Why Pride is important to Queer Nigerians

This year marks the 50th anniversary of pride month since its inception in 1970. Though pride originated in the United States, people, organizations, and brands all over the world now celebrate pride as an affirmative declaration of queerness.

Pride celebrations include outdoor events where queer people express their self-acceptance. They are marked with bright colours, music, and dance on the streets. Allies of the queer community join in these marches to show solidarity as well as families of the queer people marching. Pride has never been celebrated in Nigeria because of the criminalization of homosexual relations in the constitution. Queer people are still being targeted, blackmailed, harassed, and killed by state and non-state actors.

In the 1950s and 1960s, before Pride became a thing, queer people in the United States were denied basic human rights on the basis of their sexuality. In fact, in 1952, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-ii). This was a slight upgrade from its previous definition as a sin as declared by the church. Some therapists subjected patients to aversion therapy; where male homosexuals were shown pictures of naked men while being shocked with electricity or given drugs to induce vomit. Although this method has proven ineffective, homosexuals are still subjected to conversion therapy in the form of dehumanizing things like prayers intended for deliverance and corrective rape.

 

Pride is Born

The first pride march was a riot led by Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Stormé DeLarverie, and other queer people in the early hours of June 28th, 1969 after the police had raided a gay bar called Stonewall Inn in New York City. That was not the first time it was raided but that day there was resistance from the queer people. The riot started after an unidentified woman defended herself against the police. The riot lasted for 5 days. David Carter, author of Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked The Gay Revolution, remarked that the media coverage the Stonewall Inn riots gained, sparked the formation of more gay activism groups. Gay rights organizations like the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance were formed, which served as a spurring force to the modern-day queer rights activism.

The next year, to mark the anniversary of the riots, members of the Gay Liberation Front named June 28th, 1970, the Christopher Street Liberation Day, after the street the riots started. A colourful march took place that day. It started with a few hundred people at Stonewall Inn and ended with thousands of people at Central Park, New York. The celebrations continued throughout the week with events designed and coordinated by bisexual activist, Brenda Howard. This set the tone for pride marches around the world today. Brenda Howard, along with Robert A. Martin was also credited for naming the festivities 'Pride'. The word Pride shuns the shame society insists on queer persons. Pride month challenges the idea that queer people should be invisible. The first pride parade was a quiet march but today, parades are known for being a space where authentic queer culture is displayed at its peak.

While a physical parade may be far into the future of Nigeria, queer people take to celebrating pride month on social media. Every day, new accounts with rainbow flags in their names and pronouns in their bio emerge, joining already existing profiles in expressing confidence in their queerness. Pamela Adie, a gay rights activist and founder of Equality Hub, tweeted that she gets the feeling that younger LGBTQ people in Nigeria are getting impatient with the status quo. They are more visible. They share real stories about love and build friendships that exist within their spaces. Youth driven media houses like Zikoko and Morebranches now create queer-inclusive content for their audience. Pamela said that this energy will take us where we want to go.

E, a Nigerian lesbian describes pride in Nigeria as a reminder of the things we have been denied as a country and how far we have to go. She says pride in Nigeria is not being out but about the hope that things will be different sometime soon.

We might not be able to take to the streets like our counterparts in South Africa and other Western countries, however, our passion for change and desire for an inclusive Nigeria is all the Pride we need for now. Slowly but surely, we will get there.

 

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