Even in religiously conservative countries like the US, same-sex marriage is legal. Things are different in Nigeria. But despite laws, the threat of imprisonment and the death penalty, gay life in that country is pumping. If you’ve lived in Lagos you probably already know this, but just in case you don’t, and are curious, the gay scene in Lagos is popping. Why? Because like-minded people have banded together to do what makes them happy.
Partying is one of the unifying themes of the city. ‘Gbedu’, as the Yorubas say, is not restricted to any day of the week because Lagos is simply a party town. Older folks live for their wedding, funeral and child-dedication parties, while the gay scene parties even harder without needing any excuse.
In Lagos, partying is fundamental to gay people’s lives since it’s an easy way to socialise, make friends and to meet potential partners. Pool parties, beach parties, costume parties, just-because parties, wedding parties (yes, you read right!) are happening all over town. Why? Because gay people have stuck their middle fingers to the law and because they love to party!
I don’t need to discuss what happens at Touch Me. The name tells all.
If you want to get invited to one of these gatherings then you either have to be gay or have gay friends who love partying. The circle is very enigmatic, for obvious reasons, but once you’re in, endless amounts of fun awaits.
For some people, being part of a circle comes naturally. Maybe you are a charismatic person like me, who attracts smart and beautiful women. You will never lack a circle. Or you are the more awkward type who doesn’t fall into social settings with the ease of butter melting on warm bread. Or you are the solo roller with stacks of Casanova confidence. Whatever type of social animal you are, the gay folks of Lagos have confirmed to me that being in a circle is easiest way to know what’s on.
As part of a circle, you can hit up clubs like Caliente and Quilox or a place called Touch Me. I have never really liked Quilox. In my mind it’s a jam-packed little shithole. Caliente is also very small and is usually extremely busy but they let you dance on the chairs and tables. It’s crawling with fun party treats (you know what I mean by this) and beautiful people without inhibitions. Cali, as it’s lovingly called, is a favourite place for both boys and girls. The best nights are Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. It is popular for the younger crowd, mostly university students.
I had to cool my love with Cali after a very distant cousin called me to say that his neighbour told him that I was dancing on a table and had three girls grinding on me. I had a Grace Jones haircut going on so I was hard to miss. The story is true. Caliente really does bring out the beast in you but it’s OK because you are wild alongside everyone else in there – it’s a fucking jungle! You will frequently find hot-bodied gay men dancing on tables with their shirts off and shots of absinthe making their way around the house. Cali hosts themed parties often and even when they don’t, it feels like one big carnival. It has been voted as the best club for a gay person in Lagos. I don’t think I need to discuss what happens at Touch Me. The name tells all.
‘I could talk to you even if you’re with your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife. It depends on how bold I’m feeling or how thirsty I am.’
The circle is also useful when it comes to hooking up. Being able to hook up is vital to anyone’s life (unless you are asexual) and so it makes sense to know people who can make this easy. Since I’m so magnetic and get to pick and choose from the people who flock to me (or I go through them all if I’m feeling slutty) I needed to do some digging on what it takes to hook up in gay Lagos.
I asked two of my friends, N and P, about this. N, is bae and looks hot in both corporate work clothes and in no clothes. She is tall and skinny and wears six-inch heels all the time, except in the shower and in bed, of course. She is so hot that if I were to date her I would be in a perpetual state of both anxiety and gratitude because she really is super hot-hot and because she is a tigress. Tigresses like N don’t need a circle. In fact, they prefer to stay away from circles because they want fresh meat, and you only get that when you hunt alone. N is adventurous and thinks that people who rely on their circles to meet potential partners are lazy. For her, that’s too small a pool for her to wade in. She told me that one of her best relationships was with a woman who identified as straight but ‘it was amazing moments’.
I asked N if she could name specific places she could go to hook up and she couldn’t because she is just too badass. She said, ‘I could go to a normal place and see someone I like. I could talk to you even if you’re with your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife. It depends on how bold I’m feeling or how thirsty I am, as they say.’ But getting a number is crucial because it’s just easier to lay all that groundwork and measure interest levels over the phone or through chat. ‘Once I get a number I move on. I move fast. I won’t stay to extend the conversation because I don’t know what act you’re playing and I don’t want people you’re with wondering what we’re saying. It can be tricky.’
I’ve even heard rumours of gay churches in Festac serving as luscious meeting grounds.
P admitted to sticking to the circle because it was safe and could guarantee a good degree of discretion. She said, ‘When you are younger, you want to make friends; as an adult, you want some privacy.’
Even where there are no circles to guarantee safety or privacy, Lagos people are as sure to hit on people they are interested in as there is guaranteed to be traffic jams on the roads. I met my last girlfriend at work. She walked into my office and we instantly had a spark. We had sex twice at the office before having the decency to take it somewhere more respectable. Many people will simply approach someone they find attractive. I’ve even heard rumours of gay churches in Festac serving as luscious meeting grounds, although I have no evidence to back this up.
