QUEST was launched in October 2020 in the heat of the End SARS protests, to support queer EndSARS protesters and advance an abolitionist solution to the problem of police brutality in Nigeria.
Since then, we have expanded beyond that role to other areas of need, centering queer Nigerians who are poor and/or trans. Our interventions include sexual health outreaches, rent drives and emergency fund support, gender-affirming healthcare, and a historic queer protest in Abuja.
Abuja Queer Protests
In April 2022, an amendment to expand the Same-sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) was introduced in the National Assembly. The amendment, infamously known as the crossdressers’ bill, would have punished all gender non-conforming dressing with jail term and a fine of 500, 000 naira.
In response, QUEST in collaboration with a few other community organizations in Abuja, organized the very first queer protest in the country. The protest which took place at the Unity Fountain and was attended by dozens of queer people from all the country, was to rally opposition against the bill and to create an avenue for public queer political expression. The protests demanded not just the withdrawal of the amendment but also the repeal of the SSMPA as well as a complete halt to the neoliberal deterioration of the country. At a time when our communities are plagued with multidimensional poverty, homelessness, unemployment, lack of access to healthcare, and other basic social infrastructure, we see the ways in which the queer liberation struggle is inextricably bound to the struggle against capitalism.
The protest was an opportunity to rekindle community and to elevate humanizing narratives to counter the dehumanization of queer people that laws like the SSMPA engender.
Trans Healthcare Initiative
In June 2021, we launched the Trans Healthcare Initiative to help poor trans people who couldn’t afford to pay for their healthcare needs. The initiative was crowdfunded and was meant to run for a year, as a pilot program. It provided hormone replacement therapy and support to trans Nigerians across five states in the North-Central, South-East, South-West and South-South regions of Nigeria. This included both trans Masc and trans femme people who had previously started undergoing hormone replacement therapy but couldn’t afford to continue, or wanted to start hormone replacement therapy but couldn’t afford to.
While we were unable to reach our fundraising target, we raised more than £3000 which allowed us to touch many lives.
In running this project without any institutional support, we had to overcome quite a number of obstacles including how unfeasible it becomes to access traditional financial services that require in-person identification, while medically transitioning, uneven accessibility to authentic hormone therapy medications across different states, as well as pervasive bioessentialism within our own communities.
In December 2021, we were forced to suspend the program. From it we got a wealth of experience, and an intensified commitment to seeking new and more sustainable ways of providing gender-affirming healthcare resources to our community in the immediate term, while continuing to struggle towards socialist revolution; which is the only resolution to the problem of health inequity in Nigeria.
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QUEST9ja has also been involved in interventions on housing for poor queer people, particularly communal housing. We are a small volunteer-based activist collective with no institutional support and we use crowdfunding to pool funds to help communal living spaces/safe houses make rent.
We started this during the EndSARS protests and have continued to do that where the need has arisen. We have done rent and food drives for queer safe houses. We have also helped individuals with rent assistance though our work focuses more on uplifting and strengthening community structures rather than doing fundraisers for individuals.
Our community interventions in the area of housing has benefited dozens of queer people in Lagos and Abuja where we have helped raise money to make sure safe houses and queer people make rent.
Public Health Outreach
We have also been involved in a public health outreach to provide sensitisation to curb high risk sexual behavior and encourage safe sex practices and proper condom use. We partnered with another organization which implemented this outreach in Ilorin, the Kwara state capital.
QUEST9ja was formed during the End SARS protest to support queer protesters who were facing backlash for calling attention to the unique ways in which the police target queer Nigerians with brutality. We were successful in mobilizing more queer people to join the protests under the #QueerNigerianLivesMatter hashtag despite serious backlash and harassment from other protesters who claimed that highlighting how police brutality affected queer people, was a distraction.
We also provided material support for many queer facing backlash because of their visibility in the protests. Many queer people suffered consequences for speaking out against the police’s queerphobia. Whether this was in the form of being kicked out of their home, being excommunicated by their family, facing bodily injury from the police or other protesters, we did our best to support protesters who refused to be silent on the violent queerphobia of the Nigerian police.
We also tried to advance an abolitionist solution to the problem of police brutality, understanding that the brutality is a feature and not a bug. The only solutions that could work were those that questioned the class role of the police in a society as stratified as Nigeria.
We have continued to learn and grow in the ways that we work and the interventions that we decide to execute. You can keep up with our work by signing up to our monthly newsletter. We also encourage you to support our work by sharing our campaigns and donating to our fundraisers if you are able to.