“I don’t have a problem with gay people, just don’t bring that thing near me.”
This is a go-to comeback in many a social media exchange with people who “don’t agree with” what they often and very erroneously tag ‘a lifestyle,’ when what they mean is an essential part of the humanity of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and other gender and sexual minorities (LGBT+.)
This often follows on the heel of spirited back and forth that strips their arguments against it to what it is at its core; bigotry rooted in indoctrination by whatever brand of religion they hold dear. It is easy to strip that to the personal problem that it is, to show them that they alone are beholden to their religious morality and imposing that on others is so far from being Christ-like as it is almost of the devil.
The comeback, a flailing attempt to hold on to bigotry which existing data easily reduces to nothing, will be funny if it is not sad.
Last year alone, over 500 perceived LGBT+ people were violated by state and non-state actors, up from 397 in 2019. The violations, recorded in 24 States in Nigeria, ranged from blackmail & extortion, arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention, rape and sexual assault, torture, to mob violence. Each case, unique in its nature, has one thing in common, the perpetrators either sought out or stumbled upon the victims.
Far from ‘bringing it to’ homophobic people, LGBT+ people are sought out by individuals who feel emboldened by the prevailing attitude of disdain for the LGBT+ in Nigeria, whereupon they commit crimes against them certain that were they to seek justice, state actors will step in and double down.
There is a term for some of the ways this seeking out happens. One is Kito – where a person pretends to be gay/lesbian on social media and dating apps meant for the LGBT+ and establish rapport with unsuspecting queer people so that once trust is established and they meet, they then violate them in any number of ways as noted above.
Another is queerbaiting. This term in the context of pop culture means another thing entirely, see here. For the LGBT+, particularly those in Nigeria who have found community and expression online, it brings to mind heterosexual men. Some of these are adult content creators who create a whole image online that is enticing to gay men, and will in their personal lives organise the violation of these queer men on whom they largely depend for audience.
While the LGBT+, like all human groups, are not monolithic and can’t all be said to understand boundaries where they are clearly defined, time and again; it’s established that the violation of queer people doesn’t happen because they sought danger by being reckless in a country determined to kill them. The violation of queer people often happens simply because they exist, and in some cases, because they choose to live that existence by seeking human affection the same as any human being is wont to.
It is not enough to say, “I don’t have a problem with gay people,” – because no one should have a problem, to begin with, homophobia has many iterations and one of them is, “don’t bring that thing near me.”
‘That thing’ is part of the wholeness of the LGBT+.
Much in the way a heterosexual person can’t shelve their heterosexuality at home, like an overworn fur coat, the LGBT+ can’t shelve their queerness at home. Add to that, the relentless persecution of the LGBT+, for traits often wrongly perceived as queer which ends up sometimes endangering even heterosexual persons, and what you have is a less than human existence made no better by remarks like that.
The world will be so much better if we don’t needlessly exclude ‘other’ human beings whose existence we don’t fully understand.