The fact is that the gay scene in Lagos is really anywhere there is a gay person. It’s in the city’s malls! I was introduced to JV who works at a retail store in one of the largest malls in Lagos. Her store is filled with so much gay activity that I asked her if I could come and work there in my spare time… specifically near the fitting rooms. JV gets hit on regularly. She said, ‘Lots of girls hit on me in the store. “Is that your ass?” they say, “Wow!” One even asked if she could feel it. Speak of an amazing confidence booster!’
Her store is a hip clothing outlet so it attracts youngsters, including upcoming artistes. ‘There’s a big stylist for Olamide who comes in a lot, catwalking all ends of the store. When he comes, we go just dey laugh. We see too many of them especially on the weekends. They come because we have very stylish things. The girls love the cuts of our T-shirts. They don’t hide it, you know even with the so-called law.’
While at the store, she’s seen and heard a popular PR manager for one of the big nightclubs come into the store with a girl on her arm and on the phone to another saying: ‘I’ll suck you like no man ever has.’
JV told me she’s seen young couples making out on the store floor. Some of them walk in and pick up an item or two before heading to the changing room. She spoke specifically about a cute couple in their early twenties. ‘They come in and you know they are very into each other, laughing and holding one another’s necks. One of them shops at the store and her partner accompanies her. Really hot girls. By the time they get to the back of the store, because the shop is long, they are already making out. Then they go into the fitting room and come out all laughing. They might walk out with a T-shirt or a pair of joggers.’
‘Gay guys are crazy and hot-tempered so no one would dare pick a fight. When I have one with someone I pull off all my clothes and I’m left with nothing but my g-string.’
To find out how the men picked up, I visited my local hair salon in dingy Lekki. I go there because they are fast and cheap. Picture a ton of young women crammed into a small and very hot space, cranking out weaves and braids, sweatshop-style. Then picture a tall, skinny young man with platinum blonde hair, multiple ear piercings and bright blue contact lenses. He is normally caught wearing skinny jeans and a tank top that shows off his tattooed back. He goes by the name Tanya. Tanya manages the store and is the lead hair stylist. If you are lucky enough to have Tanya work on your hair, he will talk you out but he will fix your hair perfectly.
Tanya is so out that I did not need a preamble to ask him if he would contribute to this piece. I simply asked where he likes to hang out and he said his favourite hangouts are gay parties. He usually attends parties on the mainland held in people’s homes or hotels in Surulere, Mile 12 and Ikotun. ‘They broadcast on social media and the parties are full, with people travelling in from out of town to attend, all the way from Abuja, Calabar, Ogun State and Ibadan.’
If someone receives a broadcast through WhatsApp or BBM, they have a number that they can contact. Once they have been vetted, the coordinates for the party are sent to them. These parties are top secret so I asked Tanya if they weren’t afraid that authorities might storm the locations to make a mass arrest and he said that they use policemen and military men as security agents. Besides, he said, ‘Gay guys are crazy and hot-tempered so no one would dare. When I have a fight with someone I pull off all my clothes and I’m left with nothing but my g-string.’
A gay man or woman is probably hitting on your husband or wife, girlfriend or boyfriend or mum or dad. You just don’t know it.
At those anything-goes parties, Tanya prefers to be approached. His style is feigning lack of interest. ‘You need to look unattainable. He may walk up to me and say “What’s up?” And I roll my eyes saying, “Hello, are you talking to me?!”’
But I wanted to know how fast Tanya could tell if a man was approaching him for, you know, gay stuff. It’s instinctual, he told me. ‘I love tops because they are always masculine but when I look at a guy who is gay, I know. There is this very serious eye contact between us. They look at you, monitor you. We don’t need to talk before I know. Everything that needs to be said has been spoken with the eyes.’
They use slang to indicate if someone is gay, such as TB, which stands for top bottom, sagba, FB. So you can say, ‘Are you an FB?’ Tanya told me that locally, the men identify as either tops or bottoms. Tanya showed me pictures of gay marriage ceremonies, legal or not, the parties looked dope as fuck and I can’t wait to be invited to one… not held in Nigeria.
He stressed that all gay men needed to have their condoms and lubricants handy. KY Jelly is the preferred brand of lubricant. He said, ‘It makes everything feel good or you could bleed. When I go to buy it from Ebeano supermarket, I make sure I am looking hot and when I ask them to bring it, everyone at the till is dead silent.’
There is something delicate about the gay scene in Lagos because it exists in a precarious setting where the law forbids you to be gay. Some practices have to remain underground but all it takes is a little concentration to find proof that gay people are determined to nurture their own subculture, despite mainstream opposition.
A gay man or woman is probably hitting on your husband or wife, girlfriend or boyfriend or mum or dad. You just don’t know it. That hotel you love to visit but was closed to visitors last weekend was probably hosting a very gay party or maybe a big fat gay wedding. Many of the men you see buying condoms and lube at supermarkets are probably shopping to smooth things up and some of the women you see buying roses and chocolates are not buying them for their mums but for their girlfriends. Who knows what the next club these happy boys and girls will be taking over? They are on a mission and most likely will not be quiet about it.
Do you think it’s more fun being queer in Africa? Tell us about the scene where you are using the hashtag #TRUEAfrica.