Adebisi Alimi 29, an actor-turned-activist, was the first person ever to come out as gay on Nigerian television back then in 2004. He now shares his story when he speaks up for the rights of the LGBT community. NPR report
Alimi’s acting career was just starting to take off when his sexuality stole the spotlight. The student newspaper at University of Lagos, where he was studying theater, threatened to publish a photo of him with his then-boyfriend. So Alimi beat them to the punch.
He went on “New Dawn with Funmi,” one of the most popular talk shows in Nigeria, and challenged a long-held belief that homosexuality was brought to Africa by white colonizers. That was also the year Alimi was diagnosed with HIV.
Suddenly, his home country no longer saw him as a rising star. Alimi lost his roles on TV and on stage, many of his friends shunned him and the police even arrested him on unexplained charges. In 2007, things got worse. He was detained at the airport on his way back from the United Kingdom, where he gave an interview to BBC Network Africa, and was released two days later. Then a group of men entered his home and attempted to kill him. Alimi fled to the U.K. and hasn’t been back to Nigeria since.
But Alimi says, “My story is not a story of a victim; it’s a human story.” Without it, he says, he wouldn’t be the outspoken activist he is today.
Now 40, Alimi shares his story when he speaks out for the rights of gay black and African men. He’s the founder of Bisi Consultancy, an organization that develops social policy recommendations based on HIV research on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. For his birthday on Jan. 17, Alimi has also started a campaign called 40four40 to raise 40,000 pounds — or about $62,000 USD — for four LGBT charities.