“When my attackers came for me in 2007, they wanted to make me a victim. But I stand tall today… My name is Bisi Alimi, a Nigerian-born British citizen gay rights activist. And I am not a victim…. These narratives don’t shape me. I want to own my own story.”
Those strong affirmations came in this week’s video from the “Quorum” series of 11 discussions of international LGBTI issues.
These are extensive excerpts from Alimi’s speech to the Quorum gathering, as shown on the video:
A few years after I came out, my house was broken into, I was beaten, I was tortured and narrowly escaped being shot in the head. I was tied up. I was stripped naked. At some point, all I could see was my body in a casket. It seemed that I had an out-of-body experience in my subconscious.
My attackers did this to me because of one reason – I was the man who had the effrontery to come out on national television as gay. That day they wanted to take away my pride from me, they wanted to take ME away from me. That night I stopped being a victim and I started being Bisi Alimi.Today I have to deal constantly with the victim narrative of not being man enough. I have to deal with the victim narrative of not being African.
‘These narratives don’t shape me’
But what is very important to me is that these narratives don’t shape me. I want to own my own story.
Nobody taught me to be gay. I was gay the very moment I made my first cry as a baby.
Ten years after my coming-out, in January 2014, the Nigerian government signed into law a bill that would prescribe 14 years’ imprisonment for LGBT people. Immediately after the passage of the law, we started to see situations such as these in Nigeria – houses broken into, men and women stripped naked, forced to have sex in public. In this kind of situation, it is very easy to go to bed at night crying. It is very easy to be broken.
In this kind of situation, it is very easy to give up. But one thing that we fail to understand is the fact that there are men and women that are standing up and wanting to be counted.
‘I want to celebrate our allies’
And today I want to celebrate our allies. In 2004, when I was preparing to go on TV, this woman [Funmi Iyanda] risked her life, risked her profession, risked her job, and she became the first woman to interview a gay person in Nigeria. Her show got canceled because she gave me a platform.
Today I want to remember Elnathan John and Ayo Sogunro, two prominent Nigerian bloggers who have used their blogs to tell an alternative narrative of the reality of sexual orientation and gender identity in Nigeria. Mind you, I’m talking about heterosexual people.
I want to remember Olumide F. Makanjuola, who is leading the most formidable LGBT challenges in Nigeria, who is becoming a new voice for LGBT people in the country.
Today you know the most celebrated Nigerian — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She has used a book to tell stories of LGBT characters in Nigeria.
What about Jude Dibia? – the first Nigerian author to write a book with the main focus on sexual orientation and gender identity, titled “Walking With Shadows.”
I also remember my very good friend Stephanie, a German lady who has used her role and opportunities in Germany to highlight the injustice faced by Nigerian LGBT activists within the German political elites.
These are people who are standing up on our behalf. They are giving us voices. They are not speaking for us, but they are creating platforms for us to speak up.
‘Be a champion or be a victim’
When the attackers came to my house in 2007, they wanted to break me, but I refused to be broken. They wanted to silence me, but I refused to be quiet. They wanted to take away my pride, but I refused them that opportunity. Today there are many LGBT activists and many LGBT people in the continent of Africa who, like me, might be wondering, “What can I do?”
You have a choice. You can either choose to come out or stay in the closet. You can either choose to fall or rise. You can either choose to be silent or to speak up. You can either choose to be a champion or be a victim.
Because today I stand before you as a fellow of the Aspen Institute’s New Voices. I stand before you as a proud godfather of two amazing beautiful girls. I stand before you as a lover, as a brother and as a son.
I celebrate being listed on the World Pride Power List 2014. I celebrate being listed four years in a row on the UK Most Important LGBT People. I celebrate being listed as the third most influential free-thinker and secularist in the United Kingdom.
I celebrate being a champion and not a victim.”
This video is the ninth of 11 discussions of international LGBTI issues that overall are designed to “reverse the megaphone,” allowing activists from abroad to tell Western viewers about the challenges that LGBTI people face worldwide. The videos were recorded at a December 2014 meeting in New York.
The series, under its full title “Quorum: Global LGBT voices,” is presented by The Daily Beast. The Erasing 76 Crimes blog, as a member of the advisory board for the project, helped The Daily Beast select Quorum speakers.
- Quorum introductory video: Global LGBT Voices in New York (76crimes.com)
- Quorum video 1: Malaysian prison turned her into a trans activist (76crimes.com)
- Quorum video 2: Jamaican activist: Be a global voice for LGBT liberation (76crimes.com)
- Quorum video 3: Panel of U.S.-based activists discusses LGBTI rights advocacy in the world at large. (76crimes.com)
- Quorum video 4: ‘Laws are great,’ but LGBTI struggle must go further (76crimes.com)
- Quorum video 5: The human cost of Russia’s anti-gay campaign (76crimes.com)
- Quorum video 6: ‘Save us from the saviors,’ say LGBT Indians, sex workers (76crimes.com)
- Quorum video 7: “Online activists spur change in Middle East, China, world” (76crimes.com)
- Quorum video 8: “Threats, arson can’t stop Caribbean LGBTI activist” (76crimes.com)