Pride Month: Celebrating the dreams and aspirations of queer Nigerians

PRIDE– A mirror reflecting who we are and where we belong.

Pride signifies embracing one’s identity, history, and culture and advocating for equality, visibility, and acceptance for all individuals. It shapes our identity by giving us a sense of worth and belonging. It strengthens our connection to our roots, shapes how we view ourselves, and forms the basis for our confidence, strength, and authenticity.

In the LGBTQ sense, pride refers to a deep understanding of self-acceptance, celebration, and empowerment within the queer community. When diving into pride and its importance, you embark on self-discovery and empowerment. Pride acts as a guiding light, giving us value and identity.

Pride Month Matters

The month is an acknowledgment and celebration of queerness. It is also a time for  events that create awareness of queer-related issues and spark conversations that highlight the achievements and setbacks of the queer community.

The concept of Pride Month started as a response to a police raid on a pub that was popular with members of the LGBTIA+ community in New York on June 28, 1969. These were known as the “Stonewall Riots.” Subsequently, pride marches were held in several US cities to commemorate the anniversary of the riots, and as the movement spread, it evolved into Pride Month.

A march to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots via Getty Images

The celebration of Pride can mean different things to different people. Pride month is about acceptance, equality, and celebrating the work of LGBTQ+ people, education in LGBTQ+ history, and raising awareness of issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community. Pride is celebrated in many ways, from large parades with floats, music, and pageantry to protests to draw attention to the violence and inequality that LGBTQ+ people face.

The queer community in Nigeria is marked by challenges due to traditional beliefs and religious standards influencing negative attitudes towards LGBTQ+ individuals. Despite this, activists have been advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, leading to progress in acceptance and visibility. In Nigeria, there have been setbacks like the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which continues to dampen the efforts of the queer community.

Knowledge needs to come from within the community to fully understand Pride Month and its significance holistically. Only people who lived queer lives could give authentic insights into what Pride and Pride Month stood for, and we had the pleasure of speaking with two people who shared magnificent insights into the queer community.

Meet our Pride Month subject

Alexandra Maduagwu

Alexandra Maduagwu is a creative human rights activist and seasonal entrepreneur who identifies as a trans-non-binary lesbian and prefers the pronouns “they” and “he.” They do great work in educating and advocating for the rights of queer people to live as their authentic selves without prejudice.

From volunteering to being a working member of The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs), a human rights organisation that works to ensure equal rights for all, Alexandra is helping ensure that fundamental human rights have the chance to be expressed and enforced.

They explain, “I needed to understand what work was being done to change the state of things in the country and see how I could contribute. I volunteered at TIERs, which opened the road to getting a job when the opportunity came.”

As part of the queer community, he excels in his efforts to grow and maintain a solid and safe community for themselves and other queer people, and he spoke at length to give genuine insights on the queer community and why Pride Month is significant.

The journey to self-discovery and acceptance

Exploring and embracing one’s true identity can be a profound and empowering journey for queer individuals. Initially, individuals may feel confusion, fear, or even denial as they grapple with societal norms and expectations. The journey to self-discovery and acceptance differs, and it starts out with a lot of doubt about oneself and questions about societal constructs, as in the case of Alexandra.

Reminiscing on their past, Alex soberly says that accepting their queerness was “a lot of work.” They were always hyper-fixated on their sexuality despite being assigned the “female clause” at birth.

“I just didn’t fit in with female gender markers. When girls were coupling up in secondary school as a joke, I took it very seriously. It conflicted because I was in my religious era then,” they said.

However, they were able to explore their sexuality while at the university, even though they were “in the closet.” Then, they began to explore and garner information about their sexuality and challenge norms, and that was the beginning of consciousness. They decided that society was wrong about them because, in their words, “I did not do this to myself.”

Although the journey came with several struggles, ranging from personal doubt to being outed to society’s discrimination, it ultimately led to a greater sense of belonging, happiness, and fulfilment.

A stubborn resistance to embracing queer realities

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In Nigeria, queer individuals express facing several societal challenges that could range from discrimination to rejection from family and friends and extreme abuse. After going through the tough process of personal discovery and self-acceptance, one major challenge for non-binary and trans queers is misgendering.

Alexandra hints at having to deal with being misgendered often. “I recognise I was assigned female at birth, but I have moved away from female markers and more towards the masculine markers. It’s extremely jarring to be misgendered because, having gone through self-discovery and seeing the effort I put into explaining gender markers, being misgendered just really throws me off.”

Misgendering is one of the setbacks queer people have to deal with. Misgendering entails using incorrect gender pronouns when referring to a queer person. It can be hurtful and invalidating, contributing to feelings of exclusion and discrimination.

In response to being misgendered, Alexandra expresses that it makes them “disinterested in the conversation.” Their concerns revolved around a vast majority of people not being receptive to new information regarding his gender markers, although they are aware that some try their best. “I don’t engage with new people because I know how they will conceptualise me, so I stay where I’m loved.”

