Limit(less) Project: Gesiye

Limit(less) is a documentary photography project by Mikael Owunna exploring the visual aesthetics of LGBTQ African immigrants. For more on the project, follow us on TumblrInstagramFacebook and Flickr

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Gesiye: Bisexual/Queer Nigerian-Trinidadian (shot in Trinidad)

Q. What’s your name, country of origin, ethnicity, preferred gender pronoun, and how do you identify in terms of your LGBTQ identity?

My name is Gesiye, which in Ijaw means ‘someone of truth.’ I’m Nigerian-Trinidadian, born and raised in Trinidad & Tobago. My pgp’s are she/her/hers and I identify as bisexual/queer.

Q. How would you describe your style?

As my friend Gabe recently said, it’s more of a “postmodern Angela Davis.”

I mostly wear neutral colors, with the occasional head wrap or print, staying pretty comfortable and casual. 

Q. How do you think your style incorporates/blends elements of your African and LGBTQ identity?

I don’t limit my African or LGBTQ identity to one form of expression, everything I wear is and can be a blend of these identities because that’s who I am and how I’m choosing to define it.

Q. Was there ever a time where you felt pushed away from your African or LGBTQ identities? If so, how did you overcome that personally?

I grew up in the Caribbean, so my African identity is closely linked to that part of the diaspora. In Trinidad, colourism/shadeism plays a huge role in structuring privilege in everyday life. For me, benefitting from the privilege of having lighter skin in my society also meant that I was constantly being pushed away from my African heritage, growing up being told that I was “not really black,” or that I was “too light to be Nigerian.” 

On the other hand, growing up knowing that I was attracted to both men and women, while also being a cis femme woman, meant that I was constantly struggling to prove my identity to myself and others. Bisexuality sometimes feels less accepted, because people would rather you “make up your mind and just choose,” or “get over this phase” rather that “be greedy” (literally things I have heard). My ability to pass as a straight woman grants me a different level of safety than those who are more visibly queer but can also be the means through which people erase parts of my identity. I had to grow to be comfortable with who I am, and how I choose to express myself outside of what society expects; there’s no way to satisfy what everyone thinks I should be, and no way to be happy living as someone else. 

Q. How is your relationship with your family, and what does being “accepted” by your family look like for you?

I’m lucky to have a great relationship with my family, being accepted for me means being treated like my sexuality is just another part of who I am as a person, and not as a defining trait that should shape every interaction we have together.  

Q. What would you have to say to people who say that being LGBTQ is “un-African”?

I hear this a lot in the Caribbean, that the LGBTQ experience is un-African or un-natrual. From the homophobic music that we all dance and sing along to, to the fact that it’s still illegal to have sex with someone of the same gender in Trinidad. It’s exhausting. I wish we would accept/understand that gender-fluidity and same sex attraction are historically indigenous and African.

Q. How was participating in the Limit(less) shoot?

Really wonderful! It was so strange being on the other side of the camera, but it helped me learn what that feels like.

Q. Where are you comfortable with people reaching you on social media?

My instagram is @gesiye and my website where I post my photography and video art is www.gesiye.com