to creep into the conversation and stain it. [The campaign] Made me realize I was never alone, I just need to speak up or reach out. There are thousand of other people like me out there, also we should never blame ourselves for being queer. And the more we start owning up to our sexuality the better. Also, together we stand strong”
With the viral #QueerLivesMatter video during the #EndSars protest, Matthew’s comment on the source of refueling activism is ” #EndhomophobiaInNigeria actually supplied my activism with more rage that fuels and drives what I do currently”. Matthew whose current work can now be seen via the Oasis Project, and they are working tirelessly with other activists in Nigeria and from across the world, to promote and create safe spaces for queer folx in Nigeria.
While the Nigerian Queer community continues to fight homophobia vehemently, maximizing every opportunity to accelerate the decriminalization of Queerness and the promotion of social acceptance, it is important to amplify how much diversity our approach towards activism can yield. 2020, indeed was a good year for Queer Nigerians, and the effect of digital activism on Queer activism in general can never be denied, and, i hope the community harness this further, and create magics with the possibilities of the internet.
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