An all-round stigmatisation of queer lives

Speaking on the struggles, Alexandra further explains the stigmatisation of queer lives both mentally, emotionally, and physically, to the point where they are afraid to come out and be who they truly are. When the courageous few who come out do, they are faced with so much discrimination that they denounce their identities.

Queer individuals have been forced to take extra precautions before having conversations with people—including family and friends—about their sexuality and identity. Alex explained the need to be “100 percent sure” about talking with the right kind of people about their sexuality.

“I have been victimised by an employer who was really aware of my sexuality. There is the absolute need to be careful of who you talk to when revealing your sexuality,” they say.

When Nigeria passed some of the toughest anti-homosexuality laws in Africa, the internet became a place for queer lives to connect with others more safely—until criminal gangs went digital to the point of having a popularised terminology, “Kito.” Kito is used to describe when a gay person has been deceived and lured by someone who pretended to be gay for either an outing, beating, extortion or even murder. BBC News Africa released a documentary on Kito in which they captured the inhumane treatment of queer lives.

Visibility and representation for the queer community

“Growing up, I thought I was the only queer person feeling this way for a long time. When I realised I wasn’t the only one, I still didn’t have the privilege of meeting queer people physically. Now, I’m privileged to participate in physical gatherings with other queer people.”

                                                                                          – Alexandra Maduagwu

Alex’s statement highlights the crucial role that visibility and representation play in helping the queer community as they validate identities, combat stereotypes, and promote acceptance and understanding in society.

He highlights the effectiveness of accurate representation of queer lives in media, such as a web series called “Wura,” which tells the story of a queer son in a positive light, as an effective tool in creating awareness and visibility for queer lives.

Still photo from Wura via Showmax

He also emphasised the need for more queer media personalities, filmmakers, photographers, and authors who tell authentic queer stories to create more visibility for queer lives. However, this visibility has also come with a cost, as it has brought increased discrimination and targeting.

The struggle for legal recognition

When one thinks of legal courts, people usually seek justice for crimes committed. But, the opposite happens in Nigerian courts for queer lives. Alex explains the danger of systemic homophobia and transphobia as a hindrance to queer people’s rights in court.

“You can’t even go to court and say I’m a queer person, I’ve been abused, and I want to get justice. They’re going to forget the abuse and the justice parts and focus on your queerness,” they say.

The work of TIERS

Thankfully, this is where TIERS comes in as an organisation engaging in advocacy work with national stakeholders—the police, all legal parastatals, the judiciary, religious institutions, and family and friends of queer lives—while providing safe spaces of convergence for queer lives.

Research is another tool that TIERs engage to combat narratives that homophobes and religious fundamentalists peddle to inspire hate speech and show the impacts of the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act (SSMPA) on queer lives. The organisation also creates health interventions such as mental health support, tests and treatment of STDs and referrals for queer lives

For context, queer lives were already unsafe before the passage of the anti-gay bill. Queer people lived in secrecy, resulting from discrimination caused by religious sects of society who qualify queerness as a sin and taboo. The SSMPA law had only made a bad situation even worse.

Alexandra explains that while working with TIERs, the organisation has also engaged the justice system in Nigeria several times, “which tends to be mostly frustrating.”

“The law enforcement agencies do not know what the law says because when they victimise people using the SSMPA, they don’t know that you have to catch the accused having sex before you can use that law to persecute. However, what we see every day is that they profile anyone they see, intrude on their privacy and then harass them based on whatever they find,” they explained.

The urgent need for reform

Having established the current situation of queer lives living in Nigeria, it is glaring that there is an urgent need for reformation. Alexandra shared that the best course of action would be to remove all the anti-LGBT legislation and also set protective measures in place to protect queer lives from homophobes to avoid a repeat of the harassment queer lives faced in 2014. They also stress the need for consciousness-raising spaces for educating the general public on queer issues and how best to show support.

Pride Month in Nigeria plays a crucial role in highlighting the significance of visibility and representation for the queer community. It helps validate identities, combat stereotypes, and promote societal acceptance and understanding. It is also a crucial tool in the community’s quest to be seen and heard. This is necessary in a country like Nigeria, where public knowledge about queer lives is very limited. Pride Month creates an avenue for the queer community to demystify public opinions on misconceptions and also showcase queerness in its most authentic form.

Alex and other queer people in Nigeria this month hope that this information goes a long way toward informing other citizens about the African origin of queerness. They also hope to dispel the misconception that queer lives are inherently bad or promiscuous. Moreover, they aim to emphasise that queer rights are, in fact, human rights and that this understanding is crucial for creating a safe and inclusive environment for queer lives in Nigeria. By doing so, they wish to counter the harmful stereotypes perpetuated by homophobes and religious fundamentalists, ultimately fostering a culture of acceptance and respect for the queer community.


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