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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May God have mercy on you and change your evil life.

Our religion does not allow us to do this evil deeds, please stop putting this useless man on your website. it may damage our young ones coming up. may God fine away of changing you and forgive you from this evil you found yourself. You been taken to USA because you are doing an evil thing in your country ,if not you could have been here as unwanted species in d society. You stings and you so disgusting. And stop telling the world you're born with it cos your nothing but a lier. Hate gay n lesbians world.

RE-GAY RIGHTS

THE MORAL VALUES AND SPIRITUALITY OBTAINABLE IN THE WEST IS DIFFERENT FROM WHAT GOES ON IN NIGERIA..WE BELIEVE STRONGLY IN A MAN-WOMAN UNION AND NOT IN HOMOGENOUS SEXUAL ORIENTATION. THE BIBLE AND CHRISTIANITY AS A RELIGION FROWNS AGAINST IT...THE DESTRUCTION OF SODOM AND GOMORRAH IS A CLEAR-CUT EXAMPLE. THE MORALLY BANKRUPT WESTERN NATIONS CAN'T DICTATE TO US ON WHAT OUR(NIGERIA'S) STAND ON SEXUALITY SHOULD BE. OUR TRADITIONS AND RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION DOES NOT PERMIT HOMOSEXUALITY IN WHATEVER FORM. GOD CREATED MAN AND WOMAN,PHYSIOLOGICALLY SPEAKING...A PENIS IS MEANT FOR A VAGINA NOT FOR ANAL PENETRATION. LET US SAY IT AS IT IS,HOMOSEXUALITY AND LESBIANISM IS AN ABHORATION BEFORE GOD AND MANKIND...INFACT IT IS LIKE UNDERMINING GOD'S WORK. NO APOLOGIES TO WHOSE OX IS GORED! KUNLE STRESSACCHI.

why hate??

Why some Nigerians are so full of hatred I can never understand and this is why as a society we will never move forward. The people get they leaders they deserve and if this level of negativity is the general thinking of the public then we are doomed as a country. Stupidity, ignorance and barbaric statements will not win you any favour with God.

Why shove your beliefs down others' throats???

I am an open-minded heterosexual and It is really saddening to see such negative and hateful comments and this is why as a society we will never move forward. Why should one man wish another dead just because he was born different, it is comparable to wishing someone dead just because for instance he has a mental problem. I'm sure majority people using religious justifications have in one way performed acts that would be regarded as sins against God. Why should you shove your beliefs down other people's throats? The level of ignorance and stupidity is both amusing and disturbing. Let people choose the way they want to live their lives as long as it doesn't bring harm to others. The people get the leaders they deserve and if this level of hatred is the general thinking of the public then we are doomed as a country.

A born gay is suffering Congenital Disease

I do believe some of these faggot are born gay, no doubt but this is nothing but a simple birth defect also know as congenital disease. When a child defect is detected whether during birth or years after birth the simple solution is to seek medical solution.
I watched my neighbor grew up to be gay right from childhood to his adulthood in the heart of Lagos not even in obodo oyinbo.
Children had been born with heart defect,high fever, cleft plate, conjoin twins,autism, including sexual disorders such as hermaphrodite, gay may be due to gene mutilations or hormone disorder.
And some becomes gay due to Psychological reasons or emotional circumstances, this is common among women.
Kings College, Queens College, all boys High school and all girls high school with a boding facility, these are breading avenues for potentials gays and lesbianism.

NOT ADAM AND STEVE

IF GOD WANTED US TO BE GAY, HE WOULD HAVE CREATED ADAM AND STEVE AND NOT ADAM AND EVE..FAGGOT, U NEED DELIVERANCE.

Choice?

Choice? Armed robbery too ia a matter of choice, prostitution is a matter of choice, drug addiction is matter of choice. But are these good choices? I presume you have some common sense in you? God created us 2 sexes - male, female - with physical attributes that implies that union must be between male and female and not male and male or female and female. Any tendency against a male and female union is a sick one.

Choice?

