On Sunday, Guardian Life, the entertainment and lifestyle supplement of The Guardian, published a cover story on being LGBTQ in Nigeria. This is almost the equivalent of NTA‘s Cyril Stober, or whoever anchors their nightly news these days, beaming a smile as they rationalise sex work or abortion.
First of all, that Guardian Life profile is a welcome development in the media coverage of LGBTQ stories and shows they aren’t only meant for niche publications. Written by the magazine’s content production lead Chidirim Ndeche and Urenna Ukiwe, and titled LGBTQ In Nigeria: Between Law and Love, the cover feature begins with this opener: “For every rational human being, finding love is, arguably, one of the best things in life. And when that love enjoys the support of friends and family, the joy is fuller.”
I should add that it is not a puff piece. Researched and well-written, with a dose of interview excerpts, the article is ostensibly a crash course for anyone unfamiliar with LGBTQ existence in Nigeria. Managing to adopt an editorial tone of ambivalence, or maybe just neutrality, the story gives LGBTQ Nigerians the visibility they deserve, amid constitutionally-enabled homophobia and rampant, violent dehumanisation.
Mainstream media don’t have the sensitivity, nuance or even the grasp to tell LGBTQ stories. And when they do, it’s screwed up – sparse, clumsy coverage undergirded by religious and cultural viewpoints, and the clickbait fare associated with bloggers.
As such, there’s been an emergence of LGBTQ-centric media outlets, from Kito Diaries and the aesthetically rebellious A Nasty Boy to the newly-launched Dear Queers, cultural mascots representing everything queer and non-conforming. Guardian Life‘s contribution to the LGBTQ press canon is characteristic of their zeitgeist-defining editorial ethos: since June, they have done press coverage on the SARS epidemic, countered rape culture and demystified depression.
It remains to be seen if other mainstream outlets, in the context of LGBTQ media coverage, will follow suit. For Guardian Life, though, I’m trying to drown out my cynicism about their LGBTQ-leaning feature, and just enjoy the moment.