Human Rights Activist and Founder of African Rainbow Family
In 2006, I attended my first Pride in Manchester. I couldn’t help but be astonished that there could be an opportunity for people like me to gather together, have fun and express themselves freely without any attack on them by state or non state agents! I was proud instantly to be a lesbian even though I wasn’t ‘out’ by then. I realised right there and then that I could one day, affirm my existence, significance and human right as a lesbian – a minority. It was loud and colourful in terms of costumes, banners, etc.
One striking thing however, was that I couldn’t see people of my colour in the Pride parade but a handful in the spectators’ crowd where I was. It got me thinking again about maybe being an LGBTI+ person was really a thing of the West as preached to us in Africa. Instantly, I asked myself if I had ever been to the West or had a knowledge of the West when I knew I was different from other girls at the early age of 10 years as well as having affinity for people of the same sex with me in my teenage years when I was growing up back in Nigeria.
The confusion, questioning that were always part of me as a result of my sexual orientation set in again; but over time, it later occurred to me that it wasn’t that homosexuality was un-African, as I have always known but that the reality of the division between races was staring me in the face as a person of colour.
I remember a lovely evening in 2010 with a friend of mine, recounting what life has been like; being a lesbian, living in Nigeria and my experience at my yearly Manchester Pride. She mentioned UK Black Pride and I became curious to know more about it.
Eventually I attended UK Black Pride first in 2015 where I had the honour to host the event alongside other amazing people. I used the platform to speak about the importance of unity and standing in solidarity with other LGBTI+ people around the world facing persecution and discrimination as a result of their sexual orientation and or gender identity.
My activism and advocacy for global LGBTI+ equality is a result of my personal experience of persecution, pain, torture, rejection, discrimination, degrading and inhumane treatments that I have been through in Nigeria where the law, culture, religion, norms and politics of the land persecute me and many like me. Hence my current campaign to repeal Nigeria’s anti-gay law.
I am particularly concerned about the mistreatment, institutional homophobia and criminalisation that LGBTI+ asylum seekers face when seeking sanctuary in the UK. As someone going through the system, it infuriates me and spurred my commitment to campaign for a fair and humane LGBTI+ asylum application and decision systems.
Spaces such as UKBP are very important to our community as it enables us to identify with one another and understand the issues that we face collectively and individually as LGBTI+ people of colour with different intersectional traits. This allows us to come up with the appropriate support mechanisms and help our allies to better understand the wrap-around-support that is right for us, so we can dictate how, when and why such support is needed.