FCDC Pride Month Special Month with Marline Oluchi Okoh

Marline Oluchi

Episode Summary

Happy Pride Month! 🏳️‍🌈

 

Throughout this month, the FCDC is excited to shine a spotlight on our incredible queer members, as we delve into their inspiring journeys of self-acceptance.

 

In this episode, we spoke to communications strategist and  LGBTQI+ Rights Activist, Marline Oluchi Okoh. She talked to us about her journey as a bisexual Nigerian woman, the queer scene in Nigeria, and much more!

 

**Huge thank you to the awesome folks at Top of the Funnel for sponsoring this episode and making the FCDC pride month specials possible!**

 

Join Top Of The Funnel for FREE and get actionable tips, strategies, and opportunities from world-class content marketers!

 

Guest Profile

 

Marline Oluchi

✍🏾Name: Marline Oluchi Okoh

👩🏾‍🦱 Pronouns: she/her

✍🏾What She Does: Founder and Creative Director at Kemjey Creatives

✍🏾Company: Kemjey Creatives

✍🏾Noteworthy: She is a Non-State Human Rights Actor, Policy Advocacy, and Communications Strategist with proven engagement in global development, with thematic areas on gender justice, LGBTQI+ rights, education, and youth engagement.

 

 

Key Insights.

 

💡Challenges and Safety Concerns for Same-Sex Couples in Nigeria

 

Marline discusses the difficulties and lack of safety for same-sex couples in Nigeria. She highlights the existence of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which imposes severe penalties, including imprisonment, for same-sex relationships.

 

 

Marline emphasizes that it is nearly impossible for same-sex couples, especially those who are openly out and activists like herself, to feel safe in public spaces. She mentions the social, cultural, and religious homophobia prevalent in Nigeria, further contributing to the unsafe environment for LGBTQ+ individuals.

 

💡The Importance of Support Networks and Digital Safe Spaces

 

Marline discusses the importance of support networks and digital safe spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals in Nigeria. She mentions finding comfort and acceptance through online communities where she connected with other queer people and gained insights into their experiences.

 

Marline highlights the role of LGBT+ organizations in Nigeria that provide support and create safe spaces for the community. She also mentions her experience with projects that bring queer individuals together to share their stories and foster a sense of belonging.

 

💡Personal Motivation for Activism

 

Marline emphasizes that her activism is deeply personal and rooted in her own needs and desires. She highlights the importance of fighting for a cause that directly impacts her existence, such as the right to live authentically, love, and be free without fear of discrimination or prejudice.

 

Marline’s activism is driven by a desire to improve her own life and the lives of others in the LGBTQ+ community in Nigeria.

 

💡The need for security Reforms to Protect LGBTQ+ people

 

Marline discusses the need for security reforms to protect LGBTQ+ individuals in Nigeria. She highlights the prevalence of hate crimes, street lynchings, and police brutality faced by queer persons.

 

Marline emphasizes the urgency of implementing serious security reforms to ensure the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals within the country.

 

💡The need for healthcare Sector Reforms and Access to Mental Health Services

 

Marline addresses the lack of accessible and affordable mental health services in Nigeria, particularly for LGBTQ+ individuals. She highlights the stigma surrounding mental health and the need for policies that prioritize mental healthcare.

 

Marline also emphasizes the importance of training medical professionals to provide LGBTQ+-inclusive care and the challenges they face when implementing such training due to multifaceted barriers.

 

💡Advice for queer women struggling with their identity.

 

Marline advises queer women who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality to remember that it is a journey and not an immediate transformation. She emphasizes the difficulty of the process and encourages individuals not to feel pressured to come out if they don’t feel safe.

 

She stresses the importance of prioritizing personal safety and not putting oneself in harm’s way for the sake of making a statement. She assures struggling individuals that they are seen and understood by others in the community and expresses hope for a better future.

 

Episode Highlights

 

Balancing a copywriting firm and LGBTQ+ advocacy.

Marline discusses the challenges of managing multiple responsibilities simultaneously. She explains that she started her writing business because she knew activism doesn’t always provide financial stability.

 

Balancing her firm, advocacy work, and other ventures becomes overwhelming at times. Marline shares instances where clients have expressed discomfort with her LGBTQ+ activism, leading to refunding and losing potential business opportunities.

