Lawrencia Ameh, a Nigerian out and proud lesbian woman has broken the silence by speaking up about the many issues affecting the lives of Lesbian women in Nigeria, including her journey and experiences as lesbian woman living in Nigeria. This she did in an exclusive interview with Kayode Gomez.
Please read the interview below.
Can we meet you?
My name is Lawrencia Ameh but I like to be called lolo. I am an openly out lesbian. I am a human rights defender and a paralegal.
Tell us about your background – growing up
I grew up in a military home with a very religious mother and an army general as a father. I am the first of 4kids. I also had a very reserved childhood. I have lived in Abuja all my life, I was born in Abuja. I was involved in a lot of sports as a child especially basketball. I have 2 younger sisters and a younger brother.
So you mentioned being an openly out Lesbian. When and how did you discovered/identified yourself?
Well, as a child I always knew I was different, but I couldn’t explain it. I came to terms with my Sexuality during my first degree in Law at University of Abuja. It came with a lot of personal struggles, but in 2007 I was able to deal with it. I was outted to my family by my brother. My family always suspected I was gay because in secondary school I was suspended a lot for being a lesbian with no evidence of course…. Lol! It was because I had always been a tomboy, so a lot of people just assume. It was a crazy experience but I got through it.
So do you have any affection/attraction for the opposite Sex?
No I don’t. I did try to experiment but I ended up freaking out. Lol! It’s not my thing.
So how did your family take your coming out and how has it been so far with your family and friends?
Hmmm! It was and still not a good experience.
Can you share some of your challenging experiences?
My relationship with my mum is nonexistent right now, It’s been one hell of a ride, I was taken to church for deliverance. I had to move out of my house, I was beaten by my mum. I lost a lot of privileges from my Family. My dad is the love of my life, so his always going to be in myself, he loves me just the way I am. My mum went to my work place to threatening my Boss, She threaten my friends as well. I was locked in a church for almost 8 days; I was told I had an evil spirit inside me. I was also told I have been delivered of the spirit of lesbianism. I was a lot of drama, I got to a point I almost took my own life. Thank God a friend of mine found me.
You mentioned your Dad is the love of your life and going to be in yourself, Can you break it down?
He has always been very supportive of everything I do; He encourages me a lot to be someone great, He always say am his pride and joy “Blushes”. He always says I shouldn’t let anyone treat me differently because am a woman. He lives here in Abuja. Oh! He is the best father ever. His been a hands on dad, 100%, He is my support system.
How has it been living in an unfriendly environment, in the midst of family, friends and society that doesn’t respect/accept your Sexual Orientation and Identity?
It’s been crazy you know? You walk on the street and people call you Names, ask if you have a Dick, if you are into sports or music. You have people ask you why you prefer women to men. Some men will say if they have sex with you; you will forget about women. You have some calling you an abormination. Some friends don’t want to hangout with you because they can’t be seen with you. Family force you to get married or you will be disowned. It’s been so much to deal with. I got to a point I almost took my own life.
But have you ever faced harassment or assault as a result of Anti – LGBT laws (Religious/Federal)?
No, not really, I haven’t, I was harassed by a law enforcement agent once, but as soon as he found out who I was he let me go, you know how things work in Nigeria. In the aspect of religion I am not religious, so not really, I have only faced harassment from family and friends.
Does it mean that its individuals that are not influential that face harassment from law enforcement agency as regards Anti LGBT laws?
No oh… of course not, it happened just once; Only God knows what will happen the next time. But have I faced law enforcement harassment as regards to the anti gay law? Personally no. I have managed to stay out of harm’s way. I know where to be and where not to be.
So what exactly has motivated you to speak out as a Lesbian?
Like I said before; as a child I knew I was different, I struggled with it a lot, I was humiliated a lot by my very close family members and friends, I went into depression and almost took my own life, I was called a demon, I was told by family members that I was the cause of all the problems in my Family. When I was in SS2, I was locked in the church for 8days because they were trying to cleanse me of lesbianism. I was beaten by my mum, I was isolated. Depression is common in the lesbian community. A very good friend of mine took her own life because of the struggle of her Sexuality. “My motivation to speak out as a lesbian comes from the pain I felt as a human being”, from losing my friend, from trying to make people understand I was born this way. My motivation comes from trying to tell other lesbians going through what I have gone through that they are not alone and they are not abnormal.
Does your being a Lesbian have anything to do with becoming a Human Rights Defender and a Paralegal?
No not really, I have always had passion for Law, I always wanted to be a lawyer but it surely did contribute to it.
How has your work as a Human Rights Defender and Paralegal impacted your Community/Peers?
Oh! To the best of my knowledge it’s been a great work. They come to me at anytime they want or call me. They feel safe and free to talk to me. And it makes me very happy.
What can you tell us about the lesbian community generally?
A lot of work needs to be done in and for the lesbian community. The gay community takes all of the attention because it is said that they are most at risk. It’s a lot, so you have to be a lil more specific.
What are the struggles of the Lesbian Community; Security, Health, Relationships, Social well-being and Risk in General?
We have a lot of all these struggles. You know people believe that the lesbians are at low or no risk of all this threats which is not true. When it comes to HIV, we are at lower risk than MSM yes, but we are at risk too. We have a lot of issues with rape, corrective rape, security issues, forced marriages and so on, but we are given little or no attention, which I think isn’t fare. We are not even considered as KP. Like really I don’t get it! We have no one to turn to; it’s always about the MSM and Others. It’s high time the lesbian community get noticed. We deal with a lot of issues such as; domestic violence, depression, drug abuse, violation of rights and many more. But there’s no avenue to report these issues and get help. You can’t pay attention to just one particular group and forget about the others. A lot of research needs to be carried out in the lesbian community. We need health interventions. We need security as well. We have transgender and bisexual as well. I know the lesbian community needs visibility but we have to start from somewhere.
Really excited we finally have someone speaking out for the lesbian community.
Well, someone needs to speak out…You know, It’s getting out of hand.
But is it true that one of the reasons why lesbians are not recognized is because they have refused to come out or because they are not visible. How can visibility be possible especially in a hostile environment such as Nigeria?
That’s why I said we need to start from somewhere. Some of us are ready to speak out and be visible no matter how small we are, it needs to be done.
So what are the immediate needs of the Lesbian Community and how can they be visible?
A needs assessment needs to be done. A proper research should be done. The lesbian community should also be involved in all KP activities.
Are there other issues, topics or areas you want us to consider or discuss?
Well, I will like to see a society were all lesbians have adequate access to health care services, legal services, security and a lot more. They need trainings on gender identity and expression, even on sexual reproductive health, HIV prevention, treatment and many more.
Thank you for your time and motivation to speak out.
Thank you too. I appreciate you for having it in mind to interview a lesbian lol! And pleased you guys are thinking about us now. Lol!
Lesbians are women who have sex with women and have attraction for other women. This group also has Transgender, Bisexuals and Intersex. They are all LGBTI inclusive and should be recognized as such. All LGBTI including Lesbians face hostility, rejection, discrimination, stigma, unlawful arrest/detention, criminating laws and all sort of human rights violation in about 78 countries including Nigeria which is against our God given rights