November 5, 2014 – Reported by the NY Times – Nigeria’s passage of a law criminalizing same-sex relationships drew immediate international outrage earlier this year. In New York, gay activists held protests outside the Nigerian government’s offices, something that amazed Rahima Gambo. With so much of life hidden in Nigeria, she said, nothing so bold would have happened there.
That realization led Ms. Gambo, a Nigerian photographer raised in London, to explore the lives of the growing number of gay men who have fled to the United States seeking asylum and a chance to live freely. It was during the March protest in New York that she met Saheed Ipadeola, a young man living in Brooklyn who introduced her to other asylum seekers. They shared their stories in ways that would never be seen in Nigerian media, which she said reduced them to stereotypes without dignity.
She saw them as survivors.
“Many of the men I document are proud of their identities and still connected to family members in Nigeria, but there’s this constant strain of wanting to be vocal but fearing for family and loved ones,” Ms. Gambo, 28, said. “All of the men always say there was nothing to go back to. They all talk of this fatigue of the Nigerian system, and the law being passed was a final nail in the coffin.”
Ms. Gambo started her project earlier this year while in graduate school and later pursued it as a Magnum Foundation fellow. The enactment of Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in January effectively banned homosexuality, making it illegal for gay people even to hold meetings. The law reinforces hatred of the gay community, the asylum seekers said, going far beyond mere opposition to same-sex marriage. Two men can be jailed for holding hands or other public displays of affection. Homosexual clubs, associations and organizations were outlawed, with penalties of up to 14 years in prison…