We say it here all the time on the sexuality blog in response to the hateful and very inaccurate statement that homosexuality and queerness is some scourge brought in by either by colonialists or post-colonial, tv crazed, godless white men looking to ‘corrupt’ our ‘culture’: There were always Gay/Queer people in Africa, get over it already.
Colonialists actually brought a firebrand, intolerant strain of Christianity which they used to oppress and cause divisions in Nigeria, divisions we are still trying to heal. And as for post-colonial white people, they were merely doing the same thing we are doing now, rejecting the divisive and discriminatory religious projections they too had been convinced to accept as fact. But when we explain that Nigerians have always had homosexuality and queerness, and often displayed this queerness publicly without shame or ostracisation from their home communities, we are told we are lying. There is often nothing but anecdotal evidence to support the claims of LGBT people and their allies.
Well not anymore.
Thanks to this documentary recently uploaded on the internet, from circa early to mid-1970’s post-civil war Nigeria, is the story of a Nigerian (Igbo) transwoman Area Scatter. The documentary says that after the civil war, Area Scatter secluded herself for 7 months and 7 days, probably to grow out her hair and reorient herself with the articles of feminity and emerged as a woman, choosing to become an entertainer. Area Scatter performed for everyone, even royalty, including the Igwe of her town.
It is important to note that Area Scatter did not ‘pass’ as female in any way, post transitioning. She still had facial hair, which she didn’t shave, and she didn’t conceal her masculine body or go to great lengths to physically feminise herself other than, stuffing her bra. She didn’t have to pass as female to be accepted in 1970’s Eastern Nigeria.
Next time someone tells you, queerness is not part of our culture, show them this.