10 Nigerian Activists Fighting To Improve LGBTQ+ Rights

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Regardless of the global fight and steps taken towards equality, homosexuality remains a crime in most countries. In Nigeria, same-sex relationships are illegal with a jail term spanning up to 14 years imprisonment. Despite the law limiting the LGBTQ community and anything that is associated with it, several Nigerians within the country and beyond are using their platform in their own ways to champion the right to live their life how they please.

Adebisi Alimi

Alimi is a Nigerian-born LGBTQ and HIV activist. While at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) campus, he faced a lot of discrimination for his gay status that led to a disciplinary hearing. The media became aware of his sexuality after the university’s magazine Campus Lifestyle revealed his sexual identity as gay. Though he is a graduate, Adebisi narrowly received his certificate and was regarded as unfit to be a member of the institution’s alumni. In 2004, Adebisi raised HIV issues at a National HIV/AIDS conference in Abuja. He eventually became a gay rights advocate, spearheading peaceful protests and holding conversations calling for the recognition of gay people in Nigeria. In the same year, he came out as gay on Funmi Iyanda’s show New Dawn with Funmi on NTA making him the first Nigerian to publicly declare his sexuality on Nigerian national television. After outing himself, Adebisi received threats to his life which led him to abandon the country for his safety in 2007. The following year, he received refugee status in the UK and became a British citizen in 2014. While in London, Adebisi has remained an advocate for the rights of the minority groups in African diaspora communities. He has also collaborated with UK organizations including Naz Project London and Michael Bell Research. He discovered The Bisi Alimi Foundation in 2015 to push global acceptance for the LGBTQ community in Nigeria. In 2019, he held his first-ever event in Nigeria through his foundation titled “Night of Diversity 2019”. He has received several awards and ranked third among the 100 most influential Non-White Atheist and Freethinkers in Britain and Northern Ireland. 

Olumide Femi Makanjuola

Olumide started advocating for women and the LGBTQ community in 2005. After Former President Goodluck Jonathan endorsed the Same-sex Prohibition Act in 2014, Olumide co-produced a documentary that highlights the experience of being gay in Nigeria. Other movies co-produced by him include Everything in Between, Veil of Silence, We don’t live here anymore, Hell or High Water and Walking with Shadows adapted from Jude Dibia’s 2006 book. In 2006, he started off as a community volunteer and one of the founders of The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIER) before evolving into the Executive Director in 2012. He assumed the role before resigning in 2018. In 2019, he served as the Programs Director at the Initiative Sankofa D’Afrique de L’Ouest (ISDAO), a West African humanitarian fund that focuses on guaranteeing a fair and all-in West Africa without brutality and prejudice. In 2016, he was awarded a Queen’s Young Leaders Award for his contribution to the LGBTQ community. 

Adejoke Aderonke Tugbiyele

Born in New York and raised in Lagos, Adejoke is a queer black multidisciplinary visual artist and LGBTQ human rights activist. She is also a sculptor and filmmaker. Through her works, Adejoke sheds light on the LGBTQ human rights and women affairs globally and her identity as a queer woman with Nigerian roots. Her intention is to inform, empower and support people who belong to the Nigerian LGBTQ community and beyond in her sculptures, textiles, drawings and videos. Adejoke has been featured on media publications like CNN International, Huffington Post and VICE magazine.

Aderonke Apata

Aderonke discovered her sexual identity at an early age. She was also persecuted because of her sexual identity. She left Nigeria for Britain in 2004. As a result of her sexuality, she applied for asylum but was rejected on the basis that her sexuality was false and she didn’t want to return to Nigeria despite the evidence she presented. This situation caught the attention of the media and after a 13-year battle, the Nigerian LGBTQ rights activist Aderonke was eventually granted asylum in the UK. Due to her experience, she uses her voice to amplify the voices of people experiencing difficulties navigating the British asylum system. She is also the founder of a non-profit organisation that aids African LGBTQ people in need of asylum and refuge, African Rainbow Family. In 2014 she received the LGBT Positive Role Model Award from the 3rd National Diversity Awards and in 2018, she was awarded Activist of the Year at the 24th Sexual Freedom Awards.

