“Honestly, I haven’t been any where. I have not worked for a living for four years, now. “We know where it lives,” everyone says in rabid finality, so I took to listening to loud classical music. It has worked for me in the past so it was a sort of back to the grind stone, if you like,” said Orogodogoin as she took stock of the group animosity fuelled by fear that gathered around her.
The absence of Activism had cost Orogodogoin four years of unemployment while the white LGBTI activists made a living off selective activism. It was not for want of trying Orogodogoin tried. Orogodogoin applied two or three times once to work in a church run bookshop.
“The job has gone!” said the gay manager of the bookshop on Orogodogoin’s first attempt.
“Oh, it’s you again,” said the same gay manager of the same bookshop. “Thank you for coming again but we will call you.”
“Hello,” said the same gay manager to a gay man waiting to try his luck. “The job is yours. Me, employ whatever that thinks it is? It will not happen, the job is yours if you want it, just say, yes, already!”
“Yes already, then!” said the gay man and he got it just like that and Orogodogoin hadn’t even left the bookshop.
Activism was necessary. Orogodogoin knew it. Orogodogoin was not going to forget that experience in a hurry.
It was Saturday, the 25th of June 2011. Orogodogoin was attending the conference, “Cradle Nation, Exploitation and Resistance” and she had written the following:
My name is Orogodogoin and Orogodogoin is a writer and a transsexual activist. Orogodogoin felt the conference was a learning curve for me. “Cradle Nation, Exploitation and Resistance” was an invitation for reasons only the organiser, World Peace Path (Development and Justice for the world’s poor) knew.
The spread of the church venue appeared to be packed until Orogodogoin looked up and saw the seats in the “gods” were hardly taken. Orogodogoin needn’t have worried because no sooner had the first half of the conference ended because then Orogodogoin discovered that the Cradle Nation Sexualities (the striving for liberation) event was tucked away in a back room called, “the Vestry room”. Vestry indeed! The venue space turned out to be a small room but given that it was filled and spilling outside Orogodogoin wondered if a giant monitor was out there to give those that couldn’t get into the room a glimpse of what was going on inside. Apparently no such luck was at hand.
Given all this, the question was, why did Cradle Nation Sexualities have to be brushed to a side room at all? there was no time to dwell on this as the moderator, Sappho Grant, who due to time constraints opted for a “question and answer” format WHICH that meant we all had sufficient time to do the subject matter justice. Tigersclub, David, and Orogodogoin spoke about Cradle Nation Sexualities, silence, the Western world’s worldview of sexuality, the incursion of sexuality NGOs onto the Cradle Nation stage who thought they could come in and tell us about ourselves using imported labels to remap sexuality in Cradle Nation for us rather than helping us focus on our needs ourselves.
Orogodogoin had to say, in hindsight, unlike Tigersclub and Kako who preferred to steered clear of the word, activism, Orogodogoin embraced it. Kako rejected it because he had never spoken from an activism standpoint. Tigersclub, because he preferred a more “softly, softly” approach. It is not that Orogodogoin couldn’t talk without taking the standpoint Orogodogoin adopted. on the contrary, owning Orogodogoin’s subjectivities as a transwoman, a lesbian and an Cradle Nation native disenfranchised both in the West and in Cradle Nation, sanctioned Orogodogoin’s speaking out.
“Activism, of any form was not a curse,” Orogodogoin said. “Because without it different experiences from the cultural constructs would fade into obscurity. Allowing that to happen was not an option for Cradle Nation.”
