International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia: The LGBTQ+ resist from the church to the street

One thing that LGBTQ+ people can’t be said to be bad at, is resisting their oppression by whatever means available.

Whether it is by naming things what they are in repeated instances of homophobic language usage on social media – to the point that few Nigerian internet users don’t know what ‘Homophobia’ entails – or by challenging church doctrines to make space for queer Christians. The LGBTQ+ resist.

However, the thing about resistance is that besides being a principle, nothing about it is a walk in the park. The lived reality of these phobias for the LGBTQ+ who are directly affected is not rosy – countless instances exist in which things ended with the murder of the LGBTQ+.

For International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia we collected stories of resistance as told by queer people, in their own words.

“You are welcome here …”

Unless you are lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual or any other gender or sexual minority the churches and mosques in Nigeria can make a room for you.

Dave (31, M)

“By the time I was 13 I had already heard how abominable being a ‘homosexual’ is like over a thousand times. To be fair I had also heard how bad other sins are – rape, murder, theft, gluttony, lying and such – yet when it comes down to it, you can always predict where the condemnation and sanctions will be more heavily laid.

“I watched with no surprise and little disappointment as a popular pastor accused of sexual assault returned to the pulpit to cheers of ‘Hallelujah,’ whereas another pastor was chased out of the country with threats to his life. The church, House of Rainbow, is a living testament to the viciousness religious homophobia can unleash in this country.

“I was raised by a very religious single mother. We prayed round the clock, about everything, and didn’t miss church unless you are admitted into the hospital or something like that. Church means so much to me but the moment I gained my freedom when I move to another town for work I had to take a break because of the constant homophobic preaching.

“It is done with such subtlety too, reminding you that this heckling is done out of love for you, for your eternal life. I don’t know how you expect me to care about an eternity of life when the one I know isn’t enjoyable; thanks to the atmosphere you have set through generations of systemic homophobia that has since become law.

“I returned to the church a year ago largely because I didn’t have to leave my room to attend a service. It was lockdown, I had internet access, I was curious to discover all these fancy Lekki churches touting inclusivity. I was in for a rude reawakening.

“I commented during service one day challenging the pastor against misleading the congregation into believing homosexuality is a choice. The response was viciously against me. The pastor himself ignored my comment on the pretext that he doesn’t check the chats while he preaches, and he ignored it and the vicious responses to it when he checked later and prayed for some of the commenters. Some of the responses included, “Leave the church if you don’t like its preaching against homosexuality,’ and “kill yourself spawn of the devil.”

“It was eye-opening. After that, I could see the pastor for what he is, a puffed-up asshole driven less by Christ’s message and more by his own biases. I don’t go to that church anymore, I don’t go to any church at all, but I remain steadfast in my faith in Christ and per the message of Galatians 3:26 no man can deny my status as a child of God. That is enough for me.”

Misogyny is the recipe

How do you fit where you don’t fit in neatly? The bitter ironies of the post-colonial world are difficult to miss even when one isn’t looking, but it is harder to miss still when one is boxed by it, their very existence defined and erased by its constraints.

For all her flaws – and there are many – pre-colonial Africa was littered with cultures that made room for and in some cases venerated its gender non-conforming population. The notion of gender being a spectrum is not a new one to indigenous societies some of which had a third gender concept, recognising more than 2 genders.

When you are trans in a society that says you can only be this or that, and determines your sex at birth and expects you to conform to the gender expectations of that sex, you are open to all manner of mindless harassment.

Didi (25, MTF)

“You lose if you do and you lose if you don’t, that is the perpetual trap of the trans person. I was assigned a male at birth and expected to fit nicely, I have the genitalia after all. Up until I began my transition 3 years ago I couldn’t pass for a man if my face was covered in beard.

“Now that I have fully embraced myself and my transition has been mostly smooth I still find myself being the target of bullying by largely men. I was bullied pre-transition for being an effeminate man, now I am bullied for being too feminine and ‘deceiving’ men into finding me attractive when they don’t realize I’m a trans woman.

“Last week I went down my street to get something to eat and had to pass this group of boys who whistled at and catcalled me. I’m pre-op and flat-chested and they note this and began calling me a lesbian and threatening to rape the lesbianism out of me. Then someone yelled, “Na man,” and these boys left where they were perched and started towards me yelling obscenities and threatening to “Burn my gay ass,” all the while I was half-running towards home.

“I eventually tripped and fell just in front of my gate and they stopped chasing and just laughed, I was in tears by the time I entered the house.

“And that isn’t the worst instance of transphobic violence I have endured. That will be the intimate partner violence that strips your soul of all faith in humanity one humiliation after another. 

“I think most – if not all – trans women come to know that there is a thin line between desire and contempt. Someone who desires you one minute can turn spiteful immediately they find their release. I want a world where that doesn’t happen to women like me. We all deserve peace.”

Double the bile

It is not uncommon to scroll through Twitter and stumble on a cis-heterosexual woman tweeting her preference and excluding men who sleep with men from her list of “men I prefer to be with.”

If you are bisexual – and a man, one of the first things you learn is the art of separating your ‘play with boys’ from your very public and impossible to ignore larger-than-life romance with a long line of girlfriends. It always comes in handy to have an ex you can point at as proof of your unbending heterosexuality in the event you run the risk of being outed. It is a lot of self-curation to avoid being caught in the line of phobic attacks of whatever bend.

Roy (27, M)

“People know what they are doing with biphobia. The lousy excuse of ‘fear of infidelity because bisexuals have twice the temptation’ doesn’t cut it.

“If you are heterosexual, there are billions of people you could be with, out in the great big world, yet for the most part, you are by your lonesome or with just the one person. That doesn’t change because you are sexually attracted to two or more genders.

“It feels sometimes like biphobia is punishment for the crime of having the possibility of enjoying more companionship. Maybe if we pay attention to the fact that it is a mere possibility, and in the end the human condition that predisposes us to loneliness makes it more likely that wouldn’t be the case, then we will realise there was never any need for all the fuss” 

As we ponder on how the world can be made less accommodating of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia, today is a good day to disavow misogyny which runs across all of these phobias as the common thread of disdain.

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