In an unexpected turn of events, afro-soul singer Simi has apologised for her homophobic bigotry towards the LGBTQ community. Posted via her Twitter account and written on iPhone Notes, she revealed that it took the near-death experience of a queer person she knows for her to see how dangerous her homophobia was, and that queer Nigerians don’t deserve to live in fear and the discrimination they face.
— Simi (@SympLySimi) August 3, 2020
For context, back in March, Simi revealed that homosexuality wasn’t unnatural on her YouTube talk show Stoopid Sessions. ”They say they are born that way but I haven’t see any biological piece,” she says, to the agreement of some of her guests. This saw the singer receive immediate backlash on social media, and fractured her LGBTQ fanbase with some publicly withdrawing their support and pledging not to stream her songs. Filmmaker and LGBTQ rights advocate Pamela Adie, and even fellow activist Bisi Alimi, vocally called out the singer for further entrenching homophobia with her platform. The episode has been deleted, upon checking her YouTube channel.
On the surface, Simi’s apology feels genuine, in way that acknowledges how prejudices against sexual minorities, no matter how casual, maintains oppressive systems at their expense. Also, the bit where she says ”your life is bigger, by far, than my pride” humanizes and recognizes the inalienable rights that queer Nigerians have to live and thrive.
Indeed, Simi’s homophobia did leave a bad taste. For someone who openly talks about feminism and the subjugation of women on social media, and became one of the few female celebrities boldly challenging the status quo, her blatant homophobia hit below the belt. In an era where Nigerian artistes are increasingly becoming popular with international cross over status, their profiles ballooning with collaborations, their politics have been put under the microscope.
Only recently, Burna Boy’s homophobic tweets from 2011 resurfaced after Sam Smith announced that they had a collaboration with him. Yet, Burna Boy hasn’t remotely acknowledged the harm of those tweets, where he said ”faggot” but stylised differently. In Simi’s case, she has confronted her wrongdoing and apologised to the community she has offended, and while it didn’t need to take a queer person she knows nearly dying to see the humanity of queer people, her accountability is the first right step.
Importantly, she needs to affirm the existence of queer people from time to time, so that people can tangibly see that she’s changed. Working towards being an ally to the LGBTQ community, a better one at that, requires continuous unlearning and learning and listening to the voice of LGBTQ people when they speak about their oppression. We shouldn’t expect the Nigerian celebrity establishment to follow Simi’s steps because homophobia is still rampant, but we can only wish.