As a child in Sunday school, I found the story of Noah’s ark extremely fascinating (it was only as a teenager, when cynicism became cool, that the story’s implausibility started to become apparent to me). I loved animals, I loved rain, and I loved rainbows. I thought it would’ve been so cool to hang out in a giant boat with all the animals in the world, and then get rewarded with a gorgeous arc of colour in the sky as an extra-special promise from God that He would love us forever and ever.
Needless to say, as an adult woman who loves women and who hasn’t set foot inside a church in years, I’ve found other reasons to be excited by rainbows. It’s only in the last two years that the LGBTQ+ rainbow has come to hold any significance to me, but now I love it almost as much as I love the real ones that I see only too rarely nowadays.
When I first started to negotiate my visibility as a queer person in a homophobic country, rainbow flags on social media profiles felt like a welcome mat, laid out specially for people like me. "Hi!", the flags said, "you’re not alone!" I still have one on my Instagram profile because I want to send the same message to other queer Nigerians. It’s an important message; sometimes, even a life-saving one.
This is my last newsletter of Pride month 2020, and I honestly wish this month had been less heartbreaking. I’ve felt so much grief; I shared as much of it as I could with you. But I would be remiss if I didn’t also share some of the magnificent joy that this month has offered up.
I’ve felt so nourished by the range and beauty of the stories that Nigerian queer creatives made available this month. There were the anonymous stories of self-acceptance, love and pride that I’ve been privileged to gather over at the Quietly Queer project I started a few weeks ago; the truly illuminating series on queer Nigerian worlds edited by non-binary poet Logan February; the announcement of my incomparably brilliant best friend Eloghosa Osunde’s debut work of fiction, VAGABONDS!, and so much more. I’ve been weighed down by grief, yes, but I’ve also been filled to overflowing with pure enjoyment.
This week, I had a fun live conversation on Instagram, with my rainbow flag beckoning beautifully to all who would enter, about the healing journey that helped me come into my queerness. I’d never told my story in that way before. It reminded me of how much I have overcome, but also of how much love I have been blessed with.
And this is what it means – to me – not just to be alive, but to be alive while Black, while Queer, while in the midst of fashioning freedom for myself and my people. Beyond any pain we may endure, our lives are things of stunning, immense beauty. It is a privilege and a gift; a crown that demands that we straighten our backs, raise our shoulders, and bear ourselves ever forward with regal intention. From the inside of our lives, we say to ourselves and indeed the world, "Here I am, in all my glory. Here we are."
I have so many beautiful memories that would never have happened if I weren’t a queer African woman. Dancing on the beach with black queer folks from all over the world to the sound of drums; kissing a black Brazilian woman at the Stonewall Inn with approving laughter washing over us; watching in awe as a beautiful androgynous boy vogued on a strobe-lit dance floor in Lagos.
I think about how I have fallen in love over and over, and come closer to the truth of myself each time. I have held lovers’ hands on four continents, and enjoyed the privilege of loving magnificent women across oceans. My daughter has rolled her eyes at my over-enthusiastic displays of affection with my partner, climbed on top of us at 7am for group hugs, and announced to anyone who would listen, "that’s my mum’s girlfriend!"
I think about the space I have found, in which I am able to refashion family into something that is truly safe. I think about the poetry, the laughter, the midnight swims, the shady group chats, the doings and undoings. I think about all the unreal things that I and other queer folks have made real; the fact that we can look at the world and know that there is nothing in it more powerful than our imagination, nothing bigger than our love.
I think about how much I loved rainbows as a child, and how much they mean to me now. It’s a strange thing, isn’t it, that something as diaphanous as a rainbow can save a life. But it saved mine. And it has saved countless others.
Maybe that’s what the Noah story is about, then. That we can go through darkness, difficulty or pain, and come out on the other side of it. And when we do, we can be met with a beautiful promise of good, gentle, redeeming love. A rainbow. Forever.
Till next time,