Generational changes are certainly making coming out easier for everyone, young and old in Nigeria despite anti-marriage same-sex laws. Recently, TV personality Funmi Iyanda shared a powerful story about her friend, Akin, who after 51 years was finally ready to come out of the closet and he joins many other Nigerians -some of whom use social media as a platform to unveil their identities.
“We were talking about this on Christmas Day when the news of George Michael’s death broke,” Funmi begins. “Suddenly, he turned to me and said, Funmi l want to come out, and I want you to be the one to do this for me, I want people to know I’m gay. I have never consciously hidden it but l want to state it now and make it open. I asked why, he said, its time, l asked if he was sure. He said yes. So, l wrote this story.”
The BBC published a report claiming a new opinion poll suggests that 87% of people in Nigeria support the legal ban on same-sex relations, however, the number is lower than five years ago, when 96% of Nigerians opposed relationships between same-sex couples. These figures convince many especially the gay rights activists, who commissioned the poll, that Nigerians attitude towards gay people were changing to more of tolerance and away from hatred.
Only about one in six people said they knew someone who was openly homosexual, reports the BBC’s Will Ross from Nigeria’s main city, Lagos, however, the number almost doubled for people in their late teens and early twenties.
Oluwatobi Bolashodun, writer on naij.com said: “If you are been talked into believing there are no gays around you, then you are been misled. Everyone is a suspect, including the guy always crushing over your hairstyle, the only guy among females in family. According to statistics 1 in every 10 guys are gay. Down low brothers do not have a label on their forehead saying “I’m gay!”. Most times, they choose to live their lives, hiding behind fake relationships with women that have completely no idea they are gay.”
“You cannot stop the tide,” says Joyce Banda, ex-Malawi president. “The end of stigma, discrimination, and criminalization of homosexuality in Africa is only a matter of time. Like minority and disabled rights, they will move forward. This does not mean there will not be a push back. And that is what we are experiencing right now.”
Judging the size of the LGBT population in Nigeria have always been misty, bordering on mythological but recent observations show there is a growing number of the population (mostly millennials)—now identifying as LGBT.