Q&A: Nigerian Gay Rights Activist, Living In Exile, Fights Gay Stigma

Michael Ighodaro
By Rebecca Hanser

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 1, 2012 (IPS/GIN) - As the international community came together on Dec. 1 to mark World AIDS Day, a new report from UNAIDS reveals that while significant progress has been made in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS, stigmatisation, violence and discrimination against members of the gay community continue relentlessly.

   Michael Ighodaro, a gay rights activist recently diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, is living proof of the incessant human rights violations in his native country of Nigeria.

   After he was brutally attacked, beaten and violated and his apartment burned down, Ighodaro was forced to flee to the United States. He now lives in New York and continues his work as an activist to raise awareness about violence against gays.

   “In Nigeria, it was like I was living a lie. In the streets you cannot walk the way you want to walk and cannot openly confess you’re gay,” he told IPS.

   Ighodaro spoke to IPS U.N. correspondent Rebecca Hanser about his life and struggles in Nigeria as a gay man with HIV and his work as a gay rights activist.

   Excerpts from the interview follow.

   Q: Having been born in Nigeria, a country known for its intolerance towards homosexuality, can you describe your younger years and what it was like for you to cope with this intolerance?

   A: I discovered that I was gay when I was only seven years old. My mother noticed I was different from my brothers and sisters and she thought I was sick so she brought me to churches and made me visit witchdoctors to find out what was wrong with me.

   When they concluded I was gay, I had no idea what that meant, because I was still very young. My mother said that it was evil and I had to be cured, which made me believe it was a bad thing to be gay and I became afraid to talk about it.

   However, it didn’t stop me from being who I am. At the age of seventeen I was dating boys. My parents couldn’t take it anymore and forced me to leave my home. My dad didn’t want to pay for my school anymore so I also had to drop out of high school. At that age, it was hard for me not to have a family or a home or friends. I had just my gay friends, and still it was very lonely.

   Q: What was your life like in Nigeria after you moved out of your home?

   A: When I moved away from my home I felt free and did everything I wanted. I had a very active sex life and it gave me such a liberating feeling to finally be able to give in to it. Unfortunately, at that point I didn’t know anything about condoms, lubricants or safe sex. Things would’ve worked out differently if I had been better informed or educated.

   I found out that I was HIV-positive when I was 23 years old. That’s also when I discovered what killed some of my closest gay friends in Nigeria. That really hurt me and woke me up.

   In Nigeria, it was like I was living a lie. In the streets you cannot walk the way you want to walk and cannot openly confess you’re gay. You have to say you’re straight if you want to have access to something. You have to buckle up so much that at a certain point you even start to believe your own lies.

   Q: Progress has been made in preventing HIV, but stigmatisation, violence and discrimination remain rampant. What are your thoughts on this imbalance?

   A: Gay people are not just being stigmatised in Africa but all over the world. The worst part is that we are even being stigmatised in our own communities. In the gay community, members are mostly struggling with gay laws, the fight for gay rights and HIV prevention strategies, but they somehow neglect gay people with HIV.

   They fail to specifically talk about gays with HIV, because you have to remember that a gay man with HIV is different from a gay man without it. These are two different things.

   Q: You are also an active gay rights activist both in Africa and now also here in the United States. What message do you try to convey through your work?

   A: There are many organisations I am involved with, even now in Africa, like ICARE, which is supported by the organisation African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHR). I also recently started an organisation here in the United States called African MSM Plus. It focuses on counselling and supporting gay men with HIV.

   I am also an IRM-advocate. IRMA is an organisation that fights for more advanced rectal microbicide research for people who engage in anal intercourse. In Africa I am also involved in an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) organisation called Mind Builders initiative.

   Unfortunately, these organisations in Africa have to work “underground” because there is no tolerance for such gay community centres. We have to hide, which is hard because we also offer walk-in sessions. But we keep doing this work because it is necessary. We shouldn’t only look at the challenges ahead of us but instead at our successes.

   My message is short and powerful: stay yourself, because you cannot stop people from thinking differently.

   Q: In terms of violence and discrimination, what is the worst that has ever happened to you?

   A: The night I was beaten up and attacked – it is all in my head. Whenever I close my eyes, I can still see the guys that did this to me. I try to forget, but every night in my sleep I still see them in front of me, calling me a faggot. It is terrible, but it’s something I have to live with for the rest of my life.

 

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COW

If your father was a gay, will you have been born? you became gay cos you lacked the courage and self esteem to approach the opposite sex....you look so imbecile and you must have gooten access to the states true you internet gay comapanion.

Gai Stigma

Hmmm, there are lots of gays in Nigeria but a lot of them will pretend like it does not happen there.