Jide Macaulay

Born in London, Jide Macaulay is an openly gay priest, LGBTQ/HIV advocate and poet. He holds degrees in Law and Theology and a Postgraduate Certificate in Pastoral Theology. Jide is the founder and CEO of House Of Rainbow CIC, the first Nigerian church accommodating the Nigerian LGBTQ community. The church was created as a secure place for spiritual development and inclusion of black LGBTQ people. Jide centres his ministry on inclusivity and the integration of sexuality, spirituality and human rights. In 2007, he was awarded Man of the Year by the UK Black LGBTQ community for his role in helping LGBTQ people of faith.

Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim

She is a Nigerian screenwriter, filmmaker and producer. She is one of the founding members of Hashtag Media House, a production company. Since 2011, she has made efforts to support the Nigerian minority communities, majorly the LGBTQ community. In 2020, Uyaiedu alongside Pamela Adie directed a short film Ife which explores the romantic relationship between a Nigerian lesbian couple. The movie is not the first to portray lesbian couple, however, it’s the first to depict lesbianism for what it actually is. In the movie, Uyaiedu explores what queerness implies, erases the stigma attached to homosexuals and address the misconception about queer people in the Nigerian movie industry. She believes in educating and changing people’s perceptions about the LGBTQ community through her movies. She was listed on BBC’s 100 Women of 2020 list for her support towards women’s rights in Nigeria.

Miss Sahhara

Miss Sahhara is a British model, beauty queen and human rights activist. In 2011, Sahhara became the first Nigerian transgender woman to reveal her sexual identity openly on a global platform at Miss International Queen beauty pageant in Pattaya, Thailand. In 2014, she was crowned the Super Sireyna Worldwide in the Philippines making her the first black trans woman to win an international beauty contest. She is the founder of Trans Valid, a platform that aims at empowering and supporting the trans-gender community and the President of Miss Trans Global, an inclusive beauty contest that honours the support, intellect, & innovativeness of transgender women worldwide.

Moji Solar-Wilson

She is an LGBTQ advocate, social analyst, and the founder of Solar Worldwide Realty Inc. She married her lesbian partner, Margaret Wilson in 2017, making them the first Nigerian lesbians to be legally married in the United States. As a result of the ban on homosexual relationships in Nigeria, the US-based couple decided to bring a part of Nigeria to the Texas Hill Country in the United States since they could not return to Nigeria due to the criminalization of same-sex relationship. The couple owns Solar-Wilson village and intends to create a safe and inclusive place for people from various gender, sexual orientation and ethnic and religious background.

Richard Akuson

He is a lawyer, writer, editor and LGBTQ rights advocate. Richard left Nigeria to seek asylum in United States after his parents disowned him and he was attacked by homophobic students in the university after his friend revealed his sexual identity. He was one of the founders of ILLUDED, an online picture-distribution platform in 2014. He served as head of BellaNaija’s fashion and style sections. He was nominated twice as Best Fashion Writer at the Abryanz Style & Fashion Award. In 2017, he also received a nomination for The Future Awards Africa’s New Media Innovation Award. Richard launched A Nasty Boy magazine while at the Nigerian Law School in 2017, making it the first Nigerian LGBTQ-themed journal. The publication was created to commemorate, empower and acknowledge the experiences of members of the LGBTQ community in Nigeria and beyond. After the release of A Nasty Boy magazine, he was listed as one of the 40 Most Powerful Nigerians under the age of 40 by YNaija. In 2018, he was listed on Forbes Africa 30 under 30.

Davis Mac-Iyalla

Born in Port-Harcourt, Rivers state, Davis is an LGBTQ and human rights activist. He discovered his sexuality in his teenage years. He set up the Nigerian extension of the British Changing Attitude organization, which pushes for internal adjustment of the Anglican Communion for more involvement of Anglican sexual minorities. He became an activist and began to work with Changing Attitude after he was fired from his job as the principal of a local Anglican children’s school. He believes he was fired because of his sexuality. He currently lives in the UK as an asylum seeker.