Recently, the initialism has grown from just being LGBTQ to LGBTQIA- w
hich refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex and asexual or allied.
When the Anti-gay law was passed in Nigeria, many people viewed the Nigerian government as unserious because it was believed there were more pressing issues to be dealt with rather than an individual’s sexuality. This massive crackdown made many homosexuals live in fear of being exposed to their families, friends and the law.
This has resulted in some living secret lives where they do not identify as homosexual or transgender to the public but have various platforms like social media where they can be themselves, dress up like women. Suspected gay men are constantly ridiculed by some Nigerians especially on social media.
The Circular had the opportunity to speak with Bisi Alimi, an advocate for gay rights in Nigeria. He is a vocal activist who does not consider himself “the voice of the LGBTQIA people”. He was born and raised in Nigeria and because of his sexual orientation, he became an openly gay Nigerian man who addresses these issues.
His earliest memories of being gay in a country that is really conservative and religious started when he discovered he was gay at the age of 8,
“I never had what many straight people would consider a childhood, most times when gay people say this, people don’t understand a lot of gay people don’t have a childhood and the reason why is because we grow up knowing we are different, we have to struggle with that. As a teenager, I could not come back home and tell my parents I just met a nice guy in school and I am falling in love just like straight people will do.
We don’t have such opportunities and it is tough, those were the things that made up childhood, we never had the privilege of experiencing that, so basically for us childhood was rooted in surviving, we had to survive, we had to learn to keep our emotions, we had to learn to numb our feeling, to be someone else and we learned this at a very young age, to always pretend and cover up, this is why we are very good at it when we grow up.
My memories were of me trying to be straight and live up to the expectation of the society and be the good boy, to have a more than one girlfriend and be tagged ‘real guy’ because I have many girls but I did not fit into that. My childhood memory was kind of skewed and painful as well”.
Bisi shared some more on reasons why the Nigerian government should treat everyone equally despite their sexual orientation,
“There are so many factors I can use as examples, if you treat people equally, people will treat you equally, there is no gimmick around it. When the government treats people fairly and respect their human rights, the people become aware and feel appreciated and safe.”
“I moved to the UK 11 years ago, I left Nigeria because I was too vocal for a country like that when it comes to issues like HIV and LGBTQIA issues, my life was constantly in danger and I had no other choice than to move out of the country.
I was attacked but escaped, this was an assassination attempt and I decided to leave Nigeria after this. I moved to the UK and I feel really safe, I feel I can be who I want, I can express my views about things and people can disagree with me, they can attack me, they can abuse me, but they will never put a gun to my head (well maybe not yet)”.
Bisi is of the knowledge that homophobia is a force that will be hard to eradicate in Nigeria and if we begin to embrace our LGBTQIA loved ones, the impact will be phenomenal.