HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA ON THE NIGERIAN RADIO

HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA ON THE NIGERIAN RADIO

Quite often these days, I have been listening to Nigerian radio online. Never mind the popcorn music and hyperbolic ads; I reckon that I would be rich by now if I got a pound for every time a radio presenter projects homophobia or transphobia. Fresh in mind is the time a man called one of those single-and-married shows to ask for advice; his wife was having suspicions that his relative living with them was gay or bisexual, and she was worried that their 12-year-old son might get raped and hence become a homosexual.

The problem was, the man didn’t know what to do about his relative. He was always at work and couldn’t confirm his wife’s suspicions. There was a counselor on the show and she advised him to send his relative away, her tone sharpened with poison as she doled out her ‘advice’. Swift, blunt, homophobic, even the radio presenter joined in to echo her bigotry.

However, conflating homosexuality with pedophilia wasn’t what the riled me; it was the fact that this relative in question had done nothing wrong. It wasn’t a case of child grooming, nor was there any incident of molestation. Just suspicions, fuelled by paranoia and prejudice.

Not long after that, I heard a male presenter, while casually reporting a story on a different station, refer to the “T” in the LGBT acronym as “tranny” instead of transgender. This usage is thanks to the adult film industry that has helped to popularize that slur by fetishizing trans bodies. The usage of “tranny” by a non-trans person isn’t only offensive, but dehumanizing. By focusing on their genitals and nothing more, it erases their humanity and excludes them from cis spaces.

The Nigerian society operates with a patriarchal framework that imposes compulsory heterosexuality on men, so before a male presenter says something “homosexual” on air, he introduces the homophobic “no homo” phrase to reassure his listeners that he is straight. Pervasive homophobia in Nigeria has robbed men of the chance to sustain or enjoy the slightest hetero-masculine contact, let alone express themselves emotionally. The female presenters aren’t left out. They can be as homophobic as their male counterparts. Last year, I heard one mockingly saying a prayer for Graham Norton—that he find a partner to “warm” his bed given that he is currently living as a single gay man. This ignorant idea parrots the false, sexualized narrative about gay men and their incapacity to have meaningful, emotionally-driven relationships. Hook-up culture is common with straight people, and believing that gay people are hard-wired to always crave sex is heterosexist.

There are those radio presenters who haven’t stopped using the Caitlyn Jenner reference whenever they make transphobic jokes. They think it’s funny. They ridicule trans-ness and trans experiences from a position of cisgender privilege. They know nothing about gender. It’s worth mentioning that gender isn’t inherently fixed and to identify as a man or a woman comes from a deep sense of self. It’s called gender identity. In binary terms, some people feel like the opposite gender; and while some medically transition to effect the changes they want, others don’t. On the other hand, non-binary people don’t conform to the binary concept because it’s restrictive.

Since LGBT people are now second-class citizens owing to the anti-gay law in Nigeria, it gives anyone the license to freely express his/her bigotry through the influence of radio. Someone calls a current affairs show and before they say their views, they are cautioned against saying anything inflammatory or inciting—and that’s where it ends. This policing isn’t extended to anyone who could potentially propagate hate or prejudice towards LGBT people because, after all, homophobia and transphobia are the norms and should always be upheld.

In March, two male presenters hosting a Christian-oriented show asked their listeners to call in and share their experiences on same-sex tendencies and how it has affected their relationships. It was, indeed, interesting to hear different stories on such a hot-button issue but, after a while, it all sounded contrived and predictable. The presenters acted like priests in a confession booth as callers narrated how they first came in “contact” with homosexuality or lesbianism, how they overcame it through the power of God and how prevalent it was in same-sex boarding schools. They regurgitated the usual myths and half-truths to justify their disdain for same sex tendencies. At the end of the show, it was agreed that gay people shouldn’t be judged but they needed help—prayers, counseling, some kind of intervention.

Apart from using religion to perpetuate homophobia, this toxic message can be damaging to the mental health of LGBT people struggling with their sexuality. There is also the possibility of risky sexual behaviour, internalized homophobia, substance abuse, low self-esteem, self-harm, etc. In progressive countries where LGBT rights are taken seriously, a radio presenter who uses a homophobic or transphobic slur is suspended or sacked, and the radio station may be asked to pay a fine by a regulatory body. That homophobia and transphobia have polluted the airwaves is just a microcosm of the Nigerian society itself. It’s hard for people to conceptualize gender as a never-ending spectrum because it challenges what they have been conditioned to know, and LGBT people are seen as deviants and will never achieve equality—at least that’s what the average Nigerian radio presenter thinks.

Written by Bernard Dayo

Bernard Dayo is a speculative fiction writer and he is currently writing his second unpublished novel. You can follow him @BernardDayo

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22 Comments

  1. sensei
    May 24, 07:47 Reply

    So much ignorance in Nigeria. Werrin we go do?

