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What you need to know about being LGBT+

There are many misconceptions about being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender (LGBT+) in Africa. These misconceptions lead to real consequences for LGBT+ persons including discrimination, stigmatization, harassment, and violence.

These myths allow lawmakers to continue to treat LGBT+ people who are their own citizens, as criminals. LGBT+ people are treated as outsiders and prosecuted in several African countries, including Nigeria. In Nigeria, the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act prohibits public show of same-sex amorous relations, marriages or civil unions between people of same-sex and registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations.

Here are a few things you need to know about being LGBT+.

Being LGBT+ is not Un-African

A common narrative in Nigeria is that homosexuality is a western import. African History is full of both erotic and non-erotic same-sex practices, recorded by European missionaries and explorers as far back as the 16th century. Same-Sex marriages between women were and are still being practised in Eastern Nigeria for reproductive, diplomatic or economic reasons. In Northern Nigeria, the Hausa tribe's vocabulary includes "Yan Daudu" which refers to men who behave and dress like women. When a child was recognised as a Dan Daudu at an early age, he would be given female-specific toys and encouraged to express his gender openly. For centuries, yan daudu were accepted, but with the rise of religious intolerance people like this are now harassed, violated and persecuted. These are only a few examples of many recorded LGBT+ practices in pre-colonial Africa.

LGBT+ people cannot be identified by certain mannerisms, clothing or physical characteristics

There are misconceptions that there are certain characteristics that LGBT+ folks can be identified by. This usually leads to harassment, arrests and attacks towards people in our society. We are often guilty of rushing to classify men who behave effeminately or women who wear non-traditionally feminine clothing as Homosexuals or Lesbians. Fashion, personal style, behaviours, mannerisms and body types are fluid and diverse and may not always be indicators of a person’s Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. While some lesbians and bisexual women are masculine-presenting, many of them dress and express themselves in a feminine way. The same applies to gay men; while some may be feminine presenting, others are masculine-presenting.

LGBT+ people cannot be cured by psychotherapy or spiritual deliverance

Many Nigerian parents upon discovering that their children or wards are LGBT+, subject them to various harmful and traumatic practices including spiritual deliverance, therapy, corrective rape, and beatings. None of these things can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. All they will do is push the said person back into the closet, cause mental illnesses and distress and traumatize them for life.

Homosexuality is not the same as paedophilia

One of the biggest lies that has been spread about LGBT+ people is that it leads to paedophilia. The common perception that people who are LGBT+ are child molesters has no basis according to extensive research. A child is over 100 times more likely to be sexually molested by a heterosexual relative than by a homosexual (Paediatrics, 1994). The paedophile myth is very damaging to LGBT+ people especially teachers and other professionals who work with young people as it can cost them their jobs and means of livelihoods.

Child sexual abuse doesn't make a person LGBT+

Some people believe that all LGBT+ people became that way because they were molested as children or teenagers. There is no conclusive or definitive scientific study that has found causative links between sexual orientation or gender identity and childhood sexual abuse. The American Psychiatric Association noted in a 2000 fact sheet that sexual abuse does not appear to be any more prevalent among children who grow up and identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual than in children who grow up and identify as heterosexual.

 

 

Do you have more questions about being LGBT+ in Nigeria? Drop your questions below or reach out to our Moderators on our Facebook Page and we will respond.

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