 

She highlights the need for businesses to recognize the importance of inclusivity and the possibility of being both inclusive and successful.

 

Thoughts on the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA).

Marline emphasizes the need to repeal the SSMPA, which criminalizes same-sex marriage in Nigeria. She emphasizes that mere amendments to the act are not enough and calls for its complete repeal.

 

Marline highlights the importance of removing legal barriers that perpetuate discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.

 

Visibility and Accessibility of LGBTQ+ Advocacy Organizations.

 

Marline addresses the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations in Nigeria, including limited visibility and accessibility. She mentions the need for discretion in publicly naming organizations due to safety concerns.

 

Marline shares an incident where an organization had to move out of a property after neighbors discovered their LGBTQ+ focus and posed a threat. She highlights the importance of referral networks and emphasizes the efforts made by organizations to respond to distress calls and connect individuals to suitable support services.

 

Connect with Marline

Linkedin

Twitter

 

Episode Transcriptions

Chima Mmeje 0:06

Hi, we are back again for the FCDC Pride Month spotlight. This is our second guest. Marlin Oluchi. Am I pronouncing your surname right?

 

marline okoh 0:20

Not really well, thank you.

 

Chima Mmeje 0:22

That’s something okay. Oh, cool. It’s,

 

marline okoh 0:25

it’s okoh. It’s Marline Marline

 

Chima Mmeje 0:29

 

Marlene Okoh. Okay, Marline, that’s my last name’s pronunciation

This is the fourth year now I’m still learning how to pronounce my last name. But you know what we get? We get? I’ll get you.

 

Alright, Marline, I’m just going to dig right in and start. I’m just going to like, kill off the bundle that starts with the hard questions.

 

So, okay, so in same sex relationships, do you feel safe be out with your partner in public spaces in Nigeria? And if yes, what precautions do you take to protect yourself? Knowing the environment they are in?

 

marline okoh 1:16

 

The know honestly, there’s no how you would ever as you save as a same sex couple in Nigeria. It’s impossible because I mean, we have the same sex marriage prohibition at which prescribes up to 14 years imprisonment for different variations of we have LGBT plus God dreams, we have organising, we have provisions for sex, sexual health provision for so many things under the act.

 

So it’s impossible, especially for someone like me, who is out who is an activist, I work in the advocacy space for LGBTQ plus rights. So it’s impossible because you are not in the closet for you to say, okay, when you go out with maybe like me, I’m female, when I go out with my partner, someone might just and we’re holding and someone might just assume, or maybe it’s our friend or her sister or something, right, you are out your public.

 

So there is it’s impossible for you to feel safe in public. So basically, I think we, there’s restrictions where you can go to with your partner, right, you can just go and you even when, you know as females, it’s easier to because we live in a society because of patriarchy, female, female, same sex relationships have been so sexualized that it’s not just the fact that you’re quiet.

 

It’s also the fact that men fantasise about being with two women, or more. So you are this textual symbol. You are also sort of in court illegal because of the country’s legal context. We have social homophobia, we have cultural homophobia, we have religious homophobia because Nigeria is a highly religious country. So it’s difficult.

 

Chima Mmeje 3:08

 

What are you taking in

 

marline okoh 3:11

mind the places we go to that when I’m in a relationship with men where we go to we, you limit the PDA to the barest minimum, you might not even be able to hold hands comfortably. I had, I was in my ex and I went out one time, and she was consciously putting this distance between, like we had friends with us.

 

And then she made sure our friend was always in between us subconsciously. But this friend between us is also female. So it’s like, you know, they’re all the same gods, you just limit yourself to not being a not being a couple in public, it’s just impossible to be one.

 

Chima Mmeje 3:55

 

Okay, so my second question is, um, this is now going out into the wider will I say LGBTQ space. Now what kinds of sources or support networks have been helpful in navigating identity and experiences? So yeah, sharing this for those who are also trying to find this same support network.

 

marline okoh 4:21

 

Okay, so first of all the organisations in Nigeria, LGBT plus organisations, they are really doing great work. There’s a lot of support from the community. First of all, I was only able to be comfortable in my own skin to be comfortable as a queer person. So even like, acknowledge my sexuality, right? I was comfortable doing this because I got active on social media years ago, and it made I think, my early 20s And then I found lesbians who are out I found bisexual women who are out I

 

Some queer people, I found gaming were out on social media in my social space. And these people were bold enough to like, share their experiences, talk about what they do. And then there was this group, which I will mention for security purposes, which was just for queer women of all gender identities and sexual orientations. Right? I found I joined the group to one of one queer woman who was out on my timeline.

