African LGBT Activist Escapes Death Threats

On April 21, 2016 Huffington Post published this article:

I am always saying to my new American friends, “I know it is tough being gay in the US, but be grateful that you can’t be put in jail for five years simply because a neighbour told the police you are a homosexual.”

I was born in Cameroon in 1985, into a society that believes it is perfectly fine to bully, beat, jail, and kill LGBT people. As you can imagine, coming to realize that one is gay in his teens under these circumstances is terrifying.

I have a wonderful family, but religion is pervasive and a part of everything we do. I learned early on to hate myself and knew that I could never tell my mother and father. I endured the taunting at school. I tried to hold my head high and stood up for myself when I could. I was learning how to be an activist, without even knowing it.

I eventually found work at Alternatives Cameroon, an HIV/AIDS underground activist group. Doing this kind of work in a homophobic society is extremely dangerous. Eventually, local youth found out and my personal experience with assault and beatings began. One night, on my way home, a group of boys surrounded me on the street. They began beating me with clubs and one boy had a knife. I was saved by my ability to take the blows without flinching and by the intervention of a residence guard who miraculously showed up and asked the boys to stop beating me because I was already almost dead.

I dragged myself home and realized that I would have to leave before I was killed. I was also starting to believe that I was, indeed, a terrible person as I turned their insults into truths about my humanity.

Not long after, a fellow gay activist and friend named Eric was burned with hot irons for hours before he finally, mercifully, died. I was terrified. It was then that the boys who had beaten me found my phone number and the death threats started to flow. They called me a dirty homosexual. They said I was a disgrace, a nobody, and that the only way out for me was death. When I got home, I saw that they had written “Dirty faggot we know where you live” on my front door in animal blood. I had more frightening messages on my phone every day and received notes saying that I deserved the same punishment as Eric. Then, they started calling and threatening my family. I knew that this had to stop. I was tired of being treated like an animal.

I took off with what I could carry. The best thing I packed was nothing material. I took a vision of my mother smiling at me and holding me in her arms. I carried images of my friends helping me to have the courage to carry on in life.

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