It was sufficient for me to talk about Cradle Nation Sexualities without first elaborating, what transgenderism means? Orogodogoin counted the subtleties of dance forms that could take form in our daily life (whether we are transpeople or otherwise living in Cradle Nation or Cradle nation natives living elsewhere.) After all, Orogodogoin started out as an actor and dancer for part of Orogodogoin’s life. Therein, Orogodogoin explored Cradle Nation’s gender identities and sexualities claiming that, for the same reason most women have had to adopt silence in violent homes or because of their economic dependence on their husbands, “so have we in Cradle Nation as we have done in the Western world!” Conversely, Orogodogoin said, transwomen are subject to similar restrictions and in some situations even worse. To be a transsexual woman in Cradle Nation society today is life threatening. in the west which sees itself as a safe haven from homophobia and transphobia and despite legislation favouring the lgbti and irrespective of what white lgbt activists say, there are still enormous problems to overcome. Orogodogoin should know. As an Cradle Nation native, a transsexual woman and a lesbian living in the West, Orogodogoin has experienced transphobia and internalised homophobia from quarters Orogodogoin wouldn’t have expected it from. Orogodogoin now beginning to think that it is time we started talking about these hate crimes when they happen in the Western world instead of solely focusing on cradle nation and other parts of the global south.
THIS IS NOT SIMPLY because Orogodogoin is a Cradle Nation native but rather because Orogodogoin is an activist who claims to have expertise in transgender politics. In fact Orogodogoin suggested that naming names of people and organisations that fall short of their remit in conferences like this is a good starting point. Although Orogodogoin mention Bolin Coward and Mahcter Nacthell because Orogodogoin actually witnessed them abusing a black transwoman at black pride last year but Orogodogoin could have mentioned others like Max Worthash of the Gantry Centre in Woolwich, London, Eulij P. Easton of the Abo Centre in Camden, London and their transphobic acts. Was such silence healthy given the failure these activist deployed in place of the duties they were employed (or self employed) to carry out? Orogodogoin will name names. Holding such information back will not do us any good. We need a proactive approach to address Cradle Nation Sexualities and Orogodogoin contended that recasting an atmosphere of in-fighting as is happening in the West will not be an advancement of this process for change.
Transgenderism is the dance of diversity and it manifests in the following forms: gender queer, intersex, transsexuals, transgenderist, androgyny, boi, grrl, fag hags, mtf butch, butch, ftm femme, femme, bisexuals, ftm, mtf, straight and much, much more that Orogodogoin may not have mentioned here today. Indeed, a diversity of gender identities which also have and identify their own sexualities. Or, as some of our questioners asked, “why do we need labels?” “Orogodogoin is interested in the situation about the difference between Western sexualities and how Cradle Nation Sexualities are impacted on, can you address these points,” and in that lay broader issues both charted and uncharted which with time we Cradle natives for ourselves to explore and proudly embody.
Kako spoke of the sexualities of women like his mother for whom silence was a form of self-defence, domestic violence, reproduction and how they were used as control mechanism to keep women in check while the husband ran the roost as they liked almost without any checks and balances at all. He asked, “who is to say whether such women have sexualities other than those made available to them by the patriarchal world that encroached on such women and their needs sexually, economically, socially, culturally or even politically?”
Tigersclub gave examples of woman in time of war, women like Oya deified, Osun deified, Ooba deified but can one ever forget the like of Efunsetan, Amina of Zaria, Fumilayo Anikulapo Kuti and the vast throng of strong women who speak of sexualities the western world would not have a clue about let alone speak about?
Olodumare, for instance, is transgender, Sango was transgender, and so are most of the deities abound in Yoruba mythology and worshippers all over Yoruba-land at home or in the Diaspora not to mention their gender identities and or sexualities. Did the sacking of the Sankore University of Timbuktu have something to do with the rewriting of certain parts of that particular part of his/herstory of Cradle Nation Sexualities? Archaeology and palaeontology have their work cut out in future finds.
Despite a spoof video on Youtube in which an elder is asked about sexuality and or gender identity one could hardly expect a reasonable outcome. The elder without helpful guidance claimed that the LGBTIQ was aberrant to Yoruba culture. One could hardly confine Yoruba mythology to prescriptions by colonial masters of old, religious leaders and dogma nor those enshrined by their stooges in present day settings and neo-colonialism. To add, one must say, our bodies are not for sale to or for financiers from overseas or religious pundits that force their will on us merely because they do not understand our ways.
