Pamela Adie is one of Nigeria’s leading LGBT activists and she is our Cover Star. She was formerly with All Out and is currently on the board of the Bisi Alimi Foundation.
She is letting us into her world and giving us the scoop on her latest project. Check out the exclusive interview below.
TRT: You are one of Nigeria’s leading LGBT activists; representing the country even on a global scale. When did you decide that this was something you wanted to do full time?
PAMELA: When I came out of the closet, I never really set out to become an activist. But after I came out, I realised there was so much work and I thought “if not now, then when?” Also, for me the struggle is personal. In as much as I find myself speaking for others, I am also speaking for myself and those coming after me. It would be a terrible thing if the next generation continues to suffer the same things we are suffering now. Even if we don’t attain full equality, it will never be said that we did not try.
TRT: How has the journey been so far?
PAMELA: Well, it has been rewarding. I am doing what I love to do – advocating for rights of LGBT people in Nigeria. This is not to say that it has been easy because it hasn’t. There are pros and cons of doing this work and being in the public eye but it is what it is. What keeps me going is my focus on the work that needs to be done to get to where we want to be as a community.
TRT: What are some of the challenges of being open about your sexuality in a country like Nigeria?
PAMELA: Nigeria and Nigerians are funny. On one hand, we say we do not “condone” homosexuality. On the other hand, we are generally very fascinated and intrigued by homosexuals. This fascination is evident in the obsessive interest in the lives of LGBT people on social media. Anything that bears resemblance of homosexuality is an instant hit guaranteed to create a lot of traction. It is a contradiction I can’t understand. As you know, I have been featured multiple times, albeit inaccurately, on gossip blogs and websites but this does not deter me. Some think it is dangerous but I know it is giving visibility the lesbian community that has not been seen before. So this is a good thing. Another positive thing is that people have someone to look up to. Back in the day, there was practically no one. So, as much as there are challenges, I focus on the opportunities.
TRT: How do you deal with the negativity and online hate?
PAMELA: I have learned that negativity is projection of what is inside a person. Knowing that, I don’t take any of it personal. I’m not a negative person so, as I said before, I don’t pay attention to the negative things people say. I focus on opportunities and remain thankful for the free visibility I get with so much coverage. I generally don’t pay attention to anything that disturbs my peace. On the other hand, I get a lot of positive feedback and requests for help in matters of sexual orientation and gender identity, especially from women. There is work to be done and I’m constantly working with my team on how to solve some of our most pressing challenges. That is what keeps me occupied.
TRT: How would you describe the fight for equality of LGBTIQ persons in Nigeria? Should we be hopeful?
PAMELA: What I know is that from various research conducted over the past few years, we are making progress. A survey commissioned this year by The Initiative for Equal Rights showed a growing increase (39%) in the percentage of people who believe that LGBT people should have equal access to public services like health, education and housing. Although the progress is slow, it is still progress and we will keep pushing. So, yes, we all should be hopeful while also doing our bit in helping to bring about full equality. The road has many peaks and valleys, twists and turns but we must remain committed because that is the only way we will make progress.
TRT: You used to be the Senior Campaigns Manager at All Out. What is next for Pamela?
PAMELA: You know, there is so much work to be done here in Nigeria and we all have to work together. It is no secret that female sexual minorities in Nigeria have been largely ignored over the years. Yet, this is a population that has real and separate needs that continue to go unmet. So I took the plunge and started The Equality Hub. It’s a non-profit organization working to advance the rights of female sexual minorities in Nigeria through community-building, research, advocacy and empowerment. We operate out of Lagos. The reception has been great. We are already receiving emails expressing interest in our work and people offering to help in critical areas like policy research. So, we’re excited. Our first project is a Needs Assessment and Stakeholder Mapping project that will help us gain a better understanding of the situation of female sexual minorities in Nigeria. This information will form the baseline for further programming. The application to participate is still open and free of charge. So, stay tuned. Meanwhile, our website will be ready soon but like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter to get updates on everything we are up to!
TRT: Sounds interesting. Are there ways or specific campaigns you intend to use to reach out to these women?
PAMELA: At the moment, we are collecting information and building a database. The Needs Assessment project will inform our communications strategy. We want the women to tell us the best way to reach them instead of assuming we know. But for now, as I mentioned earlier, we are heavily on social media and also doing a lot of personal networking and press, like granting this interview. Campaigns will come in the near future and the nature of these campaigns will depend on the findings of the Needs Assessment project.
TRT: Talk to us about your inspiration?
PAMELA: You see, when your house is on fire you do not run away and allow it to burn. You find a way to put out the fire, right? The metaphorical “house” of LGBT people, and female sexual minorities in particular, in Nigeria is on fire. I cannot sit and fold my arms while our house is burned down. If our house is burned down, where will our children and future generation live? That is my motivation.
TRT: What is your dream for the LGBT community in Africa?
PAMELA: The LGBT community in Africa is fragile one, but it is one that is growing because people are waking up! We are becoming more aware. With that awareness comes solidarity which gives strength. With strength comes action. With action comes progress. That is my dream for our community. I hope that someday, we can all join hands together to progress as one family.
TRT: Final word for our readers.
PAMELA: These are trying times for the community and for Nigeria as a whole. So many problems. So many people waiting for a messiah. But the truth is we are our messiahs. The power is in our hands and we can use that power to create the future we want. One of my heroes, American Congressman John Lewis, said “if you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up, speak out and find a way to get in the way, to get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.” Imagine that all of us find a way to get in the way or even speak up against the many injustices and discrimination we see everyday. Just imagine where we could be.
Follow Pamela Adie on Twitter and be sure to follow The Equality Hub on social media. Links in the interview.