9jafeminista: Did you ever feel different while growing up?
Pamela Adie: Different. That’s a word I was very afraid of while growing up. I never felt different per se. In my head I believed I was “normal” like everyone else. Growing up was enjoyable. I was allowed to be a kid and I was a kid. I played outside a lot, ate a lot of food, played with my siblings, had lots of toys, a loving family, hated school (LOL) and loved riding bicycles and crashing toy cars… So, my growing up years were lots of fun.
9jafeminista: Why were you afraid of that word? Different that is…
Pamela Adie: I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be like every other girl. Society indirectly prescribes ways in which females should behave and as children we never question that. We just do as we see and as we are told. So, to be different was scary. I mean, who will be friends with the girl who is different? Since I wanted lots of friends, different was scary.
9jafeminista: Would you say you’re still afraid of being seen as different now?
Pamela Adie: No, I’m over that now. Sometimes I think I am different personified. Everything about my appearance screams different. For starters I have Locs and that sets me apart already because many Nigerian women have long weaves or braids. Very few of us carry locs. Right now, I enjoy the fact that I walk into a room and everyone can see that I’m different. I stand out. It’s a lovely feeling! Sometimes, poeple see different as bad. Different is not neccessarily bad – it’s just different, and that can be a good thing.
9jafeminista: Would you say this feeling of being different has influenced your career choice/path?
Pamela Adie: Not so much my career choice, but certainly influenced my passion – advocating for equals right for the LGBT community and women. These two groups that are very marginalized, but my LGBT brothers and sisters are often discriminated against because they are different. This is a great injustice. Treating people differently because they are different is very dangerous and that fuels my passion.
9jafeminista: As a Nigerian and a queer woman what do you think of the narratives around sex and women in our part of the world?
Pamela Adie: Africans in general, and most particularly women, are taught not to talk about sex, not to be sexual or express our sexual desires. This is a taboo topic ingrained in our minds, right from when we’re children. I believe suppressing sexual desires or not talking about sex is harmful to everyone, and women in particular. Some women go through life having never experienced an orgasm because they cannot tell their partners what pleases them or where they would like to be touched. As a queer woman, it is more difficult to talk about sex.
It’s already considered a taboo to be queer, and sexual orientation is generally a sensitive topic. However, we find that narratives around sexual orientation are mostly portrayed in a negative light. I have always believed that if I do not like the story, I can change the narrative by contributing to it.
9jafeminista: In what ways are you doing contributing to these conversations?
Pamela Adie: Well, I recently started a blog, www.dizzlesbay.blogspot.com, where I tell personal stories about my struggle with my sexuality and how I got to the point of self-acceptance. I feel it is important for queer people in Nigeria to hear these stories because it gives hope. Most importantly, people need to know that they are not alone. I share my stories with the hope that others will be inspired to do the same. Together, we can create positive narratives around sex, sexuality, and women.
It is also important to expose the negative effects of homophobia and draw attention to how it affects everyone, not just queer women.
9jafeminista: What do you think of the impact feminism has had in Nigeria? Would you say we’ve made a lot of headway just are things still the same?
Pamela Adie: I believe even an inch progress is progress nonetheless. For starters, we are at point where we can have a discussion about feminism. That in itself is a positive thing and the conversation should be continued. I have had interactions with many people and when the issue of feminism came up I discovered that a lot are ignorant about what feminism is about. A lot of people think that feminism is only supported by lesbians or women who can’t find husbands and what not. I try to bring them to the point where they understand that feminism is about men and women having equal access to economic, social opportunities. Then I see the ignorance begin to fade. So, while significant progress has been made in changing attitudes, I think a lot of work still needs to be done in education and enlightenment to bring about the change we desire.
9jafeminista: How did it feel acknowledging your preference for women and then having to come out to members of your family?
Pamela Adie: When referring to my sexuality, I don’t like the word “preference” because it seems to suggest there is a choice. But my sexual orientation is not a choice I made. That is just how I am. So, acknowledging my sexual orientation to myself was a very interesting experience, and you can read all about it on my blog. More than anything, I felt FREE! Many people do not realize that for queer people, we first have to come out to ourselves before we come out to anyone else. That process is empowering. I also describe how I came out to my family on my blog, but I can tell you that it was scary and unpredictable. I did not know what to expect. But it was very rewarding because it opened my eyes to things I did not know existed in my family.
9jafeminista: Thanks so much Pamela for taking us into your world. One final question, what are your sentiments about the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act(SSMPA) passed last year by former president Goodluck Jonathan?
Pamela Adie: The SSMPA is a discriminatory law, and serves no purpose whatsoever. It is the kind of law that discriminates against people simply because they are different, not because they harm anyone. Furthermore, it infringes on the rights of all Nigerians, not just LGBT Nigerians. It is a harmful law and it should be repealed.