According to Amnesty International, USA, “We all have a sexual orientation and a gender identity, and this shared fact means that discrimination against members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, based on sexual orientation and/ or gender identity, is an issue that transcends that community and affects all of us.” Except for South Africa, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Africa are very limited in comparison to many other areas of the world.
Now why Canada? you might ask. Wikipedia reports that, “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Canada are some of the most advanced in the Americas and in the world.” It is no secret that Canada has frequently been referred to as one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world, with Canada’s largest cities – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa – featuring their own gay villages, and being named among the most gay-friendly cities in the world. Recent polls have indicated that a large majority of Canadians support same-sex marriage. What many outside Canada never know is how they achieved this feat. It is important for us to study this and see how the overturning of the (average) African perception of LGBTI Rights can be achieved.
What is it about us and this modeling? We, as LGBTI Nigerians need to develop an unquenching passion for human rights activism. That is the first thing. With this passion, we can delve into health work in the community. To do this, one does not necessarily need a Ph.D. With any educational background we can provide services to other LGBTI and other vulnerable members of the society. I add ‘other’ because it is also important for us to shine our light on them and start the reorientation from there by letting them know that we are not a new Sodom and Gomora.
We need to take charge of the opportunities presented by social media. A few outfits out there are already doing this – talk about NoStrings Nigeria and Kito Diaries. But more needs to be done. Social media activism must be taken seriously by us. Even if you cannot come out on social media, make it unquestionably known that you support LGBTI rights. The power of New Media – YouTube, Podcast, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and others – can never be overemphasized. We need to make our collective voice heard. We can start by tapping into the knowledge and experience of those who know more than we do so that we can pitch the right story and start the revolution that will save millions.
Indigenizing Canada’s model will be the best thing that can happen to African countries. With it LGBTI Led organizations should be able to see a dimension to follow, empowered to express themselves and tell a very different kind of story of LGBTI Rights from the angle of real persons who are not only African but also LGBTI or pro-LGBTI. We can only do this much for generations to come after us.
Our aim should be to shoot down that Anti-Gay Law that has so far dimmed some people’s hope for happiness. With this law, many Nigerians who never cared about LGBTI now believe that the community is out to overturn what they regard as the order of nature, that is Man Marries Woman. On the heels of the law, Alistair Stewart, assistant director of the Kaleidoscope Trust spoke on Gay Rights Around the World: The Best and Worst Countries for Equality. About Nigeria he made it clear that “Nobody in the country is seriously asking for gay marriage. There is no reason to legislate against it, when homosexual sex is already illegal. It also has more concerning provisions that ban the formation of groups that support LGBT rights and a series of provisions that if you know a homosexual but don’t turn them in, you are aiding and abetting. That isn’t on the statute books yet but it seems likely that it will pass in some form.”
I believe that we as a community should not care about the apex of our rights, which is gay marriage, at this point. At this point we should be aiming at crushing whatever gives the police the effrontery to arrest a male Nigerian just because he is two things: effeminate and a hair stylist. I saw this happen. It wasn’t just about the arrest. It was also about the trauma and humiliation which this Nigerian male suffered while in detention. The same officers who had arrested him took turns penetrating him before they released him on the condition that he would be ‘servicing’ them every fortnight they are on duty.
We should be aiming at crushing that wetness of the mind that makes us hold back on coming out to our family members when they summon us to a meeting and ask us when we are going to get married to a female. My stylist was telling me the other day that he had to endure this from his family. He couldn’t give them a specific time frame because he was afraid that even if he came out to them his fundamental human rights will be so violated even by the same family that he loves, the same people who claim to love him. He thought that the best option would be eloping with his partner to some other city in the world that will afford them the opportunity to be free and live free. And that is how Nigeria loses the best of its human resources to other parts of the world.
Now in the light of the aforementioned, it is important to reiterate that LGBTI persons are also most at risk persons. In a country that criminalizes us and limits our access to health facilities and treatment and impede our fundamental human rights because we are perceived to be gay are arrested, sometimes only based on suspicions, I would say that achieving the 90 percent involvement, 90 percent treatment and 90 percent funding to end HIV/AIDS endemic in 2030 in Nigeria will be a mere project strategy with no result.
Written by Carlos Davis