Editor’s Note: In commemoration of The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, writer, Bernard Dayo, tells an important story on queer survival and self-preservation, and how ‘Kito Alert’, an online notification mechanism, is helping the LGBTQ+ community in Nigeria navigate homophobic violence and exploitation.
Although Nigeria hasn’t repealed its anti-gay laws established in 2014, gay hook-up culture still thrives through popular apps like Grindr and Manjam. And from these sexual encounters come the risk of homophobic violence and abuse: gay men are specifically targeted, conned and preyed upon, then lured to spots where they are ambushed. Other times, violence or other ulterior motives are perpetuated after sex, with the most common being the extortion of money. The perpetrators of this kind of orchestrated, homophobic violence have access to gay hookup apps; they work individually or as a network, and it’s worth mentioning that these dangerous men are not necessarily gay.
They can’t be stopped, unfortunately, because their predatory behaviour and atrocities are enabled by a pervasively homophobic society. But with the advent of Kito Alert, an offshoot of the Nigerian queer online platform Kito Diaries, the queer community is constantly warned about their existence and operations. Kito Alert works as a notification on the Kito Diaries site and pops up on its social media accounts, with published profiles of men who seek out unsuspecting gay men to exploit. Their real photos are exposed, including their operative area and any other peculiar information that needs to be known.
The founder of Kito Diaries, who gives me his alias as Pink Panther, clarifies in an email that Kito Alert didn’t come about due to any personal experience of his. “It was part of the blog’s objective which is to educate and enlighten the members of the LGBTQ community. We aimed to tell the stories of people who have been through bad experiences of falling victims of Nigeria’s homophobia, and in addition to telling their stories, we had to also expose the faces behind some of these wicked practices.”
All of these stories are well-documented on Kito Diaries. Regular visitors of the platform, mostly queer men who enrich the comments section with banter, advice, tips, and intellectual thoughts, use the code word “Kitoed” to refer to queer victimisation and experience arising from hookups. Queer women, too, are singled out for blackmail and threatened with violence. In January, a Kito Alert was published on Osifor Adanna Christabel, a straight woman who presents herself as a lesbian for malicious purposes. “She would lure you to come visit her at her “father’s” hotel (De Cool Hotel, 8 Balogun Street, Oshodi). She would also tell you she will send her staff to come pick you up.” the notification reads.
Although Christabel’s picture wasn’t revealed, her number was published and other details about her reveal that she doesn’t operate alone. Her partners, Austin and Williams, coerce victims into stripping naked and dehumanise them further by doing videos, in which they would have to state that they are lesbians. In Nigeria, the gay hookup scene is like a landmine and it requires one to tread carefully. Lagos, the country’s most sophisticated city, is a hotbed for unscrupulous, harmful anti-gay activities, skewed towards the Mainland. Beyond Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, and Owerri are notable zones for anti-gay terror.
“The whole point of Kito Alert is preventative,” Pink Panther continues. “and the response to it has been encouraging especially on social media. When the pictures hit Twitter or Facebook, you get guys who find themselves just about to meet these devious human beings or those who’ve fallen victims volunteering more information about the exposed people or those who simply didn’t know but now are wiser with the information made available to them.”
Kito Alert has been a concerted effort, a smart, galvanising mechanism that elevates queer survival in a society set up to marginalise and harm queer bodies. In August, 2017, a queer friend of mine who I’m going to call Andrew was Kitoed in Ijegun, Lagos. Cut off from the busy roads, he was led towards an isolated area by his hook update, and, minutes later, was physically assaulted by a group of men who had materialised out of nowhere. He was dispossessed of his phone and valuables and had to make a cash transfer to them to keep his gay identity a secret.
It isn’t penalising these men for their nefarious activities, but Kito Alert is making the Nigerian queer community safer and much more aligned towards survival.
Bernard Dayo is a writer, pop culture critic, and fashion designer. His works have been published on The Afro Vibe, The Naked Convos, Happenings, YNaija, and Guardian Life. Open Tradition, his soon-to-be-launched fashion label, is an inclusive androgynous womenswear brand that challenges traditional femininity. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.