How a Black, Gay Refugee Created a Community For Queer Asylum Seekers

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04/06/2021

In 2014, Nigeria passed a law providing penalties of up to 14 years in prison for couples that enter into a same-sex union, and up to 10 years for those who support LGBTQ+ clubs and organizations. In seven northern states, queer people can be stoned to death simply because of their identity. Despite these challenges, activist Edafe Okporo continued fighting for gay and bi men to have equal access to health care in Nigeria, which he says made him a target and forced him to leave the country to save his life. When he came to the United States to seek asylum in 2016, he was completely alone. There were no friends or family to call when he was taken to a detention center where he waited for days to see if the U.S. government would grant him protection or if he would be sent back to Nigeria. The hospitable welcome Okporo was expecting fell short when he realized that most housing shelters in New York City didn’t cater to people like him. He applied to stay in several that serve LGBTQ+ people only to be told by staff that he was too old. (The Ali Forney Center, for instance, serves only queer youth between the ages of 16 and 24). He opted to stay in a city shelter, though only for a week due to threats of rape. Then fate intervened.

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