“The estimated population of queer people in Nigeria is larger than the total population of Lagos State and there are allegedly 22 million people in Lagos,” begins Timehin Adegbeye, moderator of the Fear of Queer panel. It is a remarkable statement as it contradicts the idea that queer people in Nigeria are a small minority. “Homophobia makes it such that people’s lived experiences are erased,” she says.
Panelist Azeenarh Mohammed responds saying that we are socialised to believe that anything that is different is wrong, resulting in self-denial and the criminalisation of what is different. When asked how queer people navigate the idea that you are only gay if you visibly claim this identity, Chitra Nagaranja answers that people may feel the need to be visible and the need to speak as a counterweight to narratives and public discourse. She also points out that the idea of being queer is not new to Nigerian society. In fact, one of the narrators in the anthology of stories She Calls Me a Woman which she co-edited mentioned how one of her great aunts married a woman in Yorubaland.
Eloghosa Osunde draws attention to the importance of not always centring the narrative on homophobic families or even romantic relationships in queer stories. “We also need to explore community and chosen family,” she says. She sees the words queer and family as ‘elastic’. “They have so much room inside them for them to be defined and redefined,” she says.
“Queerness really just means more,” says Timehin Adegbeye and this notion is re-iterated throughout the discussion. If there is one thing to take away from this thought-provoking conversation, it is the multiplicity of queerness and the need to denounce the idea that gender binaries are necessary in relationships.