To Her, With Pride
I dedicate my pride to her; the girl on the phone a few steps away from me, exclaiming. A girl for all appearances who is like every other girl, her legs dangling off a chair, a tired Nigerian speaking about her with a familiar tone of amusement. A girl who rises and squeals when she learns that she has won something in a raffle and asks to hang up so she can check her social media to confirm. A girl who affectionately refers to the girl on the other end, her girlfriend, as “my wife” before ending the call. I hope this girl wins, and I hope the world gives her as much succor, protection and joy that it can wrangle because this girl, who I may not know much about, lives in a body that is in constant danger.
This girl and her body, with the firm brown skin and beady black eyes, short locked hair and sharp cheekbones parallel to her jawline, exists within the borders of a country that has declared her to be a problem, a pesky anomaly. She lives in a country that has weaponized its hate into a legal system that carries no regard or sympathy for her kind. This girl who I have only known for a few days, works for an organization that has to keep its address a secret, only utters directions to its headquarters offline and password posts no public photos of its employees. This girl for the past few hours has been calling queer girls from all over our country to check on their mental and emotional states, asking follow up questions of compassion and learning about their progress in securing financial independence. This girl is a part of a collection of girls, in a building located in the country’s geographical and political center. She and the other girls come in everyday to advocate, and rally against all the pain that their country has decided is valid towards them. I hope she always wins, I hope she never stops finding reasons to squeal. I hope she and her wife last.
I think of the other girls, in other countries. This pride, I also think about the pastor’s child who willingly submitted herself for electroshock therapy. A girl whose father believed the gay could be treated out of her. A queer child who believed him because girls are supposed to trust and believe their fathers before trusting and believing the bigger world. This girl, who became my friend after one meeting, wears her hair shaved on two sides, and lets the rest do what it wants. This girl, who broke free, but took pain as a compensation. Now she makes art in whatever forms they manifest to her; in words, in clothes, in activities. She is a proud queer woman, but she is also a woman without a father. I hope she never loses her new family.
I dedicate my pride to these girls, and to more. To the hordes of women whose skin I have encountered, in brief bits of greetings, in passing unaware, or in more intimate forms where I learnt the kind of sounds I could elicit from another woman by pushing myself as close to her as possible. I devote the pride to all the kinship they have fostered, the help they have provided, the joy they have felt and the pain they carry. A person is conglomerate of identities and experiences, but this month, our queerness stand at the forefront, on the backs of those before us, soon to be holding up those after us. This month, we reaffirm our beliefs in the right to live, to work, to thrive and to love whom we choose despite the institutional and personal shackles.
We are Queer and We are Here.
By Ali – Program Manager, African Queer Youth Initiative (Abuja, Nigeria)