Those who feel that the LGBT community in the United States is struggling should take a look at Nigeria. There, those convicted of being in same-sex relations can be imprisoned for up to 10 years, and a law that would ban gays from assembling for any reason was recently considered ( although it was ultimately rejected ) .
Davis Mac-Iyalla, founder of the pro-gay Changing Attitude Nigeria, is currently touring the United States, and will be in Chicago on June 8. Mac-Iyalla recently talked with Windy City Times about the conditions in the African country and his hopes for the future.
Windy City Times: Please talk about what conditions are like for the gay community in Nigeria.
Davis Mac-Iyalla: Nigeria is one of the world's most horrible places for gay people to live in. You cannot survive in Nigeria if you want to be honest about your sexuality.
It's all because the politicians [ need ] something to hold on to, so they look for the favors of the people. Like right now, Archbishop [ Peter ] Akinola [ the leader of Nigeria's Anglican Church ] is using homosexuality as an issue to draw attention and to make a foundation for his personal ambition.
WCT: Now, how bad has it gotten? I imagine that people have been beaten and arrested.
DM-I: Gay people are being killed and thrown in jail. You can never be yourself in Nigeria; it is horrible for gay people.
Recently, they introduced a bill to bar same-sex relationships. It has not even been approved by the legislative, but gay people have been attacked in different places.
WCT: What about the trans community?
DM-I: In Nigeria, you don't have [ many ] transgenders. That case is different altogether, because [ many see ] transgenders as demonic people who come from the Devil.
WCT: Would you say that Archbishop Akinola is one of the biggest enemies of gay people there?
DM-I: As a Christian, I try to extend love to even those who hate us and work against us. I don't want to [ be seen ] as an enemy to Christians, but I think that he is the number-one [ opponent ] . He is raising the dust and drawing attention, and he is putting the LGBT community in Nigeria in danger.
And what he's doing has extended to the region, because in west Africa, all the people are beginning [ to turn against ] LGBT people. [ His ] is the voice that is destroying us.
WCT: Tell me about your mission here in the United States.
DM-I: My purpose is to meet and tell my story to my brothers, sisters and friends in the LGBT community. [ I want ] people to know what is going on in Nigeria, and how we will [ band ] together to see how we can change our conditions [ there ] .
WCT: How much hope do you have regarding the situation there?
DM-I: There is [ some ] hope. We've just started; we're at step one. The first step is to get ourselves organized, which we are doing now. Then, there will be another step and another step. There is hope for Nigeria; I believe that, even though it will take time.
WCT: And when you see what's happened in South Africa, with the legalization of same-sex marriage, does that give you more hope?
DM-I: Yes, because [ the anti-gay advocates ] will not live forever. We have hope in west [ Africa ] , because it must begin [ somewhere ] . South Africa started and now they have it. We feel that, with the help of God, we will also get it.
WCT: How is Changing Attitude Nigeria doing?
DM-I: Changing Attitude Nigeria is getting stronger and getting more support from all over the world. Some group leaders have met, and we're getting stronger and moving on.
WCT: You no longer live in Nigeria [ as a result of being exiled ] . How concerned are you about your own safety?
DM-I: God helped me get out of Nigeria, and in my new country my group leaders can meet with me and get new information and go back to Nigeria. It's only God that has seen me through, and I trust God with my safety.
WCT: Did you want to add anything?
DM-I: Brothers and sisters in America and all around the world should put their interest in us; we need each. A gay man in Nigeria is no different from a gay man in America, so we need to unite to stand up against the voice that wants to make us voiceless.
Davis Mac-Iyalla will be featured June 1 on the Gay Liberation Network's ( GLN's ) cable television show ( Channel 21 in Chicago ) at 6:30 p.m., and will appear at a community forum hosted by GLN on June 8 at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, 621 W. Belmont, at 7 p.m. See www.gayliberation.net .