Fourteen years in prison. Societal assault. Threats from family members. Police detention. Identifying as a member of LGBT+ community in Nigeria is not something easy.
But for Victor Emmanuel, a Nigerian YouTuber and LGBTQ+ rights activist, it’s a fight to finish. The entertainer had recently taken to the National Assembly to demand repeal of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA).
He has also been using his social media pages and YouTube account to campaign against attacks on LGBT+ community in Nigeria.
In this interview with CRISPNG’s Ezinwanne Onwuka, Emmanuel, popularly known as Vicwonder, talks about motivation for his recent protest against the SSMPA law and other issues bothering the LGBTQ+ community in Nigeria..
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Victor Emmanuel (Vicwonder) and I’m a student, LGBTQ+ rights activist, YouTuber and entertainer.
How has it been for you being gay in a homophobic society?
Well, personally, being gay in a homophobic society like Nigeria has been hard. I’ve had to deal with discrimination and hurtful words and deeds from the streets, school, family, friends, etc. But I decided a while ago to keep living my truth regardless.
Recently, you protested against the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) of 2014, what exactly informed your decision?
First, the arrests of about 70 men at a birthday party in Anambra state. This is well reported. Indiscriminate arrests like this have been happening and it’s a great injustice. When these arrests take place, charges are not given rather, the police extorts and blackmail these victims. Also, I felt that law had done enough damage.
Socio economically, LGBTQ+ people are affected. We can’t get jobs especially those of us that it is visible we’re queer (masculine-presenting women and feminine-presenting men) and in cases where we do get employment, we could lose it if our sexual orientation is made public.
Again, there have been reports in the media where LGBTQ+ people have been expelled from school too.
Furthermore, families kick out their kids because they don’t understand queerness, and they won’t because the law forbids any form of education on the topic.
I saw all these happening around me and I thought it was time that law was repealed.
What were the challenges you faced during the protest?
I didn’t face many challenges, probably because it was short lived. But yeah, the weather (sun and rain). At some point some armed men approached me and asked me why I was there. But after hearing my reasons and realizing I had a right to protest as a citizen, they went their way.
Also, I went without food for 48 hours so yeah, that was challenging.
You quit the protest on the third day. Why?
Yes, some members of this community suggested we go through legislative or legal means. Rather than sacrifice myself to a government that hardly listens.
How do you think the SSMPA changed things for the LGBTQ+ community in Nigeria?
It didn’t really change much, rather it enabled more homophobia at home, schools, workplaces and the society at large for LGBTQ+ persons.
So now, homophobes can do harm and get away with it because legally, we can’t fight back.
Are you out of the closet? If yes, what was the outcome – acceptance or rejection?
Yes. Also I made a video on it
Watch and you’ll know how it went.
Why do you think the Nigerian society particularly, and the African society generally, is opposed to LGBTQ+ rights?
Religious and moral fundamentalism. Nigerians think, at the very core of it, that Queerness is unafrican. Wrong. It is colonialism that has taught us homophobia because when the white man came with their religion, that was when we began to see a lot of things as “wrong” or “immoral”.
The current United States President, Joe Biden is working tirelessly to repeal anti-gay laws, do you think the Nigerian government will succumb?
I don’t think succumb is the right word. International support is good but Nigeria needs to realize that it owes us as a part of the citizenry our rights and privileges.
That is what this fight is all about. America can have their polices, but if they pressure the Nigerian government too much, then it begins to look like they’re trying to force LGBTQ+ in Nigeria meanwhile we’ve always existed here. Most Nigerians think it’s foreign but what is actually foreign is homophobia, because it was when the white man brought us religion that we began to hate some certain things, including queerness.
Due to the homophobia, most Nigerian LGBTQ+ activists (home and abroad) advise LGBTQ+ persons living in Nigeria to find a way out of the country to a place where they can freely express themselves. Do you subscribe to that?
I understand where they’re coming from, but I personally don’t subscribe to that. I don’t run away from my problems plus we owe it to the younger generation of queer folks to create a society where even if they’re not accepted, at least they can have the dignity of basic human rights and privileges.
Are you optimistic of a Nigerian society where LGBTQ+ rights are respected and safeguarded by the constitution?
How do you think that dream can be actualised?
Demanding it together as a community. That was why I ended my hunger strike because one person alone cannot do it all
In your opinion, what are the challenges that confronts LGBTQ+ activism in the country?
Lack of allies. It’s pathetic that even the educated do not understand or appreciate basic human rights. I believe that if we have more allies, people who’s humanity is still intact, then we can move the discussion much forward.
Lack of allies or the fear of allies speaking up for LGBTQ+ rights because of the degree of homophobia in the society? To me, I think the later is the case. But let’s hear from you.
You can’t be an ally and hide. You can only be called an ally when you speak up.
As one who is already out of the closet, why do you think most people choose not to come out?
The obvious homophobia of Nigeria. Also, the Socio- economic implication of that: being ostracized, living without financial security, especially from your family, etc.
What words do you have for the LGBTQ+ community in Nigeria?
Never stop demanding for your rights.
Drop a word or two for Nigerians (leaders and the led) as it pertains to LGBTQ+ rights.
Repeal the SSMPA. It’s a barbaric law. Also, families should stop treating their queer kids as animals. The responsibility of a parent should not change because of their children’s sexual orientation. They made the choice to give birth to that child. They should live with however that child is born.
Thank you very much for your time, VicWonder
Thank you for doing this.