Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

Feminism, Nigeria, Queer Politics


For some people relationships are paradise but for others, they could be dire warnings of frayed emotions to come. As a translesbian of African descent I am an avid “people watcher” and if I watch anyone, I watch women in particular as a lesbian and I have found that anything that happens in the straight world can happen among us too.

If you are in doubt, come along. I have a few gems to share if you can call none starters after precious jewels. I have to admit, the idea for this article came from a chat that took place at an all black women’s social group whose name I’m duty bound to withhold for legal reason. It was one of those days when the nature of the discussion took a rather saucy turn. Would you get involved in a ménage a trois? Do you know that white lesbians are so into “mixed race” women (and by the same token, mixed race women go for black ones)? Would you have a relationship with a transwoman online (one is certain to draw a lot of blanks as women often vote with the stroke of a number of keys not to mention the deafening silence if the said transwoman has a deep voice, I’m told.) However what do you do when your deep voice is precisely what attracts some woman? Personally, I’m tempted to say take the plunge. As the saying goes, there is someone for everyone. Conversely, there is someone Sapphic for every woman.

When a group I used to attend once was asked by a white facilitator if anyone would get involved in a threesome you could have heard a needle drop; it was so quiet. Immediately, people split up into for and against camps. My girl friend at the time looked at me with an expression that said, “huh, huh, huh, what are you doing in the ‘for’ camp?” But I stayed where I was silently standing my ground. To my mind, between consenting women a ménage a trois should not be a problem but surprisingly it cost me that relationship. Admittedly, a ménage a trois has a point where you have to draw a line like everything else. Would it happen if a man were involved? As far as I know, probably not. Although, I am aware that some women would without spending too much time analysing the circumstances, a lot of women I know wouldn’t on moral grounds or so I’m often told. I found myself wondering if she (my ex) would sooner join the transphobic mob of seven that I shared a ward with some four years ago as I awaited the surgeon’s scalpels duties.

Once upon a time, on a bus back from a club early in the morning she shared a silent joke with a couple of rowdy, young, black women on a night bus and I still haven’t a clue what was or wasn’t said. The question was “if you are comfortable in your skin, does it matter what anyone else thinks?”

Although, once upon a time, race was a dividing line, increasingly gender identity is fast becoming a twenty first century replacement. Take the question by a sister who tabled the question, “Do you know that white women almost always exoticised mixed raced women?” for example. While the “mix” seems to be cutting edge in the sense that the focus of admiration has one foot in two racial traditions; the mixed race woman or the mulato as some Nigeria women tend to call them were called a traitor by some in the Black community and as a spy for those on the white end of the divide. How dire is that? However, I have to admit that such problems seem to be fading fast.

And yes, having a relationship with a transwoman to certain lesbians is grounds for ex-communication from the scene. This rule isn’t always fixed. A friend assures me that for her, it is the person that matters. “The fact that someone transitions,” as far as she is concerned, “just goes to show the diversity of human beings”. As a lanky butch lesbian herself she couldn’t care what anyone thought. In a way, she represents that minority that a truly open minded. As Diva magazine attests in its gender issues (issue 147) the point is made clear that: ‘there are people on the scene who regard trans people as they do bisexuals; namely, that our existence threatens what they fought for. People are afraid of things they don’t understand, and many do not understand what it means to be transgender. Lesbians are no more accepting of things they don’t understand than straight people.’ [1]

By my friend’s admission she claims that she, “so loves the sameness of humanity and no matter how hard certain women try, we have to remember that transwomen in particular are allies not outsiders. If anything, they remind us of what life was like for the LGBTIQ in the fifties. Ostracising members of our community of African origin or anyone else for that matter is tantamount to disremembering our joint herstory. If we say we cannot have a pleasant time with a woman because of her herstory what exactly would she claim next? A lesbian that has a child is not a lesbian? Or a woman that liked men type clothes is a traitor, whatever next? Where does all this in-fighting end? Sometimes I can’t help wondering what Pride is about with such disunity in our community?” she said as she looked up at the sky that warm sunny day as we walked towards the Woman’s Pond on Hampstead Heath.

The said friend of African origin maintained that she has been in a relationship now for about twenty five years. My friend and her partner understood enough to know how to live a happy life together. They were also able to talk when the situation appeared problematic instead of tearing each others hair out.

But for my part, all I could do was open this debate up to other women. How would you respond to any or all the questions posted in this blog? Do African members of the LGBTIQ partake of any of these situations? Or are we so conservative that we cannot see beyond our own fixed ideas of what relationships are: what ought to be or not? Watch this space…

[1] Diva, Gender Issue, issues 147, pp. 30. (Check the whole article out if you get the chance to.)

Mia Nikasimo © October 2008.


1 Comment

  1. I appreciate your complexity. It gives me hope.