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Being out in homophobic Naija

2019-11-14 13:26

“It’s one thing to come out to people, but it’s another to come out to yourself,” says aspiring Nigerian film maker and LGBTIQ rights activist Pamela Adie in her documentary Under the Rainbow, which is the first to explore the experience of being a lesbian woman in Nigeria.

Born in Calabar, Adie, who is also a communications professional and executive director at an advocacy organisation for women in Nigeria, shares her journey of self-discovery as a queer woman living openly in a society that’s set in its homophobia. Adie’s doccie, which she features in, creates awareness and works to accelerate the acceptance of LGBTIQ people in the country.

We are taken through her journey of coming out to her family and to herself – something that is often a challenge for queer women in the country.

Under the Rainbow’s story, one of many that needs to be told, is centred on humanising the experiences of queer woman in Nigeria and, through this, we learn about the journey of a lesbian woman coming to terms with her sexuality in a world that has socially denied her existence.

“Life as a lesbian in Nigeria has been a mixed bag, really,” says Adie.

Adie shares her experiences, but also acknowledges her social position, which has some privileges.

“This is not to say that others haven’t experienced violence, nor is it creating the idea that the threat is not real.

“I have suffered emotional violence from mostly family. I’ve suffered rejection, lost friends, been refused jobs and suffered depression. I happen to be somewhat known in Nigeria, so when people see me at events, it’s funny that they want to take pictures with me when some of them are so vile behind the keyboard – the online vitriol is out of this world.”

In the film, Adie shares her experience of coming out to her family. Her mother immediately asked her to pack her things and leave the house.

“I was almost homeless, but then my dad said I was not going anywhere.”

For many LGBTIQ people, the coming out journey leads to displacement from many aspects of their lives. Towards the end of the film, Adie mentions how she tried to get other queer women to appear in the film. Although they wanted to share their stories, they were afraid of the backlash as few people are publicly out.

“The response in Nigeria has been rather positive,” says Adie about her documentary.

The film has so far been screened three times, but there is hope that it will be made more widely available when funding comes into the project.

The film offers a safe space for people to talk about what they are going through, says the activist.

“I believe that film has the power to change perceptions and challenge stereotypes in ways that other forms of storytelling cannot.”

Queer people are taking charge of the narratives about us and our lives, and redefining what it means to be queer in Nigeria, says Adie.

  • This series on LGBTIQ life in Africa is made possible through a partnership with The Other Foundation. To learn more about its work, visit theotherfoundation.org

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December 8 2019