Adebisi started out as an actor, he confesses, “I was pretty much a drama queen”. He talks about theatre, the anti-gay law and living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) to NPR.
On the anti-gay law: “I see the law as a catalyst for change for good in Nigeria. You don’t understand what it is like to fight a beast that you cannot see. Before the signing of that law, between 95 and 98 percent of Nigerians were in support of it.
The latest poll says 88 percent of Nigerians now support the law. That’s a 10 percent drop. Some people who are not LGBT are now saying, “Did we just support a law that criminalizes people … for falling in love?” [When] you see that your uncle or cousin is gay, it kind of changes the conversation.”
On how his family feels about his identity: “I’m in a relationship that I can’t talk to my parents about — it’s like a big elephant in the room. But [the fact that] they want to accept me [as gay] is a form of support.
I was diagnosed [with HIV] in 2004, and I’ve never discussed it with my parents. This is my personal life, and I don’t want them to get involved with it. Many times when I struggle with the challenges of being gay and being [HIV] positive, even living in diaspora and so many other things, I just really want to have somebody I can cry to who has blood lineage but I just said no.”
On his support group: “Mostly close friends. Many times it’s people I don’t know. I remember one incident when I was at my university. I was going back to my room at night and I was stopped by two guys. They were making very derogatory statements and becoming really aggressive. There was a [student] coming. So I raised my voice: “What did I do to you, why are you guys so frustrated with me?” [The student] stopped and said, “What’s going on?” I told her these guys were attacking me, and they said, “Oh he’s gay, he’s a faggot.”
She just looked at them and said, “What if he’s a faggot? What’s your problem?” She stood up to them. These are the unsung heroes of my existence because anything could have happened that night.”
On almost being killed: “I was lucky enough to go through a 2-hour ordeal of being beaten and almost being shot in the head and escaping. If those guys are still alive, they might have read one or two of my interviews. I wonder how they feel that they almost killed me. But I felt that leaving was never a choice until my mother said, “Do you still have reason [to stay]? I think you should leave.”
On his reaction when he discovered he was diagnosed with HIV: “By 2001 I started working in HIV prevention because I lost my best friend [to the disease]. So I was kind of aware. That was why my diagnosis was a shock to me. I broke down and started crying and thought like this is the end of my life because I have seen my friends die.
It’s such a big thing that even within the gay community, if you’re positive, that’s the end of it. Nobody wants to talk to you or date you, but you become the story everyone wants to talk about. So I didn’t tell anybody. I carried it for three years before leaving Nigeria. I didn’t start medication until 2009.”
To read the full interview, log on to NPR.com
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