Saturday, July 4, 2009

An inteview of Rashidi Willams by Naija youths

I first read about Rashidi Williams online when he was fighting for the rights of the Homosexuals just as the National Assembly was about to pass a bill prohibiting Gay marriages and relationships. I was impressed at the fact that a 24 year old guy was moved and passionate about the fight against the bill being passed. I was particularly impressed that he, being a voice of Gay people in Nigeria, was given the chance to speak by the leaders of this nation. This to me was a sign of democracy.
Who really was this Rashidi Williams? A young agile, learned, Laboratory Technologist, fighting a passionate cause of bravery (in my opinion) against all odds and deciding to brace discriminations, the derogatory words, the sneers, the stares and the ‘bad-mouthing’ that he is bound to experience.
Rashidi, as he describes himself is, “a simple, outspoken individual who dares to tread where others refuse. Most of all, he declares, “I am openly GAY”.
How does it feel to be a gay activist in Nigeria?
Very challenging, especially as a young person. Most people think I am too young for this and probably do not know what I am doing. But there is one sure bet and that is, I know what I want for myself and my community.
Do your parents know you’re gay? If yes, how did they react when you told them or when they found out?
Yes they do, but have not come to accept me fully as a gay man. But I know they will one day look me in the eyes and say I am proud of you child.
Are there other homosexual activists in Nigeria?
Sure I am not alone in this and not everyone who speaks out against to discrimination we face as sexual minorities are sexual minorities themselves.
Do you associate yourself with other homosexual activists within or outside Nigeria?
What change will you like to see in the future on this homosexuality issue?
That the fundamental Human Rights of Sexual minorities be enshrined in the laws of the land. That sexual minorities are counted and accounted for in the legislation of the country. Also that irrespective of sexual orientation everyone is treated equal before the law.
What’s the commonest stereotype that gay people face?
Spiritual abnormality. I mean being afflicted by a demonic spirit
What are you fighting for and how has the response been?
The fundamental Human Rights of Sexual minorities. So far so good we have been able to bring to the surface issues affecting sexual minorities. There was a time when government and people said we never existed in this country. But now that has changed. You cannot just say something disgusting or want to put a law in place that will discriminate and further send these persons underground and not get a stiff non violent resistance on such things. So I would say the response have been stimulating for us to carry on our activism.
Aren’t you afraid of being ostracized or discriminated upon?
These two things are the farthest things on my mind now. If I was afraid of discrimination and being ostracized I would not have even stood to speak publicly about my sexual orientation, let alone become an activist for my people. So it does not really bother me.
What were the 1st reactions you got from people when they knew you were gay?
You can’t be. You are joking. What people when they knew you about all those girls I see around you. You can guess the rest yourself.
How bad is discrimination in Nigeria?
The word BAD is an understatement. If there is any other adjective apart from BAD, please do use it. You are compelled to be a hypocrite on the basis of your sexuality all because you want to be accepted into your own society. You suffer silently and psychologically. One could even commit suicide in the name of discrimination. This is just a piece of the iceberg on how terrible discrimination can be.
Have you ever been given a favored status due to being a gay guy?
Maybe when they never knew I am gay.
How do you stay positive in view of all you’ve faced and still has to face?
Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet. This is a quote by Alice Walker and whenever I read this positivism comes from nowhere. I have my dreams and I have to fulfill them. My sexual orientation should not be a barrier. It is rather a stepping stone for me to greater heights.
How did you feel coming out and open about your sexuality?
There is no particular word that I can use to describe my coming out open and publicly as a gay man. But one thing I do know that I will not go back to the darkest of all darkness and that is the CLOSET. Therefore coming out open and public about my sexuality has been very challenging for me as far as I am a Nigerian living in Nigeria. And until the legislation changes it will be challenging.
Tell us, what’s the psychological impact of prejudice and discriminations?
It’s devastating. Do you know what it means not to be accepted into your own community or society at large? Every blessed day you keep the fears of letting others know your sexuality buried deep inside you. You cannot tell anyone your secret longings just for the fear of discrimination and ostracization. You live in constant fear that someone will pick you out one day. You suffer silently and can’t tell anyone. It is more devastating than this.
