Navigating homophobia and reinventing the self

an analysis of Nigerian digital pro-gay discourse


  • Paul Ayodele Onanuga Technische Universität Chemnitz and Federal University Oye-Ekiti



Homosexuality, Twitter, Kito-ing, Semiotics, agency, homophobia, language, Nigeria


Discriminatory practices against the Nigerian gay community take the form of state and non-state sponsored opposition, censorship and violence. This study investigates how gay Nigerians combat homophobia by using language agentively on social media as a semiotic resource towards self-assertion and identity construction. Data retrieved from Twitter via keyword searches suggest that in addition to harnessing agency through positive self-representation and ingroup affirmation, the digital discourses of Nigerian gay men recontextualise religion as a legitimising tool, transforming it into a site of affirmative struggle. These resources reach a crescendo in the practice known as ‘kito-ing’, a discourse strategy that protects the gay community from threats by publicly ‘outing’ homophobic actors, thus contesting the prevailing gender hierarchy. While Nigerian physical space restricts queer livability, the digital space becomes a locus for agency whereby various semiotic resources are used to refuse the status quo and assert nonnormative sexualities against an otherwise oppressive social order.

Author Biography

Paul Ayodele Onanuga, Technische Universität Chemnitz and Federal University Oye-Ekiti

Paul Ayodele Onanuga lectures in the Department of English and Literary Studies, Federal University Oye-Ekiti, Nigeria. He was an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the Technische Universitat Chemnitz, Germany. His research interests revolve around Nigerian Hip Hop studies, computer-mediated communication/discourse analysis and, presently, queer sexualities on digital media. His work has appeared in several leading journals including Journal of African Cultural Studies, Discourse, Context & Media and Language Matters.


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How to Cite

Onanuga, P. A. (2022). Navigating homophobia and reinventing the self: an analysis of Nigerian digital pro-gay discourse. Gender and Language, 16(1), 75–97.