Track star, ousted by team, now evicted by anti-gay family

By Erin Royal Brokovitch

Thierry Essamba (Photo de sa page Facebook)
Thierry Essamba (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

As if he were a character in a tragic soap opera, star athlete Thierry Essamba keeps suffering new varieties of homophobic abuse.

After he was expelled from Cameroon’s national track team on suspicion of homosexuality, his family warned him that he would have to find a new place to live. On Aug. 28, he was thrown out of the family home in Yaoundé.

A friend was visiting him when Essamba’s older brother abruptly appeared and ordered both men to leave.

Thierry said the event was as humiliating as when he was expelled from the national track team on May 24 in a stadium filled with spectators who had come to see the team compete. On Aug. 28, he said, his whole neighborhood looked on as his brother forced him out of the home and shouted, “Go do your dirt elsewhere.”

The “dirt” that day consisted of allowing a friend to visit to chat with him and cheer him up.

To put an end to the humiliating scene caused by his brother, Essamba left the house immediately without even retrieving his belongings.

He later spoke with his mother by telephone and learned that she saw nothing wrong with what his brother did.

110m haies à RIo en 2007
Thierry Essamba won a gold medal for Cameroon in the 110 meter hurdles in the 2013 Central African Championships in Brazzaville, Congo. The photo is of that event in Rio in 2007.

The next day, Essamba was still in shock. He felt abandoned, alone in the world, that life was no longer worth living, Leaving him alone after that conversation was agonizing, for fear of what he might do.

Essamba now fears what fate has in store for him, although he accepts the need to be a focus of public attention, to meet people and give interviews. But his daily life has become a nightmare.

A female friend has loaned him a temporary place to sleep, but no one knows how long that arrangement can last.

What is left to say? Can no one help save the life of a track star who has been laid low by homophobia?

The author of this article is an LGBT rights activist in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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