Queer Nigerians Bravely Breaking Gender Boundaries


Queer Nigerians like Bobrisky and James Brown are breaking boundaries through bold visibility on social media (Photos: Facebook)

Historians estimate that between 3000 and 5000 people were executed during Ferdinand II of Aragon’s infamous 14th-century Spanish Inquisition. The 1692 Salem witch trials in Massachusetts, USA was just one in a series of trials that have seen people, mostly women, hanged for what was perceived as witchcraft.

Closer to home, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has estimated that roughly 21,000 people lost their lives because of political violence in Apartheid South Africa. Of course, this all pales in comparison to the massacre during Hitler’s Holocaust.

History is plagued with insecure people in powerful positions using a minority group to distract the population from their own failings and empty promises.

Sadly, the recipe has not gone out of style, and in many parts of the world, corrupt and incompetent politicians are still conveniently steering the focus towards harmless LGBTIQ+ minority groups.

Burundi’s President, Evariste Ndayishimiye, recently called for the public execution of gay people in the African country. “I think that if we find these kinds of people in Burundi, it is better to take them to a stadium and stone them,” he said.

In times of oppression, the most determined and fearless fighters, are often exactly those whom society is dead set on portraying as the weakest among us. An old man in an island prison cell, a girl keeping notes in an attic, a group of drag queens fighting back in a small inn in Lower Manhattan, New York.

Despite the LGBTIQ+ witch-hunts mounting across the African continent with ever stricter laws, arrests and prosecutions, beacons of resistance are shining brightly from the Giant of Africa: Nigeria.

Thanks to the platform provided by a digital world, Nigerian drag queens, activists, and queer and transgender personalities are grabbing the world’s attention, and among the glitter and glamour the message is clear: we are here, and we are fabulous.

James Brown

The dancer and internet personality was in 2018 arrested on charges of homosexuality, and jailed for a month before being released. The altercation with the police during this arrest went viral and turned them into an internet sensation. They have since become one of Nigeria’s most influential and sought-after social media personalities.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by James Brown Obialor (@wf_jamesbrown)

Denrele Edun

As a TV host and actor, Denrele is one of Nigeria’s most celebrated entertainers. And he’s got the awards to prove it! Denrele appeared in the 2021 documentary Legend of the Underground which looks at LGBTIQ+ discrimination in Nigeria. Through his eccentric style, he continues to push the boundaries and break gender stereotypes.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Denrele Edun (@denrele_edun)

Onyx Godwin Ogaga

Onyx Godwin Ogaga is one of Nigeria’s rising stars on the modelling, makeup, and beauty influencer scene. They made headlines after being featured in Vogue Magazine alongside Temitope The Ingenious and Michael Kohh.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Onyx Godwin Ogaga (@onyxgodwin)


An article like this would be wholly incomplete without featuring Nigeria’s trans social media superstar Bobrisky. She was the subject of massive controversy from Nigerians and Nigerian politicians, including being arrested after coming out. Despite the backlash, especially after undergoing gender affirmation surgery, Bobrisky has gone on make a name for herself on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram garnering millions of followers.

There will come a day when we no longer have to end pieces like these with “We still have a long way to go”. Today is not that day. There is indeed still a long road ahead for the world’s LGBTIQ+ community.

Bold representation, by the like of these groundbreakers, however, is one of the vehicles that will get us there.

Get the Mamba Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend