LGBT in Nigeria: Spotting a Rainbow in Africa
Originally Published: February 7, 2018
Revised: January 3, 2019
Today, I sat with a group of friends, most of them LGBT. We ended up discussing relationships, how to get a girl’s attention and how to know if she’s queer. I don’t know how it is outside of Africa, so I cannot say how LGBT people spot each other elsewhere. But I know a little about how it works (and doesn’t work) in Africa. I live in Nigeria, a West African nation where homophobia is widespread, so I understand the importance of a functioning gaydar. People say there’s no gaydar. I disagree. I believe there is something in every rainbow that leads us to each other. But how do you know your crush is into you?
Nine Ways to Know She’s Into You
From my experience, there are ways I determine if a Nigerian girl is gay and likes me. Here are nine tips.
- Her reaction to your approach.
There’s a difference between checking you out (because she’s interested) and sizing you up. Don’t mix them up. You see, Nigerian women often scan your entire being and assess how you’re dressed, your skin tone and make-up. Being sized up means the person is judging you. Here in Nigeria, we call that eyeing. Someone eyeing you does not mean they’re into you.
- Her reaction to body contact.
With all my girlfriends, one thing is constant: They opened up for a little body contact when we first met. Elbow touches are an almost consistent giveaway that a girl is into you. She lets you move hair from her eyes, touch her waist and brush her arms.
She could just be someone who likes to be touched and to touch. She may just be affectionate but not necessarily into you. This happened to me. My crush fell into this category. I moved in for a kiss; she was befuddled, then said she was straight. This can happen with female friendships. You become friends and get touchy. My straight friends kiss me constantly, not because of bi-curiosity but out of affection.
- Her reaction to compliments.
If she blushes and maybe looks away from you to focus on an object, and then holds your gaze, she may swing your way. She might smile and laugh if she is straight. Nigerian girls like to flirt. Goodness! If you just meet them and flirt, chances are they will flirt back and afterwards confirm that you are straight. They would likely say in Nigerian Pidgin English, “Na play shey? Abi true true, you be lesbian?” Meaning “You’re just fooling around, right? Or are you really a lesbian?” When this happens, three things are involved—she’s queer, bi-curious or homophobic. Avoid situations like this where you’re not sure if she’s homophobic.
- Do not kiss her first.
So many things could play out if you make that first move and kiss her. Queer or not, depending on her personality, she might recoil and not explain to why. If you make the first move, you out yourself and that could be embarrassing or dangerous. So my advice is not to kiss her first.
- Don’t hit on her aggressively.
You don’t want to seem desperate. Nobody wants a desperate person.
- Discuss LGBT issues with her.
If she is open-minded about LGBT matters, this is usually a queer girl’s giveaway. But she might be a straight supporter. Don’t hope too much. I would suggest topics like LGBT laws. You could also discuss books with LGBT characters.
- Make references to LGBT characters, popular movies or series.
You could talk about How to Get Away with Murder and Orange Is the New Black. I picked these shows because they have strong queer characters. You could also express interest in a same-sex character. For example, you could say, “Jamie Lannister or Khaleesi? Personally, I would rather be with Khaleesi.”
- Don’t discuss LGBT topics as a means of checking if she’s lesbian or bisexual around others.
To be queer in Africa—in Nigeria in particular—is a dangerous thing. It isn’t surprising for a queer girl to have a lot of homophobic friends. Now, if you go ahead and attempt to out her as gay, you put her in a corner. In response, she either attacks you and all things LGBT, or she admits she’s gay and then she’s in danger—the level of danger depends on how homophobic her friends are.
- Finally, if she seems to check all your LGBT boxes and your gaydar screams “She’s one of us!” just go for it and express an interest.
If you visit a country where there is no support for same-sex relationships, don’t tell every hottie you think might swing your way that you are queer. It will land you in what we in Nigeria call “wahala” (trouble).
For LGBT people in places like Nigeria, it’s not all bad. There are places you can meet queer people and be yourself without any fear. There are book clubs, restaurants and clubs where you can go and have fun without worry.
To end homophobia, LGBT people and their allies across the world have to support African LGBT people! The more attention that the international community gives to the safety and rights of LGBT people in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, the more freedom begins to look like a reality for LGBT young people here.
* Kayefi Osha is a pseudonym for a contributor who lives in Nigeria. It means mysterious deity.
Photo credit: Autumn Goodman
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