This paper will examine the misconceptions regarding what it means to be a “true”Nigerian man. The sexual minorities who live in Nigerian society are persecuted by representatives of African nationalism. These representatives include: the police, soldiers, and ordinary men. Queers are viewed as pariahs and depraved creatures by men who refuse to see their humanity. Despite the mistreatment of this oppressed group they still exist whether Nigerians are willing to accept them in the larger society or not. Homo-hatred is state sanctioned in Nigeria. In a country that considers itself modern and progressive politically and socially. Although, the illusion of what it means to be a masculine African man is rooted in centuries of tribal beliefs, customs, and traditions: the fact remains that queers have alway been a part of Nigerian society. Today’s African men who have nationalistic beliefs wear imitation masks of what the original representations of manhood are. Many Nigerians believe that queerness is a manifistation that originated with the arrival of colonialism. In Chris Abani’s novel,Graceland, Nigerian society is revealed with all of its ugly homo-hatred and lack of respect for human life in general. The main protagonist, a sixteen year old queer, Nigerian young man, named Elvis, performs on a beach as an Elvis impersonator to make enough money to eat. He lives in one of the poorest ghettoes in Lagos. His friend (and salvation) Redemption, secures him a job in a night club for the rich as a dancer with single wealthy women. Unfortunately, Elvis accidentally bumps into a high ranking general who threatens to kill him. In the novel, the police along with the military are corrupt and dangerous–a threat not only to queers but to all Nigerians.
Yet, I argue that in Chris Abani’s novel, Graceland, African queers are represented in the way Nigerians see them as impersonators of white men’s desire and impostors of “true” African maleness and masculinity, when in fact, the African nationalist leaders and other representatives of that same mind set are the real impersonators and impostors.