Thanks

Thanks for ur comments

"Judge Not That Ye Be Judged"

The Bible also teaches us "Let Him who is without Sin cast the first stone". The hatred shown by commentators in this article is neither admirable or humane, and some of the comments are shameful to all civilized human beings. The youth is to be commended for his honesty and courage in the face of such adversity and hypocrisy. May God have mercy on Nigeria and all its people. Amen.

No!

They should be not be allowed to pollute our environment adoption or whatever is not meant for irresponsible set of people. They are animal in human skin, its absolutely unwanted in my country. They have no right but disgrace but they need to let us know where they come across such mentality.

Animalistic should not be allowed to add up.

Oh, this animal behavior should not be allowed to add up to mess up our society. I guess a normal human being cannot just wake up and thing about this devilish sold out by foreigners.

Its the most shamefull thing

Its the most shamefull thing to bypass natural sexual organs for pleasure in the hole designed for execretion of human waste.

Homesexuals have always existed, what is new however, is a world, and not just the west, shoving homesexuality down the throats of all mankind.

Even homosexuals who are in thier right mind realise that a very serious situation is being created for them, in try to make all mankind homosexuual.

Let Africa keep progressing in technology, soon youll arive at the homosexual norm that is now the case in the west.

Again Evil has come to roost, And Man kind has been here before.

Technology is nothing new, there is a reason why ancient technolgies always end up in the dust, and its not unrelated to the force behind homosexuality.

Gay Rights

Let this man go and die somewhere. He did that so that he could have free entry to the US.

looking for symphyzers

if thats how the gay community now solicit for symphaty through such stories and articles, then they should re-think there options.

Just reading this piece make

Just reading this piece make me sick and want to puck, yuck!. I bet he is into these activism just for the extra buck he can make from sponsors of such deranged attitudes like his. Even animals don't mate same sex, Are these guys lower than animals?

any madical test to support

any madical test to support ur claims, pls dont misinform the masses.thank u

correct!

correct!

Ameen

Ameen

God will never accept dat

God will never accept dat prayer if he doesnt change, cos at first who forbids homosexuality?(God if u dont know) den why shld He accept dat prayer for somebody who openly prouds himself as somebody who can violate Gods way of doing things.u better change to in order to get Gods favour.I hope u are not a homosexual too trying to corrupt d minds of the readers.homos shld be bannished in our society(full stop) and as for his campaign God in His infinite mercies will not make it work out

All these talks for what!

All these talks for what! Just to prove a point to condone evil dat even frm ur statmnt ur admited it is evil, but tryin to confuse the minds of pple not to c it as evil so dat accusin fingers will nt also be pointed at u.lets call a spade a spade, u dont av to hide from sayin the truth even if d consequences will affect u negativly.in as much as am not saying everybody is pure from sin, lets helps ourselves by helping to identify the evils we engage in and proferring acceptable solutions to God and not by closin our eyes on evils and acceptin it as their "choice" which they av right to.GAY, LESBIANISM, TRANSEXUALISM are all evil acts and abberent xteristics to human essence and shld be fought vehemently(full stop).no thanks to america for habourin dem.dis is a devine judgemnt frm God to be enacted by man on the land so as to maintain sanctity of sexual behaviour in man.sex is Gods gift and He has a reason why He only favours its existence btw man and woman and not otherwise.

Damn Shame - But Not the Worst Thing the World

If homosexuality is natural, then the devil is doing overtime in America and the rest of the Western world. I do not condone the man's lifestyle (that's all it is). But he is not worse than an armed robber that kills for material things. He is not worse than
Ryan Lanza that kills innocent children.

The 7yr story is meant for immigration purposes and nothing else. I am impressed that most parts of Africa refuse to follow that part of oyinbo man's life. But be aware that lots of gay white men invade African countries (especially Francophone countries) and use their money to entice young Africans to this deviant lifestyle.

Am not in doubt that Gay will

Am not in doubt that Gay will one day take revenge when karma takes its course. Today, How many christains is aware that early christains did worst to muslims than Boko haram are doing.. Cause and Effect. Karma is Real. Reincarnation is an undoubtable reality. We see wickness in others when we are weak ourself. We think others are not normal when things are wrong with the thinker himself. What human forget to realise is dat we see in others our own exact picture. If u are evil, hate, evil minded, etc. Thats what you'll always see in others. Feel yourself with Love. Love, Live and learn with all souls. " kai; If men were God". I love God, i kelech Love xtains & muslims. I love the gay, hetrosexual or bisexual. I Love. Plz, Judge not and put not thyself in place of God. Who is free? .

Abort all GAY foetus

All GAY foetus should be aborted, the living GAYS should be castrated and banished to the evil forest forever.QED

We are not going to allow that

We are definately not going to allow that in our society. It is an inmoral acts,abomination and above all an animalist behaviour.I am in support of a strick law that forbids an individual that practise homo in our society.My gentleman is born in a wrong country . You better come to Nederland where everything is possible.