 

And I was able to find out that there were a lot more safe spaces, digital safe spaces that way. And from there, we’re able to, like have access to the network of organisations beyond my workspace, where they were like social events where you can meet other queer people, you can, there’s this comfort in community, right in knowing that there are people like you here who understand your journey, who see you, who are also permitted to be some kind of freedom you want for yourself.

 

So there were a lot of digital communities back then. And I know presently, a lot still exists. And then organisations around actually doing a lot of work in creating in not just advocating for rights, but in creating safe spaces. For example, one of the organisations I’m consulting with recently, throughout last year, they had these very beautiful projects in the south east where they every month they bring queer people together and have this like, have conversations where just come sit down like did I will sit or sit on the ground, you want to sit on the mud, sit down, what do you want to do?

 

Do you want to cry? Do you want to talk? Like, what is it just come share with people like you. And because of funding, of course, it only lasted for one year. So for people like me out there, especially those who are isolated and have not been able to find a community, when you see people like us, you can reach out. And also I was only able to find myself in this business because I reached out to the openly queer people in my digital space.

 

Chima Mmeje 7:02

 

This brings me to my next question now, because I’m very frustrated. Now there are many LGBTQ i A plus advocacy or nonprofit groups springing up in Nigeria. So he just makes it difficult for people who need help to find it.

 

Now, where do you see the Nigerian LGBTQ advocacy space evolving in the next five years as regards to more visibility for those who actually need the help, because here’s where it happens is that what I keep seeing them saying is that they help keep going to the same group of people every time, they tend to have like this set of people that they are helping, and it’s hard for them to find these people to help.

 

Because people that need help, I don’t know how to find people that are giving the help. How does this evolving in the next five years?

 

marline okoh 7:50

 

This is something we can’t really sit down here and try to predict right? But definitely we’re hoping for something better, but we are still it’s still so valance, this pace is still really really well and see I don’t even mention it. Even though a lot of us like on social media. Our description of course of the organisations will show you and the work we’re doing will show you that yes, we are an LGBT organisation. But for registration purposes for for safety of the staff, and the community who come to the offices to seek for one service or the other. We can’t really sit out and name names because just recently one of our organisations had to move out of the space they rented their office space because the neighbour the neighbours in the in our streets realise that, oh, this is an LGBT organisation and not a health organisation.

 

And they were planning to come up them now one of the people who were in that community meeting was one of the technicians they hired when refurbishing these fields before they entered and the person could like relate to the work we were doing. So they he rushed reached out to our IDI and spoke to him. And that’s how we’re able to they were able to move out from that space overnight. In fact, it took months for them to go back to go and pick their property from there to move to a new place. Now this is the same organisation that offered that when you save community space for the community.

 

Can you imagine what would have happened if this happened when community members were actually did for this? Or who have access to know one or two persons? There’s always this network of referral. Good thing because where we are not the good network. Like yeah, there’s always this network of referrals. So it’s like you can identify those of us who are out and walking in the space to reach out to us for anything we always get a lot of distress calls which we respond to and refer them to organisations in their vicinity who can help so this is what we do for No.

 

Chima Mmeje 10:00

 

Okay, so let me I want to dive back to to Alisha, visit our like ally ship or ally ship how holidays pronounce its

 

marline okoh 10:09

allies allies? Okay Like anyone was

 

Chima Mmeje 10:17

 

now familiar saying yeah, we cannot do as an isolated community this is something that we need allies for if you have any sort of success. So what do you wish that the wider Nigerian society understood about core experiences? And how can allies best support the community?

 

Because a lot of times they are their support is misplaced, and they tend to centre themselves. Where, oh, what can allies do to be better allies for the LGBT community in Nigeria?

 

marline okoh 10:55

 

Okay, like I keep saying, I’ve said this a lot of times that we can’t do this on our own, because, first of all, as queer persons, the assets we have is already limited. The spaces where we can raise our concerns is already our needs our we’re not on the table. Right? We cannot come as queer people to sit on the table yet. We’re still fighting for that. So at the end of the day, it boils down to what kind of ally ship do we have? What kind of allies are working with us?

