What does Pride mean to you? 4 LGBT+ Nigerians share

Whatever celebrating LGBT+ pride may mean to you, there is one element that run through each individual meaning – defiance, which fits perfectly with the origin of Pride celebration.

Pride commemorates the Stonewall riots, which began in the early hours of June 28, 1969, after police raided the Stonewall Inn bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighbourhood. In 1969, the solicitation of homosexual relations was illegal in New York City, and public harrassment of LGBT+ persons was the order of the day.

Gay bars were the only place of refuge LGBT+ persons could socialise in relative safety, yet even those were often invaded by the Police who harrassed owners and patrons alike.

One such well-known gathering place for young LGBT+ persons was the Stonewall Inn, a dark, seedy, crowded bar. In the early morning hours of Saturday, June 28, 1969, nine policemen entered the Stonewall Inn, arrested the employees for selling alcohol without a license, roughed up many of its patrons, cleared the bar, and took several people into custody. 

It was the third such raid on Greenwich Village gay bars in a short period and the Police had a certain expectation – meek compliance, but this time something was different. The LGBT+ resisted. 

The Stonewall incident was perhaps the first time LGBT+ people saw the value in uniting behind a common cause.

What that means to gay people living in Nigeria today

LGBT+ Nigerians share similar struggles today as LGBT+ Americans in the sixties – in some sense.

Homosexuality remains illegal in Nigeria thanks to a number of laws – the most infamous of which remains the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (2013.)

These laws, however irrational upon critical examination, persist because they appeal to the emotions of the majority. The emotion in this case being fear.

Yet, whatever cis-heterosexual Nigerians may fear about letting LGBT+ Nigerians breath – live and love in peace – LGBT+ Nigerians have expereinced it and so much more.

Speaking to LGBT+ Nigerians about what Pride means to them revealed 2 things to us:

  1. Life’s penchant for tenacity is no less pronounced in queer people than in cis-heterosexual people.
  2. The LGBT+ will continue to defy until their right to a dignified existence is recognised by the Nigerian state.

Seyi* (24, M)

Seyi’s boyfriend is across the desk as he answers this question, and they exchange pained smiles as he does.

Pride means nothing to me. I can’t celebrate freedom when I am caged.”

His boyfriend, James* (26, M) disagrees, only slightly.

Freedom, like most everything, can be contextual. If you look at it outwards through the reality of LGBT+ person in relation to the country, then I agree. On a personal level, within ourselves, in this space of safety where I can hold you freely, we are free. We are grounded in Pride.”

For Opara* (27, M) pride is not about the person, it is political.

Pride is about reinforcing human rights. It goes beyond the person. What is the state of the human rights of LGBT+ people? That question will always lead pride by the strap for me,” he opines.

Until the LGBT+ are able to enjoy their human rights, there is little to be proud of, if anything at all.”

It is a valid position because across Africa – from the Ghana 21 to the Uganda 44 – LGBT+ continue to face harassment and unlawful arrest in the year of the Lord 2021.

Hanna* (F, 32) believes as long as there is breath in queer people and a drop of defiance to love irrespective of what society says about who you are as a queer person, Pride thrives.

Pride is defiance. It is loving yourself despite what society says about who you are. It is loving someone fully regardless of the possible consequence. Pride is willing to risk jail and social ostracism to be – unbowed and unbroken.”

Whatever Pride means to you in whatever context, whether as an LGBT+ person or ally, the message for the month of June remains ‘Continue to resist,’ because love looks better in colour.

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