Choice? Armed robbery too ia a matter of choice, prostitution is a matter of choice, drug addiction is matter of choice. But are these good choices? I presume you have some common sense in you? God created us 2 sexes - male, female - with physical attributes that implies that union must be between male and female and not male and male or female and female. Any tendency against a male and female union is a sick one.

Choice? Armed robbery too ia

Choice? Armed robbery too ia a matter of choice, prostitution is a matter of choice, drug addiction is matter of choice. But are these good choices? I presume you have some common sense in you? God created us 2 sexes - male, female - with physical attributes that implies that union must be between male and female and not male and male or female and female. Any tendency against a male and female union is a sick one.

Choice? Armed robbery too ia

Choice? Armed robbery too ia a matter of choice, prostitution is a matter of choice, drug addiction is matter of choice. But are these good choices? I presume you have some common sense in you? God created us 2 sexes - male, female - with physical attributes that implies that union must be between male and female and not male and male or female and female. Any tendency against a male and female union is a sick one.

For the sake of Nigeria

It is alright to have your views that homosexuality is wrong, but do not bring religion into it - there are Muslims, Christians and Jews who are gay so both sides of this argument are flawed. Secondly, please try not to compare a homosexual person to a cannibal - that is ignorant and offensive. I am so surprised to see people reading an online newspaper have these views because I foolishly believed you may be progressive and forward thinking - I am not gay, don't think I will ever be, but I allow people to do what they want because at the end of the day God will judge - NOT ME, NOT YOU.
So, to conclude - shut the fuck up, ignorance is most certainly not bliss.

Homosexuality is a devil's concept?

Olufemi, you read your bible like a christian Taliban.If God is so perfect could you explain why we have disabled children from birth? Why are Nigerians black and Europeans white? The unfortunate thing is that Africans, especially Nigerians, read their bibles literally without any application of common sense.Barely 200 years ago the white man believed that the black man had no soul and is not better than a chimpanzee.Remember they also used the bible to justify their belief?Wake up Mr, gay people were created the way they are by God, not the Devil.The Devil has no part in the creation process.

Nigerian Gay Rights Activist

You better stay there-o. Never come back to pollute our society here. We have enough problems already. I wish you were killed that night they attacked you. Stupid Idiot.

Big pool , mumu, how many

Big pool , mumu, how many An
glican pastors were cought for sadomising? Count with out number

Ado furo

Oju e somu somu bi oju ado furo

GLAD YOU HAVE HIV

Iam glad that you have HIV and now you are in USA where Obama has already given license to people like you to continue with such lifestyle. Stay there and spread the HIV to the oyibo and never you in your life time thing of coming back to this Nigeria. No punishment would have equaled the virus that locate your type. Idiot! .

A Shameless Manimal

What a shameless manimal! if despite the evils in nigeria, it cannot accommodate people like you, then you should know you are less than chmpanze and monkey. no wonder you said your parents notice you were not a human being. excuse me..... fool

Re Gay activist

Liberal democracies of Western world subject is just another desperate economic migrant who seeks a valid stay. Remember the case from Ireland of the Nigerian emigre who sought asylum on the grounds of fear of genital mutilation/ female circumcision. Accept his story and you will open a flood gate of "overnight gays coming out of Nigerian descent"

GOD is GOD

the ruse of the west will not dwell in africa
i hope u know their ways?
the western world is wasting the future of this world
are we aware of their antics?
they only ensure evil reigns in africa in a very subtle way
have u not observed that?
westernization is destruction of morality
is the handwriting not bold enough for u to notice?
united nations' mission is to fight the will of GOD
but how far can they go?

they are after our enviable values
they have succeeded in bring down our value and now is our moral value-in this one they will not succeed in Jesus name-Amen!

don't allow urself to be used for ur destruction

GOD is GOD

the ruse of the west will not dwell in africa
i hope u know their ways?
the western world is wasting the future of this world
are we aware of their antics?
they only ensure evil reigns in africa in a very subtle way
have u not observed that?
westernization is destruction of morality
is the handwriting not bold enough for u to notice?
united nations' mission is to fight the will of GOD
but how far can they go?

they are after our enviable values
they have succeeded in bring down our value and now is our moral value-in this one they will not succeed in Jesus name-Amen!

don't allow urself to be used for ur destruction

Homosexuality is a devil's concept.

