We need to talk about the lack of bisexual characters in Nollywood LGBTQ movies

It’s Bisexuality Awareness Week, a push for advocacy and acceptance of bisexuals which will culminate into the celebration of Bisexual Day on September 23. Ordinarily, bisexual rights come under the umbrella of LGBTQ equality. But within the LGBTQ community, bisexuality doesn’t have the attention and acceptance as homosexuality because of so many reasons. There’s the inherent, negative bias and misconceptions that continues to influence our interaction with people who are legitimately attracted to men and women, and outside of the community, the erasure and biphobia that still abound.

In the recent past, Nigerian queer cinema has churned out stories advocating for LGBTQ rights and acceptance. Sometimes, LGBTQ characters are there as flimsy plot devices or fodder. Desmond Elliot’s 2012 drama In The Cupboard is terribly amusing for the scene where a character is shocked to discover that Ini Edo likes women: “OMG Trisha! You are a lesbian.”

Duh. The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs), a non-governmental organisation, is a prominent correspondent unspooling the LGBTQ experience through movies and short films and TV shows, partnering with mainstream Nollywood directors. It’s the queer content we deserve, to see LGBTQ representation on screen which has never happened before, given the stark climate of homophobia that Nigeria thrives in. However, I can’t remember if these stories have depicted a bisexual character. And that’s problematic. Granted, the visibility of gay characters seems good enough. 2018’s We Don’t Live Here Anymore shows two teenage schoolboys in love, against a backdrop of a homophobic society. It’s an interesting thing to center characters that aren’t adults, and director Tope Oshin handles the emotional arc of these characters with care.

Next month, the Funmi Iyanda-produced film Walking With Shadows will screen at the BFI London Film Festival. Adapted from the 2004 Jude Dibia novel of the same name, Walking With Shadows has a winking similarity to its cinematic predecessors – a man struggling and conflicted with his sexuality, which mostly always resolves his identity as gay. Where are the bisexuals? I can’t help but feel like there’s a hierarchy to how LGBTQ characters are telegraphed on screen – gay first, and the rest follows. Our cultural conversations on sexuality, even on the internet, always revolves around same-sex attractions, and oftentimes these conversations are without nuance. It’s so easy to forget that bisexual people exist. It’s so easy not to notice the prejudice and erasure they encounter in and out of the LGBTQ community, which has insidiously dictated the tone of Nollywood queer cinema.


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