 

For example, let me use an example of the work I do so a bulk of the because I work in both the LGBT space and women’s rights for gender justice. So a lot of the work I do is with mainstream women’s rights organisations, right, where I consult with them. I facilitate gender, gender justice projects, where basically I want them to review their organisations, I want them to review their policies, right? Review who they programme for, if you call yourself a feminist, women’s rights organisation for all women and girls in Nigeria, right? Where are the queer women? Where are the gender non binary? Where are the self identifying female persons? Right? Where are the sex workers, you can’t come and say you are because the basic principle of feminism is that nobody is left behind.

 

It’s equality for all. So you can’t come out and say you programme for woman. And then you don’t look at all the diversities of the woman you have to programme for at least to the barest we know you cannot think of every form of diversity but these are like major. If you come to the Society of Women, first we have stretched woman and we have not straight woman it is a straight line. Right? If you don’t recognise or setup or acknowledge us, you would not know what we need.

 

Sometimes for example, when when we’re preparing for the election, right? Meta had like an IT stakeholder engagement with women’s rights organisations in Nigeria and activist.

 

Chima Mmeje 13:10

What you saw just to constituents meta is Facebook. Well, those who Yeah,

 

marline okoh 13:13

it says damn what that company? Yeah. So they had like this stakeholder engagement, because I’m on the women’s rights working group where we review policies to be sure that they reflect they’re safe for women in our demographic in Sub Saharan Africa. Now.

 

We were in that room. And I can tell you for a fact that I was the only person who were looking at language that will be used for the upcoming election 20 century elections, targets, women activists, female politicians, every self identifying female person who comes out for election or even talks about election on social media, we know attacks, usually, yeah.

 

So they were trying to identify all these languages so that they will include it in their policies and sets protective policies so that this will not happen. Digital violence will be reduced against those right now, in that entire room. I was the only one who was able to point out that hey, all these are general

 

What have the specifically targeted language for LGBTQ persons, especially those who are out activists like us, if you want to talk you know, now there’s this LGBT people, you understand, we have our own like, well, there’s the general violence first as women, there is another layer as a queer person.

 

So it’s, it’s so multifaceted that without us being in those rooms, and it takes allies who are in those spaces to bring us in, to speak about our realities to learn from us and also platforming spaces where we are not in so allies can do a lot but I feel like I would speak more to advocacy because that’s the area of work. I do a lot That’s right.

 

Allies can do a lot through advocacy in every family in Nigeria, right? Every home, we have one person who talks about the rights of LGBT persons and tries to sensitise the rest of the people in their homes who have a lot more progress. So you will not be restricted to just us in our own homes. It takes collective work from everybody in their own space.

 

Chima Mmeje 15:25

 

Wow. This is this is a lot and ultimately that’s doing is doing what’s best for us. And that resonated that also aligns with what you’re saying. She’s like, the way that most Nigerian companies see

diversity in the context of women inclusion, having more women in the workspace, they don’t think about non binary woman or sorry, non binary people, they don’t think about LGBT people. They don’t think about trans woman. As long as they have more women in workspace to them, they fulfilled all righteousness.

 

So what you just said, even though you don’t even know who he is, just tends to align with the fact that there is something wrong with whether we’re doing ally ship in Nigeria, and he couldn’t, for highlighting that. Now, I was

 

marline okoh 16:14

sorry. And like I said, it does not just this also falls back on not just the society that is doing this, but on also the woman’s paces. We have very violence, women’s rights and feminist spaces in Nigeria, very, very violent against LGBT persons. Look at what happened during answers. When, when when we were attacked, and the LGBT community were attacks were protesting were attacked, and feminists was the journeymen again, the feminists who were leading fundraising for the protests, who were headlining some parts of the year, they came out and they put out a statement and they were like,

 

Hey, don’t attack LGBT people. All of us were here fighting for DC fighting against the same brutality, they have their own experiences with the police because they equate what happened in no time and that he was taken down. Now, a while later, I was with one of them in a space in a in a women’s rights piece. And I brought this up on that table. And she said that they had calls, they had pressure from other senior feminists in the space. Who told them to take it down, that if they don’t, Nigerians will turn around and make it look like or if this was actually a an LGBT, kind of protests disguised as answers.

