How Accurate is the Portrayal of Nigeria’s Queer Community in Sex Education?

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The latest season of Netflix’s Sex Education strays from its original location in the U.K to Nigeria as Eric Effiong (played by Scottish Rwandan actor, Ncuti Gatwa) travels to Lagos, Nigeria, for a family wedding scene. To ascertain the authenticity of the portrayal, we asked three members of the community about their perception of the show’s episode. Here is what they said:

Sam, 25

I saw myself in Eric, from discussing his partner or significant other to his grandparent using neutral pronouns like They. Another relatable scene was the Uber ride to the party where Oba had to act heterosexual when he noticed the Uber driver staring at him. That felt very familiar because it’s like my life. So, one time, my friend and I were going to a place, we were talking freely in the car until I noticed a look from the Uber driver, then my friend and I knew we had to quickly switch. The thing about having to pretend is that you get so tired of it, you just want to be true to yourself even for a moment which is what we wanted to do but we couldn’t do that because it was too risky. I mean there is a possibility that it wouldn’t have turned out bad I mean the Uber driver could have been queer himself and that would have been an opportunity for us to bond and laugh but we always have to assume the worst is going to happen to us as queer people. That is why we are always pretending, always in the dark and constantly looking over our shoulders because we are more familiar with being in trouble or meeting violence for being ourselves than meeting decency so we just have to switch. Being queer in Nigeria means you have to switch when you find yourself in a place that is not safe or a place you haven’t confirmed as a safe space. Your language changes, you just become a different person and you could see how being a different person really affected Eric, he was crying and that happens to a lot of us. We cry on our pillows, our pillows turn to Oasis in the night because we are always crying as we look at how our day went. I could also relate to how Eric felt at home once they got into the club. Funny enough not every queer person has been fortunate to get such an experience of having a safe space even if it is like a house or a picnic where the people are not going to be mean to you. I’m 25 but it took me so long to see what it means to be in a space where they aren’t trying to kill you or harm you. So yes, I can completely relate to Eric being excited about being in his space.

The part where Oba talked about not being able to relate to getting excited to get married also got to me. I was13 or 14 when I knew that I wasn’t going to be excited about getting married because I knew I was queer and every time I thought about it, it made me uncomfortable. If I want to marry, I want to feel happy about it and everyone around me should feel happy about it. I wouldn’t want a situation where people that have come for the wedding are happy and the person who is getting married is unhappy. Being at wedding ceremonies makes me sad. I rarely attend them as they remind me of something I may not have. The entire episode was all too familiar and very real I could see myself in so many of the situations.

Shirley, 21

I could relate to the part where Eric couldn’t open up about his sexuality to his family in Nigeria. Also, his mum making him hide it because she felt he would get judged. For a while now, I’ve been hiding my sexuality from my roommate, and she is homophobic, and I don’t know how it will be because I am not myself whenever I am with my partner. I feel bad because this is who I am and who I want to be, but I cannot be that because of the situation in the country. As for my roommate, we are very close, but she doesn’t know, and I asked her something like that, and her response shocked me. She said if she finds out, it’s probably going to cost her friendship with that person. Then, of course, my family. I cannot say anything to them though, my brother is aware, and he is cool with it. It is not something you can tell anyone, and they’d accept that they will see you as a wrong person or judge you. Remember when Oba had to act heterosexual because of the Uber driver and when he had to check for the police too,  that is an authentic experience. Maybe you go out with your partner, and you want to be free like every other couple, and you want to be free like every other couple, but you can’t; they could even start throwing stones at you. Like you’re not free to express yourself, and it is unfortunate. For instance, you go out and take a romantic picture with your partner, and you’re scared to post it on WhatsApp so people won’t see it or question you and when they see it. Trust me; everyone wants to avoid you. It will cost you a lot, like your freedom, when you have many homophobic people around you. So the freedom and peace of mind aren’t there because you are scared of what will happen if you try to be yourself. The part where Eric felt good when he was in the club was so accurate because when I’m with my friends who know I’m queer and friends who are queer, I feel free and alive…

Tomiwa, 32

Growing in Nigeria isn’t easy then being queer is another. I’m a transgender; my pronouns are she/her, and I can tell you I have witnessed the worst. When I first embraced who I was, I was in my final year. So, before I came out to my family about my sexuality, my mum kept asking me when I would bring a wife home. I laughed when I saw Eric’s grandma constantly asking him about his girlfriend. It brought back a lot of memories that well felt uncomfortable but cute as she had no idea. After school, I stopped staying at home because my mum said it was embarrassing to see me dressed that way, and she didn’t want her friends to see me; it hurt me, and I know how Eric felt because his mum wanted him to try and hide the fact he was gay to the family especially when he wishes he could put makeup on his face. If he had done that, imagine the kind of things his Nigerian family would have said or how they would have treated him. The series also got it right when they came to the part where Oba had to check for the police. Imagine if a police officer was there. Eric even started panicking when he got down from the car and couldn’t see Oba but saw a man standing by the road. I’m pretty sure he was scared someone was going to hurt him. How can you be scared of being yourself because people are going to want to harm you? This is the reality, sadly, in Nigeria. I will tell you about my experience. I was almost lynched because some street thugs knew about me, and they dragged me and tore some of my clothes. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed I seldom went outside. I had to start dressing like a man, and I felt so uncomfortable. I applied for my masters in 2019 and moved post covid to the U.S, and I feel more appreciated and accepted here. I am never coming back to Nigeria.

 

 

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