by Chinelo Anyadiagwu (They/Them)
On Privilege: It would be an incredible breach of ethics to not mention that I live in the United States. I was born and raised – until secondary school – in Nigeria. I am Queer, and I plan to live in Nigeria as soon as I can afford to do so
There are a few things I could tell you, in defense of the rights of queer Nigerians to exist as we are. I could tell you that our criminalization is tied to the same oppressive regulations that deemed Africans subhuman for our blackness, for our tribes, for our spirituality. I could tell you that being Queer isn’t un-Nigerian, and that, we are older than Nigeria. I could tell you about queer Nigerian expats like me who can’t — or won’t — return home, for fear of their life, and the effects of that ‘brain drain’.
I could tell you that I am Igbo first, before I am Nigerian. What right does the Nigerian government have to legislate me? On my people’s land? On my land? What right do they have that was not given to them by the same colonial empire they now claim is “promoting” queerness?
I could tell you all these things, but, if I still needed to tell you, I don’t think it would matter. People like Matthew Blaise and other African, queer, activists have consistently published and promoted research, and education to combat these false narratives of queerness.
You aren’t listening. “You” is the person behind their screen, even now separating yourself from “queer” issues, because somehow, we’ve let ourselves be convinced that we can split our selves.
Am I not you?
When queer Nigerians are being brutalised under the shield of “legality”, when you watch from a distance — perhaps you’re even worried — do you consider that the one on the receiving end of the boot-baton could be you?
Are you convinced that’s not you?
When you form your hands into steel fists, when you make the bodies of my kin into crimson abstracts, do you recognise yourself?
Did you not learn, like me, that it is a rare and unusual feat to hurt someone and not hurt yourself. If you hear the government, or our religious institutions talk, it is the queer community that is responsible for all sorts of things, from sexual immorality to the economy. Na us cause am.
I remember boarding school. Then, we were just as concerned about our studies as we were of evading the clutches of the boys — and men — that lived, and dined and learned with us. I wonder which queer person guided their hand, thier words, their thoughts.
I’m autistic, for me that means my thoughts come in patterns. I see and understand things as they relate to other things.
Like, where does one begin to draw the lines on which form of patriarchal violence is okay? How do we separate the violence systems made and operated by men inflict on cis-het women, in attempts to control their bodies, from the violence done by the same systems against queer and trans women, and femmes, in an attempt to control their bodies?
Or, as an Igbo person, how do I separate my peoples fight to determine our paths for ourselves, and have control over our lands, from my own fight to be able to live freely on my ancestors land, regardless of draconic edicts? How do we teach men and boys to access their emotions in healthy, productive ways, while hyper-sexualising physical intimacy, in the name of “decency”?
How do I fight for supportive services for disabled Nigerians, something that is sorely needed, while ignoring the existence of the needs of other marginalised communities, many of whom are also disabled? It seems clear when you put the patterns together. Simple. The answer is in the “not you”. They teach us that there is a line that permanently separates “me” from “you” and that it is somehow possible for me to cosign your death, and not mine. And it’s true, they are right. As long as I keep making sure that “me” is not “you”, then the violence you face couldn’t happen to me right? It couldn’t possibly already be happening to me. Alternatively, some people argue that it’s the very communities that are being subjected to relentless violence that are responsible for it. The pattern here so often looks like blaming trans women for patriarchal violence, while ignoring that trans men, or other trans people exist. Much in the same way patriarchal systems blame women for the violence it perpetuates against them, while invisibilizing the experiences of the men. Some people even claim that trans identity is “Western”, the same way the government blames “The West” for pushing a colonial, queer agenda. Some of these transphobes — which is what they are — are queer. Even more so within our community, it should be apparent that our struggles are interwoven.
The world is very committed to getting us to hate each other.
There needs to be a firm line that we stand on. That you have a right to exist, and I have a right to exist. That your personhood shall not be taken away from you. Because, once they convince you that you get to decide other people’s right to be, you’re lost.
Let the hawk perch, let the eagle perch.