 

I mean, do you imagine the kind of mindset it takes to think of that kind of thing? And they did about the pressure doesn’t tell you the kind of gates keeping the kinds of things we have to fight against like, it does not stop with one layer of government or systemic oppression. It does not stop the it trickles down. When they say women who are this woman they give the jobs. There are no queer woman. There are no non binary persons. They’re not trans persons. They are regular sis trans women. Are those in the closet who nobody knows who have to hide their sexualities probably get married to men and all of that.

 

Chima Mmeje 18:21

Okay, so assuming you are a lawmaker, what specific legal reforms would you enact to improve the life of Queer Nigerians, top five

 

marline okoh 18:32

 

her there’s so much there’s so much because top five so first thing I would want is first of all, the SSM pa has to go to same sex marriage permission apps. It has to go yeah, not amendment which they have been trying to do. No, it has to be repealed, first of all. Secondly, workplace inclusion. And mean, the government could sit down and say, Oh, this quarter of work would have to go to persons with disabilities this quarter will have to go because this quarter was to go to women in general this quarter was because they realise that these are people who have been excluded that are groups that historically been excluded what of us people lose their jobs for even perceived sexuality.

 

You can’t even identify with your with your pronoun, the pronoun you wanted is no he she in our spaces, it is nothing so workspaces, our work, our inclusion policies and work spaces have to be reformed. The policies have to be reviewed, to look at how to actively start inclusion for persons in the country. That is after the SSNP is gone. So they will not have any legal backing to back that exclusion from then I will also come to the health sector, because you don’t want to imagine the kind of Trump what I mean you were here so you understand the kind of trauma you don’t even have Have a quality of life.

 

Even if you if you luckily have access to financial resources, maybe because you come from a family or you’re lucky enough to get a good job or something you cannot even leave. Because, like the trauma that comes with it. Now, how do you even assess good mental health care in a country that first of all, mental health generally is still stigmatised? Mental health services are still so unaffordable and inaccessible, then imagine?

 

Mental Health was not known. But five people are plenty in this country. Agreed? Yeah. So what kind of health srhr services? What kind of health? What are the policies in the healthcare sector? That would, in fact, generally doctors, medical professionals are not supposed to discriminate? access to medical services are not supposed to be discrimination. But that’s

 

Chima Mmeje 20:55

They do not receive any training for LGBTQ people, so they will not respond. So yeah, there is the unnatural bias from being born raised in a very religious country like Nigeria, and that when you go to receive medical care, because I think every queer person, actually those who obviously queer like, those who are masculine presenting or effeminate, have definitely experienced this.

 

marline okoh 21:21

And even, even when even when we when organisations, we put out, put together trainings, get medical professionals, we’ve done a lot of dads, like get hospitals to partner with us send our medical practitioners for training. When these people are trained, and they go back in practice, it is not always that effective, because we know they have to deal with the hospital administration, they’ll still have like, it’s so multifaceted. So multifaceted. So it’s very challenging. So that’s three, right? I would also want to look at, but again through like security, security reforms, we still live in a society where people are lynched on the streets, within a society.

 

Yeah, we still live in a society where one person comes out on the streets and the police stops you because yeah, you’ll be by your weapon surgeon. You’ll be gay or your exports. You are brutalised you. So we need like security reforms, serious security reforms for queer persons on the country in the country. And then you said five, so let me where which one I would want to look at.

 

Of course, we also need equal like, I don’t know how to put it but this should be something they should be there should be a It’s not safe. Got to say there should be something that actually incriminate there should be laws that actually incriminate people who discriminates because of someone’s gender identity. Sexual orientation, sexual, you understand like this should be there should be laws that premium that criminalise anybody who a code discriminates. Yeah.

 

Chima Mmeje 23:07

You know, he’s describing because that kind of level of discrimination is a hate crime. And in most countries, you have severe consequences, severe jail time for hate crimes. I don’t think we have that in Nigeria, honestly,

 

marline okoh 23:21

I don’t think it is. We don’t have anything like that at all for the government we have our law is already a hate crime against those

 

Chima Mmeje 23:28

countries, because the prison sentence is long, you can hear somebody going to prison for like 20 years for beating up a queer person

 

marline okoh 23:38

in this country. They will bring a man to wrap their, their, their their lesbian daughter to try to convert her and then this form of conversion therapy. You got to you got to report and by the time they police, here’s what the case was about. They do like this do like this and our kids just gets dismissed. Come on. You said five I would have gone I would have known.

