Coming Out and Reaching Out: Linguistic Advocacy on Queer Nigerian Twitter
A recent article by Paul Onanuga investigates the role of social media, particularly Twitter, in providing agency for queer Nigerians.
The article is part of a larger study funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Onanuga is the recipient of the Georg Forster Fellowship.
“Anti-homosexuality and anti-LGBTQ attitudes persist in Nigeria, cutting across the activities of state and non-state actors. However, away from the hostile public physical spaces, the digital world has become a refuge where Nigerian queers attempt to exist true to their self-identities, and to take charge of the narratives about their existence,” says Onanuga.
The article covers the use of digital media and the challenges of coming out as well as How the platform is used to confront homophobic cyberbullying. It also investigated how queer Twitter users are providing information for non-queer people, particularly on issues concerning their sexual orientation and “difference”.
The LGBTQIA+ community in Nigeria is also using the social media platform to speak out against politicians, government and society by calling out the role of the Nigerian government and the political classes in the deprecatory othering of queer Nigerians.
“This study forms part of a larger body of research on Nigerian male queer narratives on Twitter. The present paper is a linguistic inquiry into how Nigerian self-identified male homosexuals use language for establishing self-identity and self-assertion, and cultivate out-group advocacies on Twitter,” writes Onanuga.
“In examining how Nigerian queer males assert their agency, this study pays attention to the linguistic advocacies around the topics of “coming out” and “reaching out”.
I analyse how Nigerian queer men navigate the digital media space and engage in anti-homophobic advocacies.”
The implications, says Onanuga, are that queer Nigerian males identify and use digital platforms for expressing their sexualities as well as for purposive identity formations which manifest in both in- and out-group advocacies.
That the Nigerian queer community has appropriated digital media in liberalising and propagating support for homosexuality is further proof that these digital constructs contribute to civic engagement for marginalised and minoritised groups, while also constituting outreach to non-queers.
“What stands out is the assertion of individual and group sexual agency. This agency is negotiated from complex positions, and with knowledge that marginalised communities can only access power through resorting to resistant modes.
“Not only are more closeted Nigerian queers emboldened to accept and voice their identities online, they are also enabled to reach out to diasporic Nigerians and the larger global queer community.”
It is hoped that through sustained advocacies and resistance, the tides of marginalisation and criminalisation of queer sexualities will be replaced with acceptance and integration.
“One can thus conclude that these Twitter-based engagements and representations may contribute to and assert queer advocacies.”
The full paper can be read here.