Welcome to new contributor Richard Ahamefula, which is the pen name for an LGBTQ activist in Nigeria.
In recent days, my friends and family thought I was going nuts because I paid so much attention to American politics. Being that I am not American, they wondered why. They felt it was just too much of an unnecessary stress to think that I even have a candidate that I was supporting. Perhaps even you reading this at some point might have thought I was nuts as well.
My candidate was Obama — the reason being that I believe so much in his policies and especially that he has taken steps to help ease the suffering of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people not only in America but around the world.
I know that Obama has called on all American embassies to provide support and shelter for LGBTQ people. He has also asked for proper attention to be given to LGBTQ people seeking asylum in the US.
I won’t forget Hillary Clinton’s amazing speech last year, with the statement that really got me: “Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”
Many my family and friends don’t realize that the American government under the guidance of Obama and Hillary has contributed to the global fight for equality for LGBTQ people around the world. This has touched me as a gay man.
Personally, I have also enjoyed continuous communication and show of interest on issues affecting LGBTQ people in Nigeria from the American embassy in Nigeria.
It is good to have a government that recognizes the reality and challenges that LGBTQ people face, identifies that they are not perfect, but is willing to do a lot more in contributing to achieving equality for LGBTQ people around the world.
In contrast in my country, our government representatives have tirelessly appeared at international gatherings denying the existence of LGBTQ people in Nigeria. They haven’t even stopped there; they have decided to close their eyes to cases of arrest, detention and imprisonment of innocent same-sex-loving individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The most humiliating of it all is how my government has continuously tried on different occasions to pass an anti-same-sex-marriage bill, even with the existence of the penal code. It’s a peculiar thing to do at a time when the National Agency for the control of AIDS through its IBBSS research has found that HIV prevalence amongst MSM (men who have sex with men) has increased from 13.5% in 2007 to 17.4% in 2010.
You would think that this being a federal government agency, they would advise against the same-sex-marriage bill because of the challenges it would pose to Nigeria’s effort in dealing with HIV/AIDS. But over the years they have continued to remain silent.
Even with all of these challenges and many more still to come, LGBTQ individuals and activists — not only in Nigeria but elsewhere in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and in so many other places in the world where it is difficult to be who we are — are fighting back, taking up their space, demanding justice, uniting with each other and creating change.
One joy I/we have is that this is not a personal fight but a global one. We are all in this together. It is my hope that the success stories of moving from pain to gain will be told in our different countries with support from one another. So when next you see me rejoicing about a country’s election or about a particular speech or an elected president, you should know why.
— Richard Ahamefula