 

Chima Mmeje 24:08

Alright, so the next question. Advocacy is not always rewarding. So I want to know like what keeps you motivated, despite the challenges are face to face back and setbacks that you may face doing the work of advocacy,

 

Nigeria now I’m coming at this from the angle of what I see on social media, a lot of advocates and automation is but a lot of them are always complaining about the issues that they face issues with funding issues with the people in the community that are trying to help themselves. So how do you stay motivated? Do you know about this chaos?

 

marline okoh 24:43

First of all, I always say that my my activism is my political is personnel. Right? My activism, first of all is rooted in my personal needs, right? So my life is updated. You leave if you’re fighting for a cause in a place where everything about you is politicised, right?

 

It won’t. It’s no more just a fight for someone, it’s a fight for your own existence, I want to live to, I want to love, I want to identify as I am, right, I want to be free.

 

I want to be able to get jobs or hire for jobs without worrying about my sexuality, right? These things cannot happen if we don’t get to where we want to get through. So I always remind when there’s a lot of pushback or more, it’s, I just remind myself that I’m doing this because I don’t want to keep living like this till I die. I don’t want others around me to keep living like this. So I know how it feels. I know what we’re fighting for.

 

And I did not expect it to be easy actually. So whenever it gets really difficult hire sometimes you just cry, cry, cry, and you wake up the next day and I Okay, what are we doing today? You just keep doing the work.

 

Chima Mmeje 26:07

My next question, will you have a writing firm called Kenya? Creatives? How? Walk with your writing firm, managing, managing a full business, and doing LGBTQ plus advocacy at the same time? sounds insane.

 

marline okoh 26:26

 

It’s insane. It gets really insane. A lot of work, right. So my firm was also because apart from the fact that I love, I love writing, writing is like, I mean, so that is my business. I also knew that from the beginning, activism does not really pick it’s not for the money, it will start with your money. So it is it is a lot of time a thankless job.

 

It is a battle. But also Yeah, and funding. I mean, a lot of us that I volunteered with and organisations for how many years without pay, because I mean, I was really interested in the work in the network for the work and all of that.

 

So it’s like you had to have something to do. And thankfully, I was able to find a niche doing something I really love and starting my firm with it. But also mixing them both has been extremely difficult because I’ve had clients who come to us to write something for their brand’s copywriting.

 

There was this copywriting clients that came he wanted us to do the web copy for his website. And we were already talking and he was like, hey, Melinda website was for an organisation and he lives abroad.

 

Funny enough, he lives in the western world in a country where they have very progressive LGBT rights. And then this man came up to me after we have signed the contract. And he’s like, Marlene, I just have a little concern my partner’s and I, you know, I’m a pastor in my church, and we’re concerned, I know you on social media, you do LGBT activism, I’m concerned, can you maybe hide some of the recent LGBT posts and not talk about anything LGBT for now until you finish our project so that my partners and I will not my partner’s not get uncomfortable.

 

I mean, I understand because I know you and I, excuse me, you come to my firm, to offer a corporate writing job, right? We offer where we’re offering you our services as a firm. And because I’m the Lead Writer, you have a problem with my sexuality, my personal life, my personal activism, so and I have to I’d already started a couple of days on that job, I had to make a refund, and just cut that it happens, it happens a lot, a couple of times.

 

And these are those that even came up to that stage. So you can imagine so many others that would have brought their businesses to us and they don’t, because or LGBT person, right? It’s I imagined the number is way higher than those that have come and go. So it’s difficult, trying being out and then trying to walk and establish as a business. Not even like I’m running an LGBT organization, this is a business a corporate business.

 

So it’s really, it’s frustrating a lot of the times but that is part of the activism. That is part of the work. We’re creating these spaces so that they would exist and become Namaste, please someday, so businesses will know that you can be inclusive and still function and still survive and still succeed. As a business. So yeah,

 

Chima Mmeje 29:41

okay, so I was dialled back to the beginning. I forgot to ask you at the start. How do you identify Are you lesbian, bisexual,

 

marline okoh 29:50

bisexual,

Chima Mmeje 29:51

okay, you bisexual. And my final question for you is, what advice would you give to other queer women? who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality?