    • pete
      May 24, 08:57 Reply

      Sensitise. Not everyone will listen/understand/empathise but it’s a step

    • Max 10
      May 24, 13:02 Reply

      We can start by learning how to maintain strong and meaningful relationships that’ll stand the test of time instead of running off to pick a maiden once you suddenly realize the person you’re dating doesn’t have an ovary to bake children for your societal/selfish needs.

      *insert long hiss here..* ???

      • Pink Panther
        May 24, 13:37 Reply

        No. Actually we can start by coming out of our individual closets and not do damage control once our closets are threatened. What’s the point of meaningful same sex relationships when family doesn’t know your friend is really your boyfriend?

      • Khaleesi
        May 24, 14:08 Reply

        LMAO …. Maxine!!! bitter this sweet morning aren’t we?? Calm down gurl …

  2. Lorde
    May 24, 09:04 Reply

    “How they overcame it through the ‘Power of God’ “…… bitch please….if u wanted to do it, you’d do it.

  3. BeeJay
    May 24, 09:27 Reply

    Hallelujah! Bless you child. You’ve just scratched an itch right there. It baffles me how we came to become so arrogantly ignorant. The first mention of anything LGBT n the average Nigerian thinks demonic-possession n devil-infestation, getting ready to sprinkle holy water n arrange deliverance sessions! This brings to mind the Nollywood movie I once saw: Men in love. I had hoped, beyond hope that they would do justice to what being gay was really about, yet to my dismay they made a spectacular mess of the reality; ergo promoting every stereotype in the book. We fear what we cannot understand after all, so maybe a little understanding would go a long way in curing our ignorance. *smh*

  4. Delle
    May 24, 09:42 Reply

    Nicely written, Bernard.
    Recently, it seems the Radio Association of the World convened to fight against the LGBT community.
    The radio is a powerful tool. Spreading homophobia via that means is just despicable. God help this country.

  5. Khaleesi
    May 24, 10:17 Reply

    thanks Bernard, but this is what anyone who lives in Nigeria has always known, Nigerians are unrepentantly homophobic and many would rather eat the contents of a public toilet than embrace or accept that gays ought to be treated equally and decently … #IveGivenUp

    • Max 10
      May 24, 13:05 Reply

      Touché… They’d kiss and sleep with a snake on the bed first before they’ll accept that gay people are actually normal.

      • Pink Panther
        May 24, 13:41 Reply

        When the story of physical abuse in gay relationships was published on MMS, it triggered a lot of conversations on Facebook. The one that amused me most was the facebook update an antigay acquaintance of mine made where he basically expressed his astonishment that gay people not only have relationships but also suffer the same ills hetero people go through in their relationships.
        That story was quite the education for him.

  6. Kamal
    May 24, 10:34 Reply

    But wait! What do u expect an Imam/Pastor or an average Nigerian that knows lil’ or no’in about human biology/ anatomy to say? I wouldn’t expect anything less… We need doctors and professional counsellors for proper orientation of these misconceptions. That’ll go a long way me think.

    • Delle
      May 24, 11:00 Reply

      And you think all Nigerian doctors and ‘professional counsellors’ would do just that? Many of them bagged degrees in the Havard School of Homophobia, just so you know.

  7. Kamal
    May 24, 11:31 Reply

    Touché! ‘HSH’? lol. I just thought since they understood better, they could do better. If no then shame on them.

    • Alves
      May 24, 12:50 Reply

      Most don’t know. In my school, a psychiatry professor taught us that being gay is a mental disorder. So, don’t expect help from that place, unless a new generation of doctors come up. Even then, I’m doubtful.

  8. Tommen
    May 24, 12:44 Reply

    lol, they overcame by the power of God, the blood of the lamb n d testimony…

    kettles calling port Black..

  9. Duke
    May 24, 15:52 Reply

    “The presenters acted like priests in a confession booth as callers narrated how they first came in “contact” with homosexuality or lesbianism, how they overcame it through the power of God and how prevalent it was in same-sex boarding schools” This part made me mad for some reason. Really mad.

  10. Andy BlueHeart
    May 25, 00:10 Reply

    Hello Pinkpanther, I’d like to contact you via email.. Can I get your email address? Thank you.

  11. Really lovely article, but wrong crowd. We are the choir. We know these things. I don’t think any Nigerian gay person would be shocked by anything written in this article. What it lacks are solutions to the problem. No one is going to fine a radio presenter for being homophobic in this country. The other day someone famous was called a womaniser on the radio, and despite the fact that he’s married, the radio presenter said “before nko, na man e go chase?” Like somehow it is ok to be an adulterous man, but not a gay man. It’s disturbing, but we know.

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