Homosexuality is a concept fashioned out by the devil and his disciples. It is a lie that some people are born to be so. Our God is not man that He be dubious and deceitful. He cannot create both heterosexual and homosexual beings to populate the earth. The Bible spells out in a clear manner, the functions of male and female beings in the human society. The danger of the upsurge of homosexuality emanating from the West are multiple. Let me just mention two. Heterosexual marriages will begin to dwindle as it is in the case of the Nordique countries with its dire consequences. And because homosexuality is a function of human lust, man will not stop at that. The next port of call may be bestiality. After all, "pets are our best friends". All these demonstrate that we are fast approaching the end of human history.

i might likewise say iam a maneater.

Since to be gay is naural, i might likewise say i was created a cannibal or a prostitute. the devil has succeeded in decieving many to continue and die in sin . dont be decieve u are created for greater things , dont limit ur self to the lust of the flesh.

Islam is the

Islam is the antiChrist.Google cloak of the Antichrist. Its common knowledge that there are more Muslim gays in Nigeria than Christians. The Christian God protects and loves His children but your Allah is protected by its followers.tell us where the Koran condemned homosexuality whereas its clearly condemned in the bible.

When u claim homosexuality is

When u claim homosexuality is natural, why do animals not do it? We should expect a male cow to try it on another male cow or chicken to do the same.Its a problem but the world is only trying to live with it.

The homosexual community are

The homosexual community are not by any means religious absent or the absent of Jesus christ. I strongly think its not also a medical issue but its by choice. Circumstances either by environment or other wise breed this hard choice.

Most Nigerians are just in exercise an display of there ignorance because the most difficult offence to prove is sex related offences. But how ever, even if one is caught in homosexual sex, with a consenting adult , I think the people should know that they lack the jurisdiction to prosecute such allege offender
But its only the state , either through the Attorney General of the state and/or federation can so act by virtue of the Constitution.

So if any person or group of persons humiliate any person or group of person under the guise of homosexual, such person or group of person can approach the court and claim damages.

fight against discrimination

The homosexual community are not by any means religious absent or the absent of Jesus christ. I strongly think its not also a medical issue but its by choice. Circumstances either by environment or other wise breed this hard choice.

Most Nigerians are just in exercise an display of there ignorance because the most difficult offence to prove is sex related offences. But how ever, even if one is caught in homosexual sex, with a consenting adult , I think the people should know that they lack the jurisdiction to prosecute such allege offender
But its only the state , either through the Attorney General of the state and/or federation can so act by virtue of the Constitution.

So if any person or group of persons humiliate any person or group of person under the guise of homosexual, such person or group of person can approach the court and claim damages.

My heart goes out to your

My heart goes out to your family that you have succeeded in bringing shame to. I hope you are not brother to one Ighodalo that I know. I feel so bad for him, if you are his broda. Shame on you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Even Animals know what is right.

I refuse to believe that being gay is an health issue. Its just a lie put forward by the devil. Homosexuality is against nature. Even animals don't do it. Come to Jesus and have the hold of the devil broken over your life!

Conclusion

....

Yet, I will not condone hate against anyone for being different from me so long as their difference does not hurt me or anyone else. As I often say, government world over needs to get out of the business of love and match-making. No benefits for anyone for getting married, no license to anyone. Having said that, people who choose to choose a life that, diseases aside, can not yield offsprings need to stop bringing innocent kids into that abnormal setting. You can not eat your cake but still have it, or convince yourself that you are actually holding on to the same cake. While there are no guarantees, kids still do better in a home with a mother and a father.

Contd...

...

Yet, people need to stop being hateful or trying to force their views on others... and this goes both ways. The gay community has a penchant for attempting to intimidate those who don't see their way of life as normal into seeing things their way. Chick Fila anyone? It's ridiculous that people lose their jobs or right to do business for not seeing things their way. The sheer arrogance!

As for me, I will not be intimated into saying homosexuality is normal because my head tells me different.

....