 

marline okoh 30:05

 

I will tell you that it’s a journey. It’s it’s super difficult, I won’t come and tell you, it will get easy when you wake up tomorrow, right? We’re hoping all the work we’re all putting on collectively, putting in now ensure that a couple of years from now would have a better society for you. But don’t be pressured into coming out if you don’t feel safe enough to I mean, I wanted to live, I wanted to live out, I want you to be able to read and excel, even if it is just occasionally I read an Excel occasionally I would want every queer woman to experience this, right.

 

And I know that sometimes being out being bored enough to x to explore your life, the way it should be, would make you realise, like the spectrum of sexuality, the spectrum of identity, which varies, right? It will make you realise a lot about yourself and really learn yourself. But also, I know that you shouldn’t be pressured. And please don’t feel pressured to put yourself in harm’s way because you want to make a statement, right? Do it if you feel short enough, right? That you can that you can try.

 

But please, above all your safety is paramount. It’s the first thing we look at for everything we do. How safe is the community, how service every queer person out there in and out of the closet. It’s a journey and not that someone sees you, not just someone, a lot of us.

 

Without even knowing you. We see you we understand what you’re going through. And we’re hopeful and not relenting. We’re hopeful that someday would live in Nigeria, in a society where you don’t have to hide you don’t have to struggle anymore.

 

Chima Mmeje 31:57

So your advice is, don’t feel pressured to come out because Are there any people who are out in Nigeria that you would advise someone who is trying to find a community to start following on social media?

 

marline okoh 32:08

Yeah, there are a lot actually. But for women, I would generally not just women. Those who come to my doctor toying I don’t know if you said during interview doing in writing, we have Dr. Toyin who is very who does a lot of work with the community.

 

See the professional, the professional in well being mental health management. We have Maryam Nwokolo, if you can trace them across social media, Twitter, Facebook, you have me Molina Lucci, I’m on Twitter, Facebook IG. You can reach out to a couple of us and we know if we should refer you to other people.

 

Chima Mmeje 32:53

From you added to the show notes for this conversation so that

 

marline okoh 32:59

we have Pamela Addy. Yeah, like,

 

Chima Mmeje 33:02

just give me the names. And then I’ll add all of these names in the show notes as people to pull it because I feel like that’s always the starting point. So when someone’s a polo, and just gives you like an idea of okay, this is what I’m out passing looks like, you know, do you Okay, okay. Thank you.

 

marline okoh 33:17

Yeah, representation is really important. It’s very powerful.

 

Chima Mmeje 33:21

 

I agree. I agree. And I’ve been there before. And I remember when I was just starting out, there was no body back then when I came out Nigeria, there was nobody, I think only Pamela and maybe a few 100. People don’t know what to do. So it was hard to find someone who was not just been out. I was ready just been out. So who is living the authentic life? Yeah.

 

Because we had to find that. So thank you so much for sharing these names. We’ll get more names. I’ll put this in the show notes. So that anybody who’s watching this, who is I don’t want to say thinking about coming out people question your sexuality, trying to find good examples of people to follow what it looks like.

 

This would be perfect people I don’t say perfect incense, people but great models to start that journey with us. Okay. These are people on social media. But definitely. Facebook, she’s active on Facebook.

 

marline okoh 34:10

Yeah. I think a lot of the times actually, it’s not even about coming out or wanting to come out. It’s about identity. Right? A lot of us. Yeah, we struggle. But then a lot of people right now, especially young persons the struggle. So sometimes seeing someone who is out who is living life the way it should be, no matter how difficult it is, see, represent a representation of yourself out there as a queer person.

 

There’s this it begins this healing journey, this personal healing journey, right? There’s this sense of grounded identity that can result from just seeing someone like you out there, right. So it’s really important to identify and

 

Chima Mmeje 34:54

 

yeah, yeah, I agree. Man. This has been so good. This is just incredible. And I’m so glad I offered to say As because I think it’s very important for us to highlight noodles that are outside Nigeria. And in the relative safety of the Western world.

 

Most of the people who are in Nigeria so that those who are considered okay, I’m not alone. Yeah, so much for doing this. You are one of the bravest people I know. And I’m just in awe of everything that you stand for. So, thank you so much and not on to our next guests. Why?

 

marline okoh 35:28

Thank you so much for having me.

 

Jadesola Kareem

Passionate about content and diversity, Jadesola is a content writer. In her free time, with a cup of coffee in hand, she binges on reality shows.

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