People often ask when I knew I was queer. Was I born with the gay gene imprinted in me? Did I get drunk, kiss a girl and like it? Or did I allow myself to get carried away by social media? What they’re looking for is my big queer revelation story, one that helps them understand how I dare to be queer in Nigeria.
The truth is, there is none. As a young teen, I watched lesbian porn on my father’s phone and kissed my classmate when no one was looking. Then she became my girlfriend and I made out with her in the backseat of tricycles and had quiet sex in her family home. That was my reality and it didn’t occur to me that I could be different.
I had read enough Wattpad books to know that queer people existed, I just didn’t know we existed in Nigeria. I thought my ex and I were anomalies, outliers and my shoulders shrunk with the weight of this thought. So imagine my surprise when I joined Twitter and discovered a world that left my mind blown.
I wasn’t alone. There were so many of us. Queer people who were out, queer people who had faceless accounts, queer people who were writers too! My excitement went unbridled for the next couple of months and for the first time ever, I didn’t feel so lonely. That was and remains what Pride means to me.
In June 2019, I experienced and participated in my first Pride Month. By participation, I mean a cringy rainbow-coloured eye look that had everyone on my WhatsApp asking if I was a dyke too. I ignored them because I felt way too good to care and besides, the community I joined taught me to block people like that.
Pride month meant a lot to me. Until it didn’t.
I do not remember when the shift happened and when the months leading up to June made me apprehensive and sad. Maybe it was the numerous posts of different queer people who were beaten to death in Nigeria or maybe it was in October 2021 when Nigerians vehemently rejected marching with us. Yeah, I think that was it.
Like so many others, the #EndSARS protests filled me with so much hope. It made me feel like I could one day have what the Americans have. I thought that in a few short years, I would walk with people who understood, swinging flags and laughing with each other. Now I know that I was unbelievably naive.
Last month, I realised that I still resent the way everything went down. I avoided Pride month and every joke, picture and meme that came with it. I couldn’t even bring myself to write an article on it. Although I am happy for all the queer people who can confidently celebrate their sexualities, I cannot help but covet that for me.
I do not know when I will finally get my optimism back but for now, I am practising appreciation for the community queer Nigerians have built on social media. It is not a lot, but it means the world to me.