Since its launch last year, Clubhouse has gained increasing popularity in the social media space. Mushrooming with topics and communities, the platform’s drop-in audio feature is truly its selling point, allowing for real-time conversations.
Nigerians, like everyone else, have been all over Clubhouse, concocting rooms that range from the serious to the downright frivolous. I joined Clubhouse this year out of curiosity, and while my experience isn’t entirely positive, I have noticed a recurring thing: Nigerians presiding over rooms to discuss LGBTQ issues.
Outside of Nigerian corridors, I have seen this as well with the Black diaspora. From Black Americans to Black people from other countries, the centering of LGBTQ people is never from a good place. When I say Nigerians to be clear, I’m referring to the privileged batch of cis-heterosexual people. And when they aren’t moderating these rooms and throwing queer people into the homophobic jaws of other Nigerians, they are mocking and ridiculing LGBTQ Nigerians who have managed to find community on Clubhouse.
Today, I saw a room’s topic asking if Nigeria’s anti-gay law should be reviewed. The law, more technically referred to as the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA), was passed in 2014 under the Jonathan administration. Homophobia predates the SSMPA but since it was passed, it’s been weaponised against homosexuality as unconstitutional.
This particular room had a few queer Nigerians in attendance, and two persons (as far I know) moderating alongside the heterosexual Nigerians that originally created the room. And although I didn’t join the room from the start, the room’s creation had been the idea of the heterosexual moderators, only making space for queer, co-moderators later on.
According to the heterosexual moderators, their intentions were to openly discuss the SSMPA because they were in a previous room where human rights were discussed. And while allyship is good as it elevates the voices of the oppressed, and in this case heterosexual people showing solidarity to LGBTQ people, what becomes problematic is when they hold the reins of the conversation.
Just as it will always be odd to find men discussing issues pertaining to women, and white people discussing Black issues, LGBTQ people should be centered more in such conversations because they are the ones with the experiences and lived realities. They are the ones who have to navigate injustice and inequality, who suffer cyber bullying and are kicked out from their homes just for their sexuality and gender identity, the ones discriminated at workplaces, the ones facing physical, existential threats and many more unjust acts.
Also, having heterosexual people drive conversations like this reinforces regimes of patriarchy and heterosexuality in a way that considers LGBTQ people as an afterthought. Heterosexual Nigerians can discuss the LGBTQ experience on spaces like Clubhouse, but only if LGBTQ Nigerians aren’t playing second fiddle.
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies and reading comics and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.