Despite the harsh reality for LGBTQ folks in Nigeria, members of the LGBTIQ+ community showed resilience by showing up to celebrate pride.
For LGBTQ folks all over the world, pride events are organized to promote the visibility, respect, and fundamental human rights of LGBTIQ+ people.
Unfortunately in Nigeria, since homosexuality is criminalized, pride isn’t something that’s always marked elaborately. However, LGBT groups and organizations usually put together a series of discreet events with a few community folks in attendance.
For LIFEE, this was the case, however, things were somewhat taken to another level with special activities to mark the event.
The pride event which was hosted on the 25th of June last year by LIFEE had about 124 LGBTIQ+ folks in attendance.
Speaking at the launch of the event, Samuel Uchenna, the Programs Director, encouraged people to freely access the services provided by the organization.
“LGBTI persons are free to embrace LIFFE as a wellness Centre, community centre, or safe space to be themselves without fear of discrimination or judgment,” He said.
LIFEE, an LGBTIQ+ -focused human rights organization caters to the various needs of LGBTIQ+ persons in Asaba and its environs.
Among the many other services rendered, the organization provides safe-shelter, legal and psychosocial support, and also offers discounted music production/recording services to members of the community through its social enterprise initiative LIFEE music Academy.
Also speaking at the event, one of the facilitators Mr. Timothy Ndur, spoke about the misconceptions that people have about homosexuality and the need to celebrate pride despite the glooming situation for LGBTIQ+ folks in the country.
“It is important for LGBTIQ+ persons to be seen as this plays an important role in changing widespread discriminatory attitudes towards LGBTIQ+ folks.
It is understood that homosexuality is still a crime in Nigeria and therefore, more work needs to be done but we do not have to wait for new laws to have a positive impact, as each of us has a role to play in creating an inclusive world, and we can start in a place where many of us spend so many hours each day such as in our workplace, homes, and business places.
Also at the event, one of the speakers Mr. Dooyum Tingir Moses (Ph.D.), a clinical psychologist addressed issues related to why LGBTIQ+ persons mostly struggle with their mental health.
He mentioned that even though it’s widely believed by many people especially in Africa that homosexuality is a mental health disorder, this wasn’t the case at all.
“Being LGBTI is absolutely not a mental illness” He said.
“Many LGBTI persons struggle with their mental health with the bisexual and transgender communities having the highest rates of mental health concerns within the LGBTI population.
There are many negative stereotypes about being LGBTI which makes many people uncomfortable letting people know this important part of their identity and when people do openly express this part of themselves, they face the potential rejection from peers, family, colleagues, and friends, leading to loneliness, depression, anxiety, and other mental health related issues.
It is quite sad to see that many LGBT youths turn to tobacco, alcohol, and drug use to cope with social stigma and stress.
Speaking further, Moses advised LGBTIQ+ folks to pay attention to their mental health.
“Members of the LGBTIQ community should normalize seeking help than turning to drug/ substance misuse” He concluded.
As part of the freebies which came with the event, LGBT persons were given packs of condoms and lubricants and encouraged to practice safe sex.
Another interesting subject addressed at the event was safety and security. As the Nigerian LGBTIQ+ community continues to remain a target of discrimination and homophobic attacks by state and non-state actors who often enjoy impunity, Samuel Obinna the programs manager, felt the need to address the issue by sharing a few safety tips.
“Use common sense. Whenever you feel unsafe, trust your instincts and act accordingly. Never be silent, scream and shout.
Always visit the wellness centre for help should you feel your safety is threatened” he said.
Another interesting activity at the event was the Diva Drag Race. This was a fashion show aimed at celebrating drag culture.
The fashion show saw four beautiful trans women Miss Pamela Brown Ihotu, Miss Amarachi, Miss Amadeus Ofure, and Ifeanyi China all competing against each other with Pamela Brown Ihotu eventually emerging the winner and receiving the six thousand naira prize money.
With the help of our supporters and funders, LIFFE hopes to host another event this year.