Tigersclub came out again which was a big hit. He said, “It happened on a talk show and nobody had dared attempt to do so since!”
Sappho Grant, Orogodogoin, Tigersclub and Kako whichever way we were viewed – contributors or activists, whatever way we framed our role, our sexualities and our calls for liberation, what all of us were saying was that, it is no longer enough for us to let those with ulterior motives speak for us be they NGOs from abroad or our leaders with their hands tied behind their backs by financiers calling the shots from abroad. Cradle Nation Sexualities are about Cradle natives speaking up for Cradle natives in ways that speak to us. We are rich enough linguistically, culturally, traditionally, socially and politically to decolonialise our conditioning ourselves. In this, we can find ways to be without the stricture of old colonial keeping us the way they want us rather than the ways we are.
And now returning to the beginning…
“What did they expect might happen? Did they think no one was going to be interested in Cradle Nation Sexualities?” Orogodogoin thought looking at the small space allotted. We had just seen and heard the key speaker and editor in chief of Buka Press, Daniel Aran dealing World Peace Path a blow. His fellow panelists rallied to the same tunes. Chika Agbabiaka asked for a volunteer who would write what the audience thought when, “Cradle,” was mentioned and had everyone contributing. Then came another point of contention, “identity grab was new colonialism.” What seemed to be the issue? Well, the word, DEVELOPMENT, as found in grabbing our identity for development (theirs, not ours) given what it now represented was an affront to the poor they purported to bring justice to. For Ijimare I. Iginju, a deeply academic foray into the foibles of development, which was shown to be a throw back from the immediate aftermath of colonialism now conveniently masquerading as progress. The question was how did that equate justice? A further call was sent out to the elusive NGOs and their modus operandi, the same developed nations of the north prescribing to the strategic south about how best to “develop the Cradle Nation” where “helping us to improve ourselves” would have been a good start and then their was the issue of the “global recapitalisation of finance” and the adverse impacts that was having on Cradle Nation. Finally, a high point of sorts came from Aran retort to us all that we are all Cradle Nation natives.
When Awero Guardian, the moderator of the main event and a member of world Peace Path (Development and Justice for the World’s poor) attempted to excuse herself.
“What, I’m not from that part of the world” she said with an alarmed look on her smiling face.
Orogodogoin was reminded how even Orogodogoin was a Cradle Nation native in spite of her attempts to suggest otherwise. An example of her compromised country, Israel, was mentioned. Even Awero found that funny.
“People with a common heritage at each other’s throats, what would you call that? Apart from that we are all human beings irrespective of political borders,” said Aran in what must have felt like a passing shot.
With all the calls for changes in the way the West approaches the global south can it really be inclusive to hide Cradle Nation Sexualities and gender identities in the backrooms of resistance? Can it be healthy to mention homophobia and remain silent when transphobia is still extremely rampant? Sexuality and gender identity are part of human life and it ought to be heard as such in the main halls of debate where all the other issues of contention are wrestled with and with as sizable an audience to boot.
Orogodogoin wondered at the long faces afterwards. Why does the truth upset people so? Is this why nobody on the panel embraced activism? Would we be doing ourselves any favours without it? Where would every marginalised section of society be without activism?
Why is Orogodogoin called Orogodogoin? Phenomenology is not something alien in diverse cultures. Rather it is like an evolutionary sigh. Orogodogoin is an evolutionary sigh. No final note, no giving thanks just those receding glimpses of the long face that couldn’t easily let go of their rank prejudice. Orogodogoin wondered what they would have made of mtf butch had she mentioned that this is how she identified… Long, glum faces and then it dawned on Orogodogoin: the faces before Orogodogoin perceived a Trojan horse in Orogodogoin’s being there.
Mia Nikasimo (C) June, 2011.