Davis Mac-Iyalla (45) is from Nigeria. He is very active in the Church, but he has to fight for acceptance every day: “I believe in the equality of all of Gods children”, he says. Davis is gay, out and proud. He doesn’t see any conflict between his faith as a Christian and his sexuality.
Not a big issue
The Church knew that I was gay, it was an open secret. I sang in the choir, I was a synod member. I always was well involved at the church. At this time, I was a teacher. People saw my performances more than my sexuality. As long as I didn´t officially tell anyone that I was gay, it wasn’t such a big issue.
Speaking out is the only way
The problems started with my official coming out. This was in 2005. I call this an official coming out because that was when I was right in the media, challenging the religious leaders on the way how they treat homosexuals. When I realized that speaking out is the only way forward, speaking out and claiming my rights in the open public, I exposed myself to all kinds of violent attacks. I have experienced discrimination, I have been beaten up. And meanwhile, all you hear from your church is that you are evil and that you will rotten in hell. I have been in so many situations when I wished the ground should open and swallow me up. I am a human being, my heart and mind is not made of stone. I had moments when I broke down. There were moments when I wished I wasn´t born. Moments I had doubts in my faith, moments when I asked God: “why have you decided to make me this way so that I will suffer?”
Emotional stress and loneliness
If you are an LGBT person in Nigeria, it is not easy to perform a happy and genuine loving relationship, because your partner is always in the same threat as you. That emotional stress and difficulty often causes loneliness. Two men holding hands is not an unusual thing in Nigeria. But once you become identified as a homosexual person, than the label totally makes you a target. When I go out with my partner, we have to look at our backs, to make sure we are not being followed, we have to make sure that nobody is pointing fingers at us, and if someone does there is going to be trouble and we have to sneak out of the place, so yes: Homosexuals in Nigeria always live in fear.
Persecution is not a Christian way
Criminalisation is the biggest problem LGBT people face in Nigeria. Not only is that homosexuality forbidden by the law. Many of our religions leaders – Catholics, Anglicans, Moslems, or any other faiths – keep talking about homosexuals as evils. As they are very present in the media, even people who don’t have faith listen so the voice of the religious leaders and always want to attack the LGBT-people. For future, I hope we can get the laws against LGBT People nullified. The next thing we will do is to begin to change the attitudes of the people and their understanding.
What we are praying, and what we are asking from the Catholic Church, from all religious leaders, from the governments, is that persecution is not a Christian way to deal with homosexuality.
LGBT people do exist, even in Nigeria
There is already a process and things that go well for LGBT people in Nigeria. 15, 20 years ago, the political and religious leaders were able to deny that there are people like me, because nobody had come out. Today, they say that they don’t like people like me, but still, they see that we LGBT people exist. Today, I can talk about the fact that I am gay – even though they will still hate me for this.
The church uses the Bible to discriminate
At some point I realized that I am not alone in this situation. There are people like me in other parts of Africa. There are people like me in other parts of the world. There are other people who face even more difficult situations like me. So I find strength in that, and I also pick solidarity from that. I know that I am loved by God, I knew that my sexuality wasn’t a sin. I try to focus on building a network with people like me, and finding that safe space and security where I can be myself. That was more important to be, rather than worrying about the gossip and what people are saying. I am somebody who understands the scripture. And as much as the church uses the scripture to discredit people like me, I still find the love of God in the Bible. I still find my acceptance in the scripture. My faith is my strength.
Running away from the church will not change the church
I am still very active and very involved in the church. I feel that I have a calling. That calling is to stand for the truth. I think running away from the church will not change the church. I will only give the church more strength to deny that people like me exist. When I go to church, some people don’t like to talk with me, some people don’t like to come close to me but I see the church as a place for everyone, so I don’t want to keep my place vacant. Often this is challenging, but I want to continue to be part of the church.