Some days ago on Twitter, the writer of the KD column, Dear Straight People, took on an issue that I myself feel strongly about.
This tendency to shush out gay Nigerians from being so out, using the tired old sentiment about how unsafe the country is. And this often comes from both LGBT allies and LGBT Nigerians themselves.
This concern is sweet and sometimes well-meaning. But oftentimes, it is downright annoying and patronizing, especially when it comes from within the community. In the four-odd years I’ve been helming Kito Diaries, this process has helped me come to bolder terms with who I am and I have taken to being very vocal in my advocacy, especially on the social media.
And for every tweet or Facebook post or Instagram update I make, there is always that person who will tiptoe his way into my inbox to admonish me for being “too loud” or being “too out there”, advising on how I should “tone it down”. Someone actually threatened to unfriend me because he didn’t feel comfortable associating himself online with someone whose posts his friends and family could see via our mutual online friendship.
This is exasperating for two reasons:
One: The homophobia in Nigeria does not respect how out or closeted you are. As long as you are gay and actively indulge in the predilections that characterize your homosexuality, you are a target. A closeted person isn’t any safer than an out person. And you have to give room for the understanding that some people need the air to breathe that comes with being out in whatever degree. Being closeted and stifled is all well and good for some people, but for others, it is debilitating for them mentally and psychologically. Instead of admonishing out Nigerians to “tone it down”, support them. Encourage them. Speak to them words that will boost their determination to be out and proud.
Two: We all talk about wanting the freedom to love who we love. And sometimes, I wonder how we can get this freedom if we’re all just going to be safely tucked away in our closets, if we’re all just going to stay invisible. How do we make a statement about being here and queer when we choose to muffle our voices with the confinements of our closets? How do people know we exist when they don’t see us?
Not everybody can be out. But please, when you see someone flexing his rainbow fabulousness in full sight of the world, do not join the rest of the world to attempt to dim their colours.