Gay Scandal: Nigerian Style

I just hosted a Nigerian gay activist on his stay in NYC recently, and it was really instructive to hear how queer politics are playing out in the country. Contrary to popular belief that the only discussion about non-normative gender or sexuality in Africa is one that results in violence. But in the public sphere of mass pop culture driven by tabloid and “reality” scandals, there  seems to be, according to my new friend, an obsession with gay identity in Nigeria at the current moment.

Case in point, Derenle Edun and Charly Boy. Edun is a Nigerian TV personality and Charly Boy is a popular musician. Tabloid Entertainment 24/7 (E247) published some scandalous photos of the two in a range of poses that apparently is a recent talk of the town. Nigerian entertainment website Under Da Rock also blogged about the article with the title

Derenle Edun gets erotic with Charly Boy for a mag!

This is currently a major story in many Nigerian newspapers based on my google search. But rumors have swirled around the two for years, and Denrele was asked by Naija flat out if he was gay:

Q: There was this rumour sometime ago that Denrele is a homosexual?
A: I think the truth is that no matter how good you are, people will want to look for a loophole somewhere and penetrate you, but when they don’t find one, they will just say something. I am not bothered about the rumour at all, because if I am gay or homosexual, I will come and say it because I don’t lie, but what the allegation has done to my person is that it has put me in trouble with some people because they started to torment me. I am a kind of person that when they call me and say you are a gay, I don’t shout at them because I am one of the people that affect people positively. I don’t care who you are, your status, age, standing in the society or your sexual preference, I have a lot of gay friends and lesbians, but I don’t mind because it is part of life and life has to be lived. When they started to peddle the rumour, the first one I heard was that I went to a gay party and some people came to me, disturbing me. You know people just make fabrications. My family was not even bothered because they know me very well. What I will say is that when I am getting married, I will invite all of you to come and be part the of occasion.

While he clearly denies being gay, he does emphatically defends people’s right to their own sexuality and identity. So people, it is important to try to find ways to help LGBT folks in Africa defend themselves against unjust laws and violence (like what’s happening in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo), but it’s important not to support certain discourses that paint Africa as forever and always socially “backward” or anti-queer.

Guest Blog: Building Me A Home: Safe Space, the Dress Code and the Politics of Visibility

Building Me A Home: Safe Space, the Dress Code and the Politics of Visibility

“When you hear me shouting!  I’m building me a home…”

by Che Gossett

When I co-founded Morehouse College’s Safe Space organization in 2002, it was in response to an act of homophobic hate violence in which another student was brutally beaten.  Safe Space hosted community forums and called for the creation of an LGBTQ center on campus.  When I graduated in 2003, Safe Space remained and now is self sustaining.  In terms of the politics of visibility this is a powerful accomplishment.  I never imagined that Safe Space would be invited to the White House (literally – George W. Bush was in office – and symbolically – homonationalism, DADT and gay marriage weren’t’ media spectacularized to the same extent) host a gay pride week or have B. Scott come to speak to all the “love muffins” at “the House.”  Yet the politics of visibility also entail the illusion of change.  While Safe Space members were vulnerable to homophobic violence, to the extent to which we identified as masculine and cisgendered men, we were also shielded from the violence directed at trans women, gender-non-conforming and femme fabulous members of our community in general.  The violence of the dress code is only the most recent manifestation of embedded transphobia.  When poet Saul Williams was asked to leave campus by security for wearing a skirt in solidarity in 2009, he dramatized the situation that genderqueer, trans and gender-non-conforming students have had to live with and leave the college to avoid.  The dress code codified an already transphobic social norm.  As a 2003 graduate of Morehouse who identifies as a gender queer and gender non-conforming femme, what does it mean that I am banned from the campus of the very same college I not only graduated from but also struggled to change?

Also in terms of the politics of visibility, what kind of sexist, criminalizing and transphobic message is the president of any university sending when outlawing gender non conforming presentation — “dresses, tops, tunics, purses, pumps, etc” – within the student body and then trivializing the needs and identities of those students as somehow invalid, inauthentic and dismissible?  President Franklin’s institution of and avid support for transphobic and bougie dress code unfortunately perpetuates a culture of trans exclusion, criminalization and discrimination.  It is this very culture of institutionalized and racialized homo and transphobia that sends the message to queer and trans people of color that they are worthless, that both fosters and ignores suicide, that reinforces criminalization of trans women of color via the prison industrial complex, that upholds discrimination against trans people of color seeking employment, or benefits.  The non-trans men of Safe Space should stand with gender-non-conforming and trans students at Morehouse, not against them.  I hope that Safe Space will challenge the dress code and fight against synchronized oppressions of homophobia, transphobia, sexism and classism, gender regulation and for gender self determination because its going to take that type of radical empowerment to actually create “safety” in our communities.

Che Gossett is a femme fabulous writer and activist.  They are currently working on a book project about black radicalism, queer and trans resistance and the politics of history, loss and struggles for collective liberation.