Quick to Judge

Its a shame that we Nigerians can be very hypocritical. I am appalled by some of the comments written. The gentleman is not stealing from you. He seems a honest and hardworking person but just because of his sexuality you crucify him. He is a brave and courageous person because he is honest and open about his sexuality you want to crucify him. I wish him all the best. God bless you Michael.

gay Nigerian

Michael, something is obviously wrong with you. I am not sure you have not made up the nonsense story just to enable you stay in whitemans land.in fact your likes are not welcomed in this part of the world. you are simply a pervert. if you will not use your God given instrument for the purpose it was made simply yank it off with a sharp knife instead of spreaing your HIV.its people like you that destroyed sodom and we dont want you to destroy Nigeria so your absence here is a good ridance to bad rubbish. may you never come back. bye forever.

The battle

The battle we face in nigeria and africa against this gay nonsense is a big one O.
This boy is saying that they have undergrond network of people doing it amongst us,so we have to make sure that we dont allow this to become an acceptable behaviour.
I know my people,and this oyinbo mental/devil
idea cannot take hold in africa.
We must be ruthless with these people,because i cant imagine a worse sin than this.
How can a man be putting inside mans nyash?
Haba. Are we going to allow these people to continue this evil act?
Make we shine eye O.
We must not tolerate any kind of gay lifestyle.
These people have to be shown that we will never allow it. NO BE 4DIS NIJAH O.
Yeye boy.Your poor mother and father.

There are many homosexual

There are many homosexual animals. So your point is not valid.

Courage

It takes courage to stand for what you believe....especially against an ignorant and violent crowd. I wish you success and happiness Michael. Keep up your good work and continue to operate from a place of Love; as we have been instructed by all our various God(s).

Idiote

Stupid ass hole! See how unruly ur comment in this forum, if ur gay declare your fucking fagot for us to no or keeping hiding like others in on our shore!

Michael or whatsoever u call

Michael or whatsoever u call urself, u really need deliverance from dis gay crap. Our livestyle comprise of d various choices we make, which are fallouts of the various thoughts we "allow" to gain root in our minds......
U couldn't have discovered ure gay mike, u chose dis path urself and d good news is dat u can still make tins right.
D question is.....Are u ready???

And for u gay supporters around, don't forget dat d western life's influence upon our beliefs,cultures and tradition are not necessarily a moral standard for living. Do we now want 2 allow d immorality dat thrives in the western world to steal away our right to discern rights n wrongs??? Because it's western origin does not make it right..... Think again fellas, think again!!

NIGERIANS ARE IGNORANT

why are all of you so damn ignorant. he is gay so what? some of you are just too bloody stupid to be tolerant. to those of you mentioning God who the hell have you created? Cast the first stone if none of you are guilty of sin. He is GAY AND I LOVE HIM BECAUSE HE IS HUMAN AND I AM PROUD OF HIM. GO AND JUMP IN A FUCKING LAKE

Let Love

Homosexuality is a human state, in which attraction is with the same sex. How many of you want to marry those who are NOT attracted to you? This does not sound like a genuine love relationship. Perhaps many believe that one size fits everyone? This is not the case. There are billions of people on this planet. They are not all the same. To have the expectation that all are the same maybe delusional.

As an American, this issue is seem as a civil right which, we believe all humans possess. Let Love Reign!!!

Peace and Joy to you all!!

A GREAT DISORDER BY MAN

THIS IS PURE DISORDER, BUT A DISORDER CREATED BY MEN NOT GOD. THERE MAY BE SEVERAL WAYS AT WHICH WE MAY WANT TO DISOWN THE EVIL IN THIS ATTITUDE. IF YOU CANNOT PRODUCE SOMETHING YOU CAN'T OWN IT ELSE YOU CAN PAY FOR IT. HOMO CANT PROCREATE WHY WILL THEY BE ENTITLED TO ABDUCTIONS AND OTHER PRIVILEGES OF MARRIED COUPLE.
THE WESTERN WORLD SHOULD OPEN THEIR EYES ALL THOSE GUYS SEEKING FOR ASYLUM WITH A CLAIM OF VICTIMIZATION ARE JUST PLAYING PRANKS. THEY DO NOT WANT TO STAY IN AFRICA.

For Crying out loud

For Crying out loud! why this claim for Gay Men saying they were born to be GAY? It is a blatant LIE.
It is just a matter of self control. Inability to say NO to advances from friends and colleagues immoral SEX. Once they have tasted it, they find it very difficult to abstain(the flesh is willing but the spirit is weak). You better stop it because the end is DAMNATION!!