Selective homophobia: Mastering the art of ‘unlooking’ when it involves the rich

by Alabi Adewale

Nigeria is a largely homophobic country where queer people are not only faced with homophobia but have to endure bouts of physical violence by people who feel threatened by their existence.

It seems however that reports of any form of violence or aggression towards queer people happen along a line that divides class and status. For instance, the Nigerian police in the year 2018 raided a hotel in Egbeda Lagos, Nigeria and unlawfully arrested 47 men at a party because they were ‘suspected’ to be gay men. These practices are not uncommon to the police in this type of neighbourhood. It should be noted however that this type of activities is never heard of in upper-class neighbourhood in the state.

However, there is also a surprising ability Nigerians have to shut their eyes to the life of queer Nigerians who are affluent and have certain connections to power and authority. Such queer people are usually accorded enough respect for you to think Nigeria was suddenly a haven for gay people.

This attitude was exhibited when CNN anchor, Richard Quest, an openly gay man, visited Nigeria in the year 2017 to shoot two of his programs for CNN. Richard had a very warm welcome, got invites to events and was celebrated all through his stay. Not one homophobic attack or statement from anyone who interviewed him was recorded. However, Nigerian celebs still get attacked on social media and interviews whenever their words suggest something other than heterosexuality. What makes Richard Quest different from the everyday Nigerian? Why can’t the ‘un-looking’ be applied to every queer person in the country?

There is no specific reason why there is a difference in attitude towards different classes of queer people but some factors can be highlighted to explain why there is less violence and a certain level of respect for queer people who are considered to be well off.

An unfortunately terrible reason for this is wealth. It’s a very obvious reason, but one cannot overemphasise that Nigerians worship money. People with money become mini gods and are often not questioned about certain ways they decide to live, as long as they can keep funding the lives of their benefactors. Also, people who are affluent or have a stable source of income may be able to get modern housing in the middle/upper-class neighbourhood, thereby giving them privacy.

Of course, there is no excuse for homophobia. It is important to note, however, that there is major discrepancy in how Nigerians treat ‘poor’ gay people and in how they treat ‘rich ‘ gay people. It sings tales of major hypocrisy.

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