I was recently interviewed for Curve Magazine’s “This Is What A Lesbian Looks Like” monthly feature. It’s taken so long to feel whole and integrated as a trans-national, multi- cultured and layered individual; Nigerian, African, queer, afrofeminist, nerdy etc. It feels awesome in so many ways, and yet, so surreal. I haven’t picked up a copy yet and I keep thinking that when I do, and I flip through the pages, I won’t be there.
Invisibility, as much as it enrages and motivates me to speak out and up for others, had become comforting it seems. Safe. But I haven’t been invisible at all, I’m realizing. I’ve simply been in denial. Perhaps as a way of dealing with my fear.
But today, I reflect on the pride I have for myself for pushing through fear and remaining visible to others who are like me (in so many different ways), in order to provide them with hope, love, and affirmation. I have mixed feelings about my face being all over the country right now (yikes), and wondering who could be reading this, my parent’s friends, my friends, old classmates, etc? It may sound funny, but it feels like I’m having my first “coming out” experience. Isn’t that crazy?
(Yeah, let’s pretend that I don’t own a blog that’s read both nationally and internationally, or that I haven’t founded an organization with regional reach… perhaps I have been for the past years.)
I shared this tearsheet on my Facebook wall and one of my Nigerian queer friends commented:
Congratulations! I want a copy of that issue. Shoot, I may show it to my own parents some day. “See mom and dad. I am not the only one, there are others!”
I’m gonna read this anytime I feel myself shrinking because this will remind me that every little bit I do counts for something.
Many heartfelt thanks to Rachel Shatto from Curve, for handling this warrior woman with care and for an article I can be proud to send to my own parents. For someone whose work has often been mishandled by journalists and photographers alike, I can’t express how appreciate I am of her writing (and sensitivity in handling this piece). You rock, Rachel. Thank you so much.
Explain what “iQWOC” means and why you chose to identify that way.
iQWOC means Immigrant/International Queer Woman of Color. Funny enough, after a few years of organizing around LGBT/women’s issues, specifically within the women of color community, I began to feel invisible at my own events. In a room full of people of color, I felt alone because I couldn’t identify any other Africans, immigrants, or people who were originally from a different country. I remembered all of a sudden that “woman of color” had been adopted by me as an identity label only after I realized I was queer. But I’d never in my life identified as a person of color until I came to the United States for school when I was 17 and people started to refer to me that way. For the years I spent in school here, I was part of the African students club, all my friends were from countries around the world… we discussed our national identities more so than our racial ones. But beyond the politics of ‘labels’, I realized that my perspective on a lot of issues was different from the larger group’s because I wasn’t American. I added the “i” to the “QWOC” label to remind others to acknowledge a fourth part to my identity.
How does your Nigerian roots inform your politics?
I recently got accepted to the Emerge Program, which trains democratic women to run for office. That’s a long way from the political apathy I’d come to feel after growing up under a corrupt military government. Also, as I’m from a different country, immigration is an issue that’s very personal, and not just from a policy/legal standpoint; I care very much about the experience of whole or fragmented families coming to a new country to create a life, while navigating issues of race, cultural and language barriers, preserving oral histories etc. My Nigerian/international background has definitely affected the way I organize QWOC+ Boston for sure. You’ll always be able to find some international or global component to our programming.
Who is Spectra? How is she different from your regular persona?
Haha. Spectra is a warrior woman, a revolutionary, who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks as long as they think at all. She’s constantly makes friends of enemies and enemies of allies because she has no affiliation with anyone but herself, and will always speak the truth. She believes that her voice is powerful, really powerful, and that we can all harness our collective power if we dare to speak up for ourselves. My regular persona on the other hand is an introverted reader of comic books who would rather live on a ranch with lots of animals. She thinks Spectra needs to relax; the revolution will be there tomorrow.
Do you have a life philosophy?
Too many. But I’m often motivated by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s famous quote, “Well-behaved women have rarely ever made history.”