Sometime in January, I wrote to this community, asking for volunteer interviewees for the research work I was doing and was immensely touched by the feedback I got; the commitment and urgency it eschewed. Work is always urgent and life even more so, and I guess I would first like to say a big thank you to everyone whose everyday life makes work possible and urgent. Issa Shivji wrote in his book on the concept of human rights in Africa that “theory systematizes what life produces confusedly.” So, yes, thank you for living, amidst the confusion that life is, particularly as said confusion applies to being queer in Nigeria. Thank you for sharing your stories as well. As an anthropologist in training, it is only in the coming together of everyday stories such as yours that my work is possible. I want to specifically thank those who responded to the call, either directly or anonymously. You’re seen and greatly appreciated. Special thanks to Pink Panther, who is curating the very important conversations that happen on Kito Diaries.
In the spirit of bridging the gap between theory and everyday people, I thought it might be nice to share some of my reflections from the research I conducted between November 2019 and March 2020 here:
My dissertation is titled – Kito Diaries: Queering Descriptions of Queer Nigerian Youth Online. Basically, the objective was to examine how young queer Nigerians describe their experiences through the possibilities offered by new media, and what the limitations of these spaces and descriptions are; what they leave un(der)told. In order to do this, I studied Kito Diaries between November and December 2019. I had been reading KD actively for two years but between those months, I was thorough, studying and taking notes. Between January and March, the online survey was open, and I talked to people directly over emails about their experiences and what KD means to them. This combined to form my methodology for the work. In terms of theory, I was looking at youth theory, queer theory, and digital theory. (If anyone is interested in any of these theories, you may email me directly and I would be more than happy to share my insights and reading materials where needed.)
I discussed how new media is enabling new forms of interaction and how these interactions are specifically important for queer people who are discriminated against and under the threat of institutionalized violence in physical spaces in Nigeria. Using Kito Diaries, I demonstrated how young queer people resist the Nigerian state, by:
1. auto-policing. By auto-policing, I mean the ways the community uses different methods (such as Kito Alerts, Hookup security guidelines) to protect itself from the hostilities of the Nigerian space towards queer people, especially since the Nigerian Police is (Not) Your Friend, as Pinky and Bola reminded us late last year;
2. using the erotic. Here, I’m referring to all the risqué texts (you know na😊) that are published here and how these texts creatively defy the silences around queer desire in Nigeria;
3. convening as a community. Here, I talked about all the exciting ways community is formed by sharing stories that help others see that they are not alone. Many of the respondents and interviewees indicated this.
However, I also pointed to the significant limitations of queer politics in Nigeria, especially as visible on new media. In spite of the possibilities new media enable, there continues to be a divide in terms of who has access and who can actually speak in the dominant language of new media. Language is very important, like we saw on this episode of The Minority Report Nigeria, but it is important in contradictory ways. On the one hand, it is this language with which people resist power, and on the other hand, it is the same language with which power can be reinforced. So, while social media has allowed for the forming of an LGBTI community in the Nigeria, the language (not the experiences) of the LGBTI is sometimes highly Westernised, gendered and classed. These factors determine the fluency with which queer language can be used and therefore impact the way people have access to it.
I found Kito Diaries special because, unlike identity-fixing hashtags on Twitter, it allows for the description of complex experiences of different people. I think descriptions are important, more so in the Nigerian context, so that we can talk about queerness beyond one-cap-fits-all borrowed terms. So that when someone asks “Wetin be that?”, we can answer with a compilation of different stories of different people’s experiences in relatable languages (She Called Me Woman – would be an important example here).
In spite of the descriptive quality, KD also has its own limitations in my reading of it, namely:
1. That it is more heavily situated in the experiences of queer men (ladies in house, hands up) and this is not something Pink Panther controls, but somehow, as we are dealing with patriarchy, respectability politics of African feminisms (reluctance to include queer women to feminist-speak), women are less likely to speak about their experiences in this regard. Kito is also in many ways male-lingo, from what I gather about it, but it is such an important word and the question is: How can we uncover the different expressions of kito – or whatever new terms we may find – from the eyes of women (I know y’all are there)?
2. Respectability politics. This may come as a surprise since KD actually defies normative respectability politics in terms of sex and sexuality (my mind goes back to those juicy stories *winks*). But respectability is still a factor that plays out in terms of class. Class politics is implied in some of the discussions of kito perpetrators, and though it is important to expose such people, it would also be interesting to talk about the role class plays in the production of the good from the scum. Research on youth shows that young Nigerians are most prone to dangerous living – as perpetrators and victims – and queerness cannot be removed from the overall predicament of young people. So how do we talk about the full complexities of being young and how that interacts with queerness in Nigeria? Does this capacious approach help us understand the violence even when we certainly must not excuse it?
Whew! This is a lot. I wanted to avoid that. It is always extremely tough to cram months of research into a short piece, but I think it is important that these discussions come back to their origin. This is why I would be more than glad if people have things to say about the questions raised or their own questions to continue the conversation, here, directly to me, or elsewhere.
The email is still: email@example.com.
Thanks again everyone. And I’m looking forward to hearing more of your stories on and beyond KD.
Written by Sewa