Bisi Alimi

‘Angelic troublemaker incarnate’

During my first visit to a gay club in London with my cousin, I enjoyed the beautiful moments of being free to be me, but I still felt some anxiety in my mind. I had attended my fair share of gay parties in Lagos, Nigeria, but those always ended with touts breaking into the parties and beating us and robbing us of our valuables.

While here in London it is completely okay to be gay, I had lived my whole life until then as a gay man in Nigeria, always fearful of facing homophobia. Standing at the London gay club, it became clear to me that no matter how far I had flown away from Nigeria, I would always feel the lasting impact of being a gay man in Nigeria, a country whose laws were designed to kill me.

I arrived in London on April 12, 2007, after fleeing Nigeria to save my life. While I adapted easily to my life, and savoured the freedom of being gay, the liberty the London gay club scene had to offer, it was the Pride scene that really impacted me.

It was fewer than three months after arriving in London that I stood on the sidewalk of Trafalgar Square and watched people march flamboyantly by in the Pride parade. It was not just the people like me who were in the parade that fascinated me. As I stood watching, I suddenly saw police officers in the parade, followed by the military officers. Suddenly I felt not just scared, I was in a panic.

I was there with my former partner and I was not sure whether to cry or run for my life. This kind of scene doesn’t happen in Nigeria. Police and military personnel are not there to celebrate this kind of event with you, they are there to break it up and they are there to break you, dehumanize you and degrade you. As I stood by in London, I couldn’t help but marvel; here I was on the sidewalk, watching as a group of police matched past with cheers from the crowd. I had no idea I was crying until my partner drew me closer and gave me a kiss on my forehead.

While I have attended many Prides since 2007, I have never been able to forget the surreal feeling I had at my first Pride. The beauty I felt then of what it means to be free and be human stayed with me, but it was the fire that it started in me that means much more.

Since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how to make it possible for Nigerian LGBT people to walk down the street of Lagos or Abuja some day without feeling fear or anxiety. I want to see a day when police officers will lead a Pride with ordinary Nigerians cheering for them. I want everyone to feel that it is okay to be LGBT in Nigeria without fearing for ones’ life.

In August of the same year, I found myself at the campus of Regent Park College attending my first black pride. I had gone to this event as a volunteer, being inspired by my first pride.

It was for me another moment revived activism. I have never been now seen so many black people freely enjoying and expressing their sexuality. By this time, I was liberated and felt as part of the group, it was not a party for me, it was the beginning of my activism in Britain; a country that I have decided to call home.

My first Pride and first Black Pride set a fire in my soul and ten years later, I can still feel it burning. It is so unquenchable that it keeps me up late at night.

Twitter: @BisiAlimi

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