Nigeria is at a crossroads. Since the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act was first proposed in 2006 and especially after its passage into law in 2013, debates over sexual and gender rights have reached a level of intensity never seen before. Homophobia and transphobia have erupted in the public sphere, and threats and attacks against LGBT writers, activists, as well as anyone suspected of being “deviant,” have skyrocketed. At the same time, demands for respect and equality have also intensified, and in spite of the dangers, LGBT activist groups have sprung up almost everywhere in the country. Celebrities and community leaders are speaking up for the rights of LGBTQ citizens, bloggers are fighting misinformation and sharing news, and creative writers are increasingly tackling LGBT themes openly and sympathetically.
Homophobia and transphobia have not only tried to render the Nigerian LGBT community invisible, they have also tried to erase it physically. However, the suppression of the community will not succeed if we keep asserting our presence. In addition to organizing and lobbying, therefore, we have to write our invisibility into visibility. We have to write our own stories. As Chinua Achebe said, “until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” In the face of all the hate around us, we must celebrate the reality and beauty of our lives, which are hinged on love. Nigeria boasts Africa’s largest and most vibrant literary scene, but until now our LGBT writers have largely been silenced. It is time to begin making our voices heard.
This project is focused on highlighting the positive aspects of being a Queer Nigerian, as a gesture to remind us of who we are and to provide comfort at this most dangerous and volatile time in our history when we are being hunted and dehumanized, our bodies broken, our history denied. This book of Queer Nigerian love poems is our response. We will not be cowed. We are here. We have always been here. We are human. We love. We live. We will survive. This book is our love chant to ward off evil. This project is a ray of sunlight and positivity to brighten up the lives of people being persecuted for who and how they love.
As a start we are gathering together some of the best new LGBT-themed Nigerian poetry for publication in the first print anthology of its kind to appear anywhere in Africa. We call for poems of Nigerian queer love, queer identity, and queer struggle: poems that validate us, poems that show we exist in our fullness and in our love.
Submissions are welcome in English and/or Pidgin English on any theme relevant to LGBT life and rights in Nigeria or the Nigerian Diaspora. Poems can be in any form and any length up to a maximum of 200 lines, and authors may submit as many individual works as they wish. Please include a brief bio (max. 150 words) with each submission.
Please submit your work by September 15th, 2017 to firstname.lastname@example.org
This message is brought to you by Unoma Azuah and Michelle Omas.
Unoma Azuah, editor of the Nigerian LGBT collection of stories titled Blessed Bodies, is an LGBT activist and an award winning writer and professor of writing.
Michelle Omas is a queer Nigerian in self-imposed exile – an avid reader with a passion for poetry and queer African literature.