FROM THE FENCE TO THE ROOFTOP

FROM THE FENCE TO THE ROOFTOP

FOREWORD: It is Ally Week, and during this period, we will be reading stuff penned by Nigerian LGBTQ allies. This very first piece is written by a social media force to reckon with. Her name is Ijeoma Chinonyerem and she has something to say.

Check on it.

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There was no dramatic Paul-esque epiphany for me when it comes to LGBTQ allyship. Mine is not the story of someone who hated the community but along the way, had a Damascus experience and the scales fell from my eyes.

Rather, mine is a story of moving from indifference and passiveness to being vocally and unabashedly aware and in support of the community.

I do not think majority of Nigerians are homophobic. Yes, there are a handful of rabid homophobes here and there, but I believe a greater percentage is just passive. They don’t care. They are the “live and let live” group. The “as long as you don’t ask me out” crew. The “I won’t join in beating them but will waka pass” gang.

I see them as people in limbo and as benign as they may seem, they could swing either way. I should know, I was once there.

I justified my silence with the self-righteous belief that I after all wasn’t harming anyone. I was minding my own business. Yet I wouldn’t come out to support them because, well, I did not want to judged.

I would have arguments with homophobes and my only comeback would be “But gay people are not hurting anyone na.” Even I knew that was not much of a defence.

One day, after yet another failed debate, I decided to read about the LGBTQ community. I had no homosexual friends or pro-LGBTQ friends. I wasn’t on any social media platform either at the time. So, I had to educate myself by myself. Something had to give. I was tired of sitting on the fence. I was either all in or a staunch homophobe.

I read. I watched The Ellen Show and I read about the life of the host, Ellen DeGeneres. I soaked up as much information about the LGBTQ as I could. I ruminated on the information I got and it helped put into words what I already knew in my heart to be true.

That was 5 years ago and up till I joined Facebook 2 years back, I had never met real life members of the LGBTQ community.

But I did not need to meet any one of them to be an ally.

I do not think being a supporter of the LGBTQ community makes me a good person, just like I do not think eating okpa makes one a good person. Being in support of people to love whom they choose to love is the least we should do as humans.

As safe as fence-sitting is, it is also cowardly especially in light of where we are as Nigerians. We need more allies. We need more vocal supporters. Homophobes are more likely to listen to heterosexual people educate them on LGBTQ issues than members of the LGBTQ community themselves.

As a former fence-sitting expert, it is braver and more fulfilling to jump down and join the parade. Scream it from the top of your lungs and from the rooftops: LOVE IS LOVE!

Written by Ijeoma Chinonyerem

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4 Comments

  1. Mandy
    October 15, 08:35 Reply

    This is why I get easily exasperated when people keep saying they have to be educated for them to accept gay people. Like what are you, lazy?! You need to be spoonfed your reason to be a human being and to treat your fellow human right? Bitch, it’s the information age. There’s knowledge waiting to be gathered everywhere. Get off your ass and educate yourself.
    Thank you, Ijeoma, for taking the initiative to get off the fence. Keep up the good work. God knows we need more people like you.

  2. Mitch
    October 15, 09:34 Reply

    No be today we know say Ijeoma get sense.
    Unfortunately, a lot of Nigerians are not like her.

  3. Yazz Soltana
    October 15, 12:09 Reply

    Nice write up..
    Even though I wasn’t pro-LGBT during President Jonathan’s tenure I just thought 14 years was too much..

  4. Pankar
    October 17, 15:19 Reply

    Yazz Soltan, what di u just say? … Let’s forget what you said abt 14 years though. So, aren’t u gay?

    Then about the write up, ‘ my ally is my kind’

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