The Huffington Post recently put out an article that puts in perspective a very specific problem: America’s epidemic of gay, lonely, men. While the article majorly profiles white, comfortable in skin gay men (as often happens when major journalistic organizations investigate LGBT issues) it raises some serious points. Of all the LGBT groups marginalized as a result of their gender, both C.I.S gay men and trans men report the highest levels of suicide, isolation and loneliness.
The article makes a lot of valid points, but it also pretty tone deaf and engages in a lot of self congratulatory handwringing. But let’s ignore that for a second.
If as a Nigerian you have had even the most marginal contact with the LGBT community in Nigeria, then it becomes obvious that these statistics play out almost identically in Nigeria. While gay women and trans people are virtually invisible thanks to double standard that frame homosexual behavior from women and trans-women as exotic or a phase, gay men are both the face and scape goat for homosexuality and are treated accordingly. Perhaps one of the reasons for this, is not just rejection or isolation from family and friends, but also the pervasive toxic masculinity that Nigeria’s religion fueled patriarchy perpetuates.
In Nigeria, anything other than public displays of hyper-masculinity and ultra-femininity are punished. It is so bad that male celebrities in Nigeria cannot even form strong friendships with other male celebrities without inciting rumours of homosexuality and constant bullying from online trolls. People like Derenle and Bobrisky who are non-gender conforming are excused because of their visible hyper-femininity as lumped as female. This hyper-masculinity is especially brutal in LGBT circles where passing as heterosexual is publicly exalted above all other qualities and those who will not or cannot conform is out of the question.
Gay men in Nigeria and elsewhere in the world are confined to two roles; constantly performing heterosexuality for acceptance, or do not conform and become ostracized by everyone. Coming out is out of the question either way, because an ‘out’ man, even to close friends and family is too much of a liability to the closeted community and can ‘out’ them by association.
This cycle of toxic masculinity and constant performance even with the people cis gay men are supposed to have the most in common with, is enough to trigger feelings of invisibility and erasure, even in the midst of community. So perhaps, that is one problem that can be tackled instead of harping on symptoms of a much deeper issue.
And also perhaps its time the Huffington Post and other major publications that cis white gay men, are first and foremost, white and cannot speak for LGBT communities of colour.
Just a thought.
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