Moving to Chicago wasn’t really a deliberate decision I made. It was based on several death threats I received working with the men who have sex with men community (MSM) in Nigeria and also as a gay man. I was arrested twice by the police force all because I was sensed to be gay. I got a lot of phone calls and text messages from the Sharia commission which operates in the Northern part of Nigeria accusing me of making their children become gay.

Sometimes I question God for making me go through all these troubles all because of being me and this made me wish it was a mistake that God created me. Currently, in Nigeria, the LGBTI community faces a lot of stigma and discrimination, which leads to violence, attack by the public and even attacks by those closest. Men who have sex with men most especially get beaten up and arrested by police because of being gay.

A few months ago, the president signed into law the same sex prohibition bill and as a result of this action, a lot of people involved in providing services to the community are liable to end up in jail if they’re caught. Even the doctors that treat MSMs, organizations associated with them, any suspected gathering of men are all liable to 10yrs in jail. With all these happenings, there was a voice in me that was saying, “God has a better plan in your life and you need to accept it and belief in it.”

I am really loving my new life here in Chicago.  Great thanks to God and those who believed in me. I am one of the newest employees of the Reconciling Ministry Network here in Chicago as the Africa Central Conferences Coordinator. Prior to my arrival in Chicago, I worked for the Population Council as a community mobilization officer with the basic responsibility of serving as a bridge between the LGBTQI community and the organization. I also managed the day to day running of the community health center which was established in Lagos Nigeria by the Council to provide treatment, care and support for the most at risk populations (MSMs, FSWs, IDUs) in the state.

Throughout my career as an advocate I have faced much stigma and discrimination. Anyone standing up for the MSM or LGBT communities in Nigeria does. I did not stop working for, and on behalf of, LGBT individuals while I was still in the process of getting my life back.

I co-founded Chicago LGBT Asylum Support Program (CLASP) which was based on my personal experience knowing first-hand the difficulty asylum seekers face when they arrive here in the US and the lack of resources available to them. I  took it upon myself to organize and start CLASP with the support of LGBT Faith Asylum Network, Rev. Lois Parr of the Broadway United Methodist Church and John Adewoye to assist LGBT asylum seekers while they await the long and complicated process of applying for asylum. The program currently have about 10 folks seeking our support here in Chicago

I was granted asylum in April 2014 which I got in less than six weeks after I submitted my application. This was a big testimony for me because there are thousands of folks who are still in the process for years and they have not received asylum. It really made me have faith in God and know that God has a better and brighter future for me. I was admitted to study Social Work at Northeastern Illinois University where I have started classes while I also take my general classes at Kennedy King Community College.

It is my pleasure to inform you that the last two months that I have been working with RMN has been part of the happiest days in my life. My work came about due to the intense levels of homophobia on the continent of Africa among community members, political leaders, health care workers, and religious leaders. My major goal is to work with other Reconciling Congregation in other countries to provide safe spaces and inclusive environments for LGBTQI persons and others who experience discrimination and abuse.

RMN is poised to provide entry points and a successful plan to inaugurate such work in the following African countries:  Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, and Liberia.  These three countries contain the highest numbers of United Methodists on the continent. Currently we are planning to have a training for religious leaders in these region on Sexuality and Religion so that they can have a clearer picture and join hands in the provision of safe space for LGBTQI folks.

I really want to use this opportunity to say am grateful to all of the people who have supported me in my journey and in my career, and most especially, my partner who is still back home in Nigeria. I miss him.

Latest posts by Dennis Akpona (see all)
Supporter of Post Navigator WP Premium Plugins
Share This