Lesbian, Gay and Stigma

Lesbian, Gay and Stigma

Lesbian, Gay and Stigma

Some days ago, I was alerted to a story on social media about lesbianism. It involves a beauty queen from Anambra State who was allegedly filmed while having sex with her partner. The video, to quote one media outfit, has since gone “viral.” The initial reaction of the fingered woman, however, Chidinma Okeke, the 2015 winner of Miss Anambra Pageant, was to disown the tape. She attributes the video to the handiwork of her enemies bent on destroying her reputation and career. “I wish to say that the said image is certainly not mine by any stretch of the imagination. I am a highly responsible person who was brought up in a family with an impeccable reputation. I can therefore not subscribe to such act how much more engage in same,” she announced. Then, as a way to shed light on the matter, Chidinma revealed plans to host “a world press conference”, which however failed to hold allegedly because of the failure of the police to provide her the security she sought.  The beauty queen had raised concerns about her safety on her Facebook page, saying that those working to pull her down do not wish for her to go public with the matter.
“From the moment I made public this intention (to speak out) I have been under siege of threats by my blackmailers and traducers. They are seriously threatening to shoot me at the press conference if I ever open my mouth to say (the) real truth about the ugly episode…My life is under serious threat…” she said.
Her decision to reveal the “real truth” is interpreted by some to mean that there’s much more to the story than the public is already aware of.
True or not, the sex story comes at a time I was myself wondering what it truly means to be gay, lesbian, transgender or something of that sort. My state of mind derives from a workshop I am billed to attend in Cape Town this November sponsored by the Religion News Foundation and Heinrich Boll Foundation. The theme of the workshop is religion and LGBTI issues. LGBTI is the acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex, an often misunderstood group, particularly in Africa. That Chidinma is quick to dissociate herself from the club, rightly or wrongly, says something about it all. Prior to the incident, there was the case of a top female politician from Anambra State who was similarly, a few years ago, linked to lesbianism.

A video purporting to show her with her partner in bed made social media rounds. But the woman, like Chidinma, wasted no time in denouncing the tape and proclaiming her innocence. The case soon died a “natural death”, but would Chidinma’s end up the same way? It remains to be seen. However, what is obvious from both incidents and others before them is that few people, whether in Anambra or any part of Nigeria, wish to openly proclaim their sexual preference or be seen to belong to the LGBTI community. Many lesbians, gays or those in that category, ply their trade secretly and even when accidentally found out, deny complicity. Unlike in Europe or America, I don’t recall seeing gay parades in Nigeria, even before the anti-gay law came into being. Although there are those who make no pretensions about their choice, many, it seems, particularly in Africa, would rather keep their affair private, giving the impression that they do not wish to offend sensibilities. The stigma is real, both at the local and national level. In 2015, the Goodluck Jonathan administration signed into law a bill forwarded to it eight months earlier by the national assembly stipulating a 14-year jail term for anyone found guilty of homosexuality or same-sex relationship.

In a country where crucial bills, like the Petroleum Industry Bill, are routinely spurned or sabotaged, the haste with which the anti-gay bill was passed left Nigerians wondering what might have been were other serious issues plaguing the nation approached with such swiftness. While the Nigerian executive and legislature often work at cross-purposes, they easily reached an agreement on this one. And there were few opposing voices in the country. In many other African countries, there appears to be a similar consensus between the executive and legislature on matters of gay rights. One Ugandan government official, in an interview with a foreign journalist, said gay rights is not human rights. Such mindset or viewpoints, willy-nilly, influence those who live in such environments. Having been brought up in Nigeria, it is not surprising that I view lesbians and gays with some suspicion, too. Indeed, I still remember my reaction when, on a visit to Brazil in 2014, I learned about male prostitutes with breasts. The breasts, I learned, were not natural but artificially attained via plastic surgery. And to further leave no one in doubt, the men dressed like women. The mystery men paraded the streets of Sao Paolo soliciting clients the way female prostitutes openly do in Lagos or elsewhere. It was the first time in my life I would encounter such spectacle. All I had been used to seeing around, in my country, were female prostitutes strutting their stuff, and who get patronized daily, by men, rich and poor.

That one, in my mind, is normal, as it’s between a man and a woman – two opposites created by God to “multiply the world”. The other – gay, lesbian, transgender-is strange and lead to nowhere, except with the help of science and medicine, as we know is capable these days. Dwelling on the ways of homosexuals, one man had wondered almost exasperatedly whether gays really mean to bring the world to an end. He was talking about sex and reproduction and how that is naturally impossible to people of same sex. As a masters student of the University of Lagos years ago, one of my lecturers had wondered how gays “really do it.” The act seems strange to him. And to me too. But like someone once argued, contrary to what some people think, gays and lesbians deserve our sympathy as their lifestyle is not by choice but one foisted on them by nature. It’s in their nature, he said, to be attracted to their sex. So it’s not, contrary to what many of us think, a case of someone opting to dare God and provoke the man. That’s comforting, I guess. And it’s one of the questions I will be seeking answers to whenever I get to meet a true gay or lesbian. Indeed, I go to Cape Town with an open mind, hoping to make friends with as many people, including LGBTIs.

 

QUOTE:

‘Although there are those who make no pretensions about their choice, many, it seems, particularly in Africa, would rather keep their affair private, giving the impression that they do not wish to offend sensibilities. The stigma is real, both at the local and national level.’ 

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