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HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA ON THE NIGERIAN RADIO

Quite often these days, I have been listening to Nigerian radio online. Never mind the popcorn music and hyperbolic ads; I reckon that I would be rich by now if I got a pound for every time a radio presenter projects homophobia or transphobia. Fresh in mind is the time a man called one of those single-and-married shows to ask for advice; his wife was having suspicions that his relative living with them was gay or bisexual, and she was worried that their 12-year-old son might get raped and hence become a homosexual.

The problem was, the man didn’t know what to do about his relative. He was always at work and couldn’t confirm his wife’s suspicions. There was a counselor on the show and she advised him to send his relative away, her tone sharpened with poison as she doled out her ‘advice’. Swift, blunt, homophobic, even the radio presenter joined in to echo her bigotry.

However, conflating homosexuality with pedophilia wasn’t what the riled me; it was the fact that this relative in question had done nothing wrong. It wasn’t a case of child grooming, nor was there any incident of molestation. Just suspicions, fuelled by paranoia and prejudice.

Not long after that, I heard a male presenter, while casually reporting a story on a different station, refer to the “T” in the LGBT acronym as “tranny” instead of transgender. This usage is thanks to the adult film industry that has helped to popularize that slur by fetishizing trans bodies. The usage of “tranny” by a non-trans person isn’t only offensive, but dehumanizing. By focusing on their genitals and nothing more, it erases their humanity and excludes them from cis spaces.

The Nigerian society operates with a patriarchal framework that imposes compulsory heterosexuality on men, so before a male presenter says something “homosexual” on air, he introduces the homophobic “no homo” phrase to reassure his listeners that he is straight. Pervasive homophobia in Nigeria has robbed men of the chance to sustain or enjoy the slightest hetero-masculine contact, let alone express themselves emotionally. The female presenters aren’t left out. They can be as homophobic as their male counterparts. Last year, I heard one mockingly saying a prayer for Graham Norton—that he find a partner to “warm” his bed given that he is currently living as a single gay man. This ignorant idea parrots the false, sexualized narrative about gay men and their incapacity to have meaningful, emotionally-driven relationships. Hook-up culture is common with straight people, and believing that gay people are hard-wired to always crave sex is heterosexist.

There are those radio presenters who haven’t stopped using the Caitlyn Jenner reference whenever they make transphobic jokes. They think it’s funny. They ridicule trans-ness and trans experiences from a position of cisgender privilege. They know nothing about gender. It’s worth mentioning that gender isn’t inherently fixed and to identify as a man or a woman comes from a deep sense of self. It’s called gender identity. In binary terms, some people feel like the opposite gender; and while some medically transition to effect the changes they want, others don’t. On the other hand, non-binary people don’t conform to the binary concept because it’s restrictive.

Since LGBT people are now second-class citizens owing to the anti-gay law in Nigeria, it gives anyone the license to freely express his/her bigotry through the influence of radio. Someone calls a current affairs show and before they say their views, they are cautioned against saying anything inflammatory or inciting—and that’s where it ends. This policing isn’t extended to anyone who could potentially propagate hate or prejudice towards LGBT people because, after all, homophobia and transphobia are the norms and should always be upheld.

In March, two male presenters hosting a Christian-oriented show asked their listeners to call in and share their experiences on same-sex tendencies and how it has affected their relationships. It was, indeed, interesting to hear different stories on such a hot-button issue but, after a while, it all sounded contrived and predictable. The presenters acted like priests in a confession booth as callers narrated how they first came in “contact” with homosexuality or lesbianism, how they overcame it through the power of God and how prevalent it was in same-sex boarding schools. They regurgitated the usual myths and half-truths to justify their disdain for same sex tendencies. At the end of the show, it was agreed that gay people shouldn’t be judged but they needed help—prayers, counseling, some kind of intervention.

Apart from using religion to perpetuate homophobia, this toxic message can be damaging to the mental health of LGBT people struggling with their sexuality. There is also the possibility of risky sexual behaviour, internalized homophobia, substance abuse, low self-esteem, self-harm, etc. In progressive countries where LGBT rights are taken seriously, a radio presenter who uses a homophobic or transphobic slur is suspended or sacked, and the radio station may be asked to pay a fine by a regulatory body. That homophobia and transphobia have polluted the airwaves is just a microcosm of the Nigerian society itself. It’s hard for people to conceptualize gender as a never-ending spectrum because it challenges what they have been conditioned to know, and LGBT people are seen as deviants and will never achieve equality—at least that’s what the average Nigerian radio presenter thinks.

Written by Bernard Dayo

Bernard Dayo is a speculative fiction writer and he is currently writing his second unpublished novel. You can follow him @BernardDayo


About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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10 comments

  1. Udegbunam Chukwudi

    This piece is just annoying sha. Like what’s the reason behind not mentioning names abeg oh? Abi is this a case of dem say dem say?

    • Lol. Aswear, he shoulda mentioned the radio stations and OAPs perpetuating these transgressions.
      But trust me, if you’re a religious listener of Nigerian radio, you’d know he’s on point.

  2. It is the same half truths and misconceptions you accuse others of spewing to justify homophobia that you spew to justify homosexuality.

    Gender IS inherently defined. The minute your sexual organs are formed from the uterus, you are either a boy or a girl, you’re not an indeterminate gender.

    Until we begin to see homosexuality/transgender for what it really is, the anti gay law Will not help Nigerians. We will only chaff at its reins and be bruised till the said reins are broken and we become the lawlessness that America has become

    • What is homosexuality/transgender really that you intend for us to see? Pray tell.

    • The ending part of your comment is hilarious. The way you’re sneering down on America as a lawless country. As opposed to Nigeria that’s a citadel of lawfulness and upstanding citizenship. Lol. Hilarious, I tell you.

  3. this is thought provoking. even on radio too? I just think pple should just face the mango they are eating rather than concern themselves with another person’s own. if certain pple are struggling with their sexuality or have decided to live this way why not just let them be instead we are cracking Palmnuts with our fingers. I wonder how one man kissing another man has helped the power situation in our country.

  4. I have noticed same thing on several occasions and it’s not the best experience. I don’t think what two adults agrees to do behind close doors should be such an issue. If we start compelling people to change their sexual preference when nobody is being hurt or abused by lthe act, we would only create a greater demon. I remember sharing an opinion on one of the radio stations in Portharcourt, apparently the presenter felt it was too “pro feminist” for a man and she asked if I was gay before she addressed what i said. The worst thing is that, most of the people that says this hurtful things do not know a thing about sexuality or sexual preference.

  5. It’s like Freeze giving marital advice on the radio or how they all suddenly turn to pastors every Sunday morning. I wonder how they say the things they say with a straight face.

  6. Its just crazy how people think they are really entitled to opinions about another. The real issues are out there.

  7. Y’all taking this thing too far. I mean,live your life and mind your business. Respect people’s choice,and try to be as good as possible. TBH,the LGBT community are being too sensitive. Me sef, I did not even know “Tranny” was derogatory. Condemn less and educate more….Condemnation is coming from both sides even.

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