Embracing diversity and empathy: The power of queer literature in Nigeria


Books have long been powerful tools for education, empathy, and understanding. They have the unique ability to transport us into different worlds, broaden our perspectives, and teach us about the diverse lived experiences of others. When it comes to the queer experience, literature has played a vital role in documenting and illuminating the challenges, triumphs, and complexities faced by LGBTQ+ individuals

This is especially relevant in Nigeria, where discussions around queer issues are often shrouded in silence and stigma. Books with queer themes foster dialogue, promote empathy and advocate for change. By delving into the narratives crafted by both Nigerian and international authors, we can gain a profound understanding of the queer experience and work towards building a more inclusive society.

Through the pages of books, readers explore the intricacies of queer identities, confront stereotypes, and gain a deeper appreciation for the importance of acceptance and inclusivity. 

Nigeria’s cultural, religious, and societal norms often marginalise and stigmatise LGBTQ+ individuals, leading to a lack of understanding and empathy within society. Books that explore the lived queer experience provide an opportunity to challenge preconceptions, broaden perspectives, and develop compassion, fostering a more inclusive culture where everyone is acknowledged and respected.

Accepting diverse sexual orientations aligns with fundamental human rights principles. Embracing the lessons taught by queer literature allows Nigerians to contribute to a society that respects and upholds these rights, ensuring that all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, can fully participate in all aspects of life. Furthermore, understanding and accepting diverse sexual orientations enriches the cultural fabric of Nigeria by embracing diversity and fostering creativity, empathy, and social progress.

By engaging with queer literature, Nigerians can challenge prejudices, broaden perspectives, and create a more inclusive and accepting society that celebrates the diversity of human experiences.

How exactly do books shape our perspectives?

Literature holds a transformative power that goes beyond mere entertainment. Readers are transported into different worlds through books, exposed to diverse perspectives, and provided opportunities to broaden their understanding of the world. Queer literature, in particular, plays a significant role in this transformation by shedding light on the experiences, struggles, and triumphs of LGBTQ+ individuals.

Books allow readers to empathise with characters and their experiences, regardless of their background or sexual orientation. As readers delve into the narratives of queer characters, they develop a sense of connection and understanding. This empathetic engagement breaks down barriers and fosters compassion as readers recognise the shared humanity and universal emotions that transcend sexual orientation. By immersing ourselves in these stories, we gain a deeper appreciation for the challenges faced by queer individuals and the importance of acceptance.

One powerful aspect of queer literature is its ability to challenge stereotypes and dismantle societal prejudices. By showcasing diverse queer characters and narratives, these books confront and debunk preconceived notions, opening readers’ minds to the complexity and diversity of the queer experience. Queer literature dismantles harmful stereotypes through nuanced storytelling and promotes acceptance by humanising LGBTQ+ individuals and portraying their lives authentically.

Queer literature also has the power to ignite essential conversations and contribute to social change. By addressing the unique struggles faced by LGBTQ+ individuals, these books raise awareness, promote dialogue, and encourage reflection. They provide a platform for marginalised voices, inviting readers to question societal norms, challenge discrimination, and advocate for a more inclusive society.

Nigerian Books That Illuminate the Lived Queer Experience

Prominent Nigerian authors have fearlessly explored queer themes in their works, providing invaluable insights into the queer experience in Nigeria. These authors have created narratives that delve into the complexities of identity, love, and resilience. Jude Dibia’s ‘Walking With Shadows’ was an early pioneer (released in 2006), but many other Nigerian authors have taken on the mantle. Some notable books in this regard include:

L-R; “Under the Udala Trees” by Chinelo Okparanta; “She Called Me Woman,” edited by Azeenarh Mohammed, Chitra Nagarajan, and Rafeeat Aliyu; “When We Speak of Nothing” by Olumide Popoola; “Blessed Body” by Unoma Azuah; “Lives of Great Men” by Chike Frankie Edozien; “Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever” by Nnanna Ikpo


L-R; “Freshwater” by Akwaeke Emezi; “Vagabonds!” by Eloghosa Osunde; “The Death of Vivek Oji” by Akwaeke Emezi; “Sacrament of Bodies” by Romeo Oriogun; “God’s Children Are Little Broken Things” by Arinze Ifeakandu; “In The Nude” by Logan February; “Embracing My Shadows: Growing Up Lesbian in Nigeria” by Unoma Azuah

These books tackle various themes such as self-discovery, acceptance, love, and the intersections of culture and queerness. Through complex characters and compelling narratives, they challenge societal prejudices and shed light on the diverse realities of queer individuals in Nigeria. By exploring these characters’ inner lives and experiences of these characters, readers gain a deeper understanding of the complexities, joys, and struggles faced by the queer community.

These books’ themes, characters, and narratives in these books offer invaluable insights into the lived experiences of queer individuals in Nigeria. They provide a platform for voices that have often been marginalised or silenced, fostering empathy and encouraging readers to reflect on their biases. By engaging with these works, readers gain a greater appreciation for the diversity and resilience of queer Nigerians and contribute to a more inclusive and understanding society.


Importance of Queer Literature Today

When marginalised voices, such as those of the queer community, are authentically portrayed in books, it creates a sense of validation, visibility, and belonging. By seeing themselves reflected in literature, queer individuals feel affirmed, and others gain a deeper understanding of their experiences. This representation helps break down stereotypes, combat prejudice, and promote acceptance.

Queer literature has a profound impact on fostering empathy and understanding. By immersing ourselves in the stories and perspectives of LGBTQ+ characters, readers develop a sense of connection, compassion, and shared humanity. This empathetic engagement expands our worldview, challenges biases, and encourages us to embrace diversity. It opens the door for conversations, both within ourselves and with others, about sexual orientation, identity, and the importance of inclusivity.

Furthermore, queer literature plays a pivotal role in challenging societal norms. These books encourage readers to question and dismantle ingrained prejudices by presenting narratives that defy stereotypes and subvert expectations. They offer alternative viewpoints, shedding light on the vast spectrum of human experiences. Readers confront their biases, challenge societal norms, and contribute to a more equitable and accepting society through these narratives.

Reading diverse narratives, including those from queer authors and about queer experiences, is an effective tool in combating discrimination. Exposure to different perspectives fosters a broader understanding of human diversity and fosters a sense of empathy and respect. Readers develop a more inclusive mindset by reading stories celebrating and humanising the queer experience, promoting equality and social progress.


What we’re saying is, pick up a book and be enlightened.

Books are crucial in educating and fostering empathy towards the lived queer experience. They provide insights into the challenges, triumphs, and complexities faced by LGBTQ+ individuals, allowing readers to develop a deeper understanding and connection. By embracing diverse narratives and exploring queer literature, readers broaden their perspectives, challenge prejudices, and promote empathy and acceptance.

It is essential that we recognise the role of literature in creating a more inclusive and accepting society. By engaging with queer literature, readers contribute to the ongoing conversation about sexual orientation, identity, and equality. Embracing diverse narratives empowers individuals to celebrate the richness of human diversity. 


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