In April, a viral video was trending on Nigerian Twitter.
A naked man was walking down the street. Behind him were men hurling insults at him. It is unclear from the video how he got in contact with them or how they found him. One of them said, “You go die today,” as they followed the man as he walked through the muddy streets.
This is the reality of many people not just in Nigeria but in many parts of Africa.
Homophobia affects everyone. From the privileged who have to deal with business associates and family members who ask LGBT people to be gay in private and not ‘rub it in our faces’ to the those without privilege who get to experience the horror the man in the video faced that fateful day. There are stories of blackmail and extortions of members of the LGBT community plus arrests in countries where being gay is illegal. Many women are raped in the hopes that their sexuality can be corrected and if these women are trans, chances are they will be killed afterwards.
The horrors of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are everywhere and LGBT people are looking for ways to survive despite the odds against them. This is why the theme for the 2019 observance of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia — Justice and Protection for All — is very important.
For years, people have expected LGBT people, especially the ones in Nigeria, to be diplomatic in the ways they do advocacy. A common narrative on Twitter is those that claim that LGBT people have become bullies to people who don’t exactly ‘agree with their views.’ I mean, everyone will not agree with how you live your life, right?
We live in a society where LGBT people cannot seem to catch a break. Members of the community are one person away from being beaten in the streets and possibly killed. It is terribly unfair to police how people who are fighting for their lives, respond to homophobia/biphobia/transphobia or signs of it when it hits them in the face. Don’t get me wrong – I am not saying there is no place for healthy conversations. However, I am stating that resistance is needed to achieve the justice and protection that we desire.
Around the world, people are tired of negotiating their lives to people who might never understand what it means to be LGBT. They are looking for ways to push for legislation that will decriminalise anti-gay laws, punish people who discriminate against LGBT people and create safe spaces where people can thrive.
As we observe IDAHOT, let us remember the freedom we seek won’t be handed to us and that we have to work for it. Let us support those who are risking their lives every day on the frontlines to fight for equality. Let us also support those who are behind closed doors, engaging with policymakers to transform our legal system. Let our allies do better and ally without tone-policing the marginalised group that they claim to support. Understand your privilege and the rights you enjoy that the community doesn’t and use that to help amplify their voices instead of speaking over the community members.
In the words of James Baldwin, “Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be.”
Enjoy #IDAHOT2019 as we push for justice and protection for all.
Boye Black (a pseudonym) is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Rustin Times.