If you are going by all the horrible stories of violence against queer bodies across the world – from the dark alleys of Tel Aviv in the apartheid state of Israel to Ho in Ghana – you will be within your right to believe that the world of cis-heterosexuals and that of queer people is like oil and water – unable to mix however much you wish to force them into one space. The truth, however, is that life is never black and white, it is a whole spectrum of experiences with an abundance of pockets of darkness, light, and everything in between.
A quick survey – if asking a handful of acquaintances counts as such – of Nigerians in about any region, but particularly from Southern Nigeria, asking the question, “Do you think queer people in Northern Nigeria can exist freely, mixing openly with their cis-heterosexual counterparts?” is apt to bring an all-round ‘No,’ answer. It did when I tried it.
Yet, that ‘No,’ response dissolves to nothing at the foot of a table of 3 in an open-air bar in Kano, where 3 queer friends meet to hang out, conscious of the curious stares of disapproving and admiring cis-heterosexual strangers in neighbouring tables – but unbothered because we exist to occupy space.
That ‘No,’ response falls apart in Abuja, this time at the foot of a table of 5, in yet another open-air bar that is lush with greenery and brimming with the energy of Nigerian men. This time, 2 straight guys sit in the company of 3 gay guys, drinking beer and flirting graciously with one another. Admiring a thick arm here, a cute guy that just walked in, and a beautiful woman on the lap of a guy two tables away.
It falls father apart on the way back to the hotel of one of the gay men, who was being driven back – with the man he has decided to spend the night with – by one of the straight guys while the other sat in the front passenger seat. French kissing his lover in the backseat while the boys – aware and respectful – gist about their babes and the serenity of Abuja.
The human experience – removed from the needless bureaucracy of seeking to control human behavior with legislation that only has meaning because we allow it to – is woven by all of us, and we can choose to use the yarn of kindness or that of unkindness, but only one is durable – that of kindness.
As Ghana tows the path of regression to return back into the now-obsolete – even for the British – arms of Victorian moral values that dreaded the varied expression of human sexuality with its new anti-gay bill, it is timely to remind ourselves that laws are only as useful as they are just. And because we – as a society – give laws meaning, and even when we forget ourselves our nature is innately one that seeks community (and to build community justice is a key ingredient one can’t do without) unjust laws will eventually die as unnatural a death as their existence in our human societies is unnatural, to begin with.
Love will always win.