Where “Out and Proud” does not have to be bare-faced

An acquaintance made a passing remark that started a conversation on whether we can call a public declaration of who you are – as a queer person, pride if you do it behind a face blurring effect that protects your identity. The answer I and a number of other acquaintances gave was a simple but emphatic yes.

The comment was in reference to the YNaija Pride Special documentary – you can watch it here – where the transwoman contributor for reasons of safety requested her face be blurred to protect her identity. This despite being visible online and something of a public face for the trans rights movement in Nigeria.

Visibility – the ability to be seen, which in the context of queer people speaks to the necessity of dismantling the erasure that facilitates inhumane anti-queer policies like the infamous SSMPA.

A classic case of erasure you may be familiar with as a Nigerian is the tired and inaccurate rhetoric that “Homosexuality is un-African.” This is inaccurate because not only have many African cultures documented the existence of queer people for centuries, but many were also, by and large, accommodating, and some even reverent of this unique human difference. Until a cultural evolution in line with Christian and Islamic theology first vilified then erased Africa’s queer population.

Yet visibility is a double-edged sword that cuts the most marginalised the deepest, and black transwomen – whether in Lagos or Atlanta, remain the most marginalised of the LGBT+ community.

Many thinkers have however questioned what visibility might mean for the queer Africans now facing this new reality of hostility from Uganda to Ghana. Does it have to be the radical, “Out and Proud” western-style visibility that produced the first elected openly gay man personality that is Harvey Milk? Or can it be more nuanced to accommodate our lived reality here in Nigeria?

This research explores what the latter looks like.

Our contributor, who lives in Nigeria’s largest and perhaps most cosmopolitan city of Lagos, still faces hostility from her surroundings.

We documented some of what she goes through as a trans woman in Nigeria here.

It makes sense therefore to ensure the fragile safety she enjoys isn’t jeopardised, while nevertheless putting her humanness forward to say, “This is a trans person. This is a human being with dreams and ideations as brilliant as anyone’s and they must not be erased.” A blurred face doesn’t diminish that.

As Hollywood star, Laverne Cox, said in 2014, “It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.”

Even to do so with a blurred face is revolutionary in 2021 Nigeria.

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