Critical Fabulation for Survival: Knowledge of Pre-colonial Gender in Igbo Culture to Sustain Queer Imaginings of Care

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Through legislation and social code, modern-day Nigeria has become a hostile and dangerous country for queer people. As a queer person of the Nigerian diaspora, I struggle to hold both my “queer” and “Nigerian” identities because they seem contradictory. In this paper, I detail my journey reckoning with these two seemingly dissonant parts of my identity. In my endeavor to find communal belonging in Nigeria and its diaspora, I turn to the archive of pre-colonial Nigeria to discover if the nation of my ancestry was always hostile towards queer people. In particular, I try to uncover the violence British colonialism introduced to Nigeria. In this paper, I draw on the work of Saidiya Hartman to contextualize and guide my research and archivally-driven quest for belonging. As I have matured into myself, I have grappled with the intersections of my Nigerian-American and queer identities. Recently, I learned how Saidiya Hartman's "critical fabulation," a method for being attuned to and coping with archival gaps, can be a tool for survival when multiple realities conflict (Hartman, 2008). I practice critical fabulation in my venture to grapple with my “contradicting” identities by researching and drawing on the history of gender in Nigeria to imagine a more inclusive nation. Further, in this essay, I co-opt W. E. B. Du Bois’ framework of double consciousness to describe the internal conflict I feel regarding the friction between my Nigerian heritage and my queer identity because of the violence modern-day Nigeria inflicts upon queer people (Du Bois, 2007). Throughout this auto-ethnography, I discuss my double consciousness that stems from the intersectional oppressive structures in my life, such as patriarchy, transphobia, and homophobia. Additionally, in this paper, I demonstrate how the act of critical fabulation allows me to reconnect with myself and my (pre-colonial) Nigerian heritage to imagine and create spaces where queer Nigerians and I can belong (Hartman, 2008, p. 11).