Nathaniel said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
This is a passage from the Holy Bible, John 1:46. It portrays how Nazareth, a minority community and the hometown of Jesus, was looked down on during the time of Jesus. No one believed anything good could come out of Nazareth. The Biblical Nazareth can be likened to the LGBT community in Nigeria; and one of the myths that LGBT persons amount to no good, are unsuccessful or cannot make any positive impact in their communities because they are possessed by demons or commit sin.
In line with the 2018 International Women’s Day, this article will profile Lesbian, Bisexual or Queer (LBQ) Nigerian women who have made impacts in their communities.
The International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8, to commemorate the movement for women’s rights. According to the United Nations, the IWD is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Gutierrez said, “Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.”
The 2018 theme, “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives,” has been inspired by the unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice. This led to the global hash tag #PressforProgress to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.
This article celebrates LBQ Nigerian women as well as the ones who support them, who are successful, have raised their voices, stood up for their communities and who continuously #PressforProgress in the fight for justice and equality. They are answers to the question and testament to the fact that indeed, something good can come out of the LGBT community (Nazareth) in Nigeria.
One of such women is Unoma Azuah. Azuah teaches writing at the Illinois Institute of Art, Chicago. A writer and poet, her body of research work focuses on LGBT rights in Nigeria.
Through her publications, she has been at the forefront of LGBT activism, using poetry as a tool for advocacy and to amplify the silenced voices of the queer community in Nigeria. Navigating through the difficulties of securing a Nigerian publishing house for queer-themed literature, her books, “Blessed Body: The Secret Lives of LGBT Nigerians” and “Mounting the Moon: Queer Nigerian Poems” have given visibility to LGBT Nigerians who are tired of leading their lives behind the shadows. Despite numerous death threats and stigmatisation, Azuah remains undeterred in her quest for justice, equality and diversity. In a recent interview which she granted, she said, “I will keep fighting for LGBTQI rights till I draw my last breath.” May you live to see this ‘Promised Land,’ Azuah.
Out and outspoken, Pamela Adie has never relented in speaking out and advocating for LBQ women in Nigeria. A seasoned media professional and campaigner, Adie devotes her talents to ensure that equal rights for the marginalised LGBT community and women are advocated for.
Her passion for advocacy was fuelled as a result of her dislike for injustice especially against vulnerable people. Through personal stories of her struggles with her sexuality and self-acceptance, the former Senior Campaigns Manager for All Out empowers queer women and gives them hope. She is inspired by the desire to create positive narratives on sex, sexuality, women and the law. The fight for equality is a cause that is personal to her. To this end, she founded The Equality Hub, to give visibility, advocacy and empowerment to the female sexual minorities in Nigeria that have been ignored over the years. One quote that keeps her going is from one of her heroes, US Congressman, John Lewis, “If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just; you have to speak up, speak out and find a way to get in trouble, good trouble, and necessary trouble.” Thank you for speaking up, Adie.
Based in the United States, Nigerian-American Nneka Onuorah is a television producer and director. Also a LGBT activist, she has channeled her talents and skills in the media to advocate for the LGBT community, drawing attention to the many plights, challenges and stereotyping of the lesbian community.
Quite expressive and vocal about the way she is seen and addressed by people, her debut documentary titled, The Same Difference focused on the Black Church and LGBT community. It also expressed the discriminations and stereotypes lesbian women must fight against even within the lesbian communities. In an interview which she granted, she said her aim of shooting the film was to “break down the policing of stereotypes and gender roles in the community, to uplift my sisters and to encourage them to be who they are and less of what others want them to be.” Hopefully, Nneka’s activism will be more inclusive of the LGBT community in Nigeria in subsequent productions. But kudos to her; a fight for equality anywhere is a global fight.
On this day, we will not forget to say another big thank you to the Creative Director of Hear Word and Founder of iOpenEye Productions, Ifeoma Fafunwa.
Fafunwa is a doyenne in the Nigerian art and theatre space; and through her production company, she constantly advocates for women and gender equality in order to impact societal change. Recently, she became an ally and supporter the LGBT community in Nigeria when she made a groundbreaking presentation at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, as part of the 2017-2018 Fellows’ Presentation Series. Her presentation was titled: “Who would choose to be LGBT and Nigerian?” She explored solutions to the homophobic environment in today’s Nigeria, contrary to the Nigeria she grew up in many years ago. In her own words, she answered, “I will choose to be LGBT and Nigerian.” Fafunwa did not come out to say she is LGBT, but her support for the community is worth emulating, especially by her colleagues in the media and entertainment industry.
Women who stand up for equality, justice, diversity and for the world deserve to be celebrated every day. Whether straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer, we cannot have an inclusive society without these women. This article celebrates the strong women who have stood for the Nigerian LGBT community, both visibly and unseen; the ones at the warfront and the ones who work effortlessly on the background too. May we know them; may we be them and may we raise them.
Happy International Women’s Day!
Peter Okeugo is a Nigerian journalist, former delegate to the Youth Assembly at The United Nations, New York and UNESCO/MAB Youth Forum, Italy. He is a 2018 Media Justice Fellow of the Bisi Alimi Foundation.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this Op-Ed by the Writer are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Rustin Times.