What does the term “coming out” mean? Why, do you think, it’s important?
Coming out to me means freely accepting who you are emotionally and sexually and also not denying it to yourself. It does not mean that you have to be public about it, but it does mean that you are open about your sexuality. As for the importance of coming out, I would say that the first thing you experience is an inner peace within you. If all the homosexuals in Nigeria are to come out at once and declaring their sexuality, you would be amazed at how large this community is. Please do not be surprised if you saw someone you never thought could be gay. It could be your father or someone very close to you.
What’s the nature of same sex relationships?
Let me be blunt here. It is just as same as that of the opposite sex relationship.
What, in your own opinion determines a person’s sexual orientation?
THE EMOTIONS. When I say emotions, I say it is the principal factor. I say this from the view point of what sexuality is and its definition by the medical community. Sexuality is the complex of emotions of one's self and eroticism. Need to say the fact that my characters, attitudes, preferences and what have you are embedded in emotions. And when something is a complex it is something you cannot change and you do not have control over. It is a dilemma you cannot overcome. So I will be right by defining a homosexual by concluding the above definition with the phrase 'of one's self and eroticism to one's own gender or sex'. The opposite goes for heterosexuality.
May I also say at this juncture that sex does not determine one's sexual orientation. But then the nature of the relationships are the same. The object is just the difference. Why? There are so many homosexuals out there who are into heterosexual relationships but the fact that they are into this relationship do not make them heterosexuals. They are still essentially homosexuals. The same applies in the opposite…Therefore your emotions determine your sexual orientation or sexuality.
What are the common myths about homosexuals?
That homosexuals are promiscuous and do not value relationship. That homosexuality is unnatural and un-African. Also that homosexuality is a choice. I could go on to list some more but the truth is that all this is just ways of discriminating against homosexuals .If you say homosexuals are promiscuous are heterosexuals too not promiscuous. But you don’t condemn them on that. So why homosexuals. No all homosexuals are promiscuous the same way that not all heterosexuals are and they value relationship the way heterosexuals value relationships. One sexual orientation is not chosen. Homosexuality has never been un-African. It was there before the invasion of the white men. So don’t say homosexuality is western. For all I care homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality.
Do you believe you’re different?
It is a blunt NO. I am not different from anyone
Then some more:
Are there different levels of homosexuality or is it based on the person’s character
ABEG! Homosexuality no get levels. Abi you no any levels wey dey for inside homosexuality make you tell me
What’s the most annoying question you've been asked?
When someone asked me if I was an hermaphrodite. The person even asked in the question in an annoying manner.
Do you feel you have to always have your guard up?
Not really but at times with my common sense.
What do you think the first reaction is when you tell people your GAY?
I can’t tell unless they tell me.
Do you think people can ever accept your sexuality?
Yes they can and they will. In fact some have already come to terms with it and see me no different.
Fun stuff
Yout favourites movies?
”Little Britain” and “Queer as folks”. Little Britain makes me laugh out my intestines.
Chic flicks or Action?
Best song and why?
I do not have a best song. I listen to music that inspires my soul.
What or who inspires you ?
When it comes to activism, Rev Rowland Jide Macaulay does.
In your view, what’s your greatest achievement?
I have had many great achievements but I cannot say for now that this is my greatest. But may be I will say one of my great achievements was the day I won an award courtesy of the Lagos State Government (the First Lady). This was during the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Regime in the year 2002, Dec 23rd.I wrote an essay on HIV/AIDS just one day to the submission deadline. I never believed I could be the winner in my Local government. At least I took my Parents to the State Government House, including some of my colleagues back then in Secondary School. This to me was a great feat I achieved then. You want a Picture? pictures for that I could provide (lol)
LOL! Most embarrassing moment?
The day one of my lecturers referred to me as a hermaphrodite in front of the whole class with everyone laughing. Not only did he embarrassed me but ridiculed me. What if I was? It was discriminatory to me as he did not stop there.
What ticks you off?