Nigerian gay Lawrencia Ameh, opens up on unending stigma and the pain of being ostracized by the public in an exclusive interview with Kayode Gomez.
Read the interview below.
Can we meet you?
“My name is Lawrencia Ameh. I am an openly out lesbian. I am a human rights defender and a paralegal. I grew up in a military home with a very religious mother and an army general as a father. I am the first of 4 kids. I have lived in Abuja all my life.”
When and how did you discover you are a lesbian?
“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!”
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.”
So how did your family take your coming out?
“My relationship with my mum is nonexistent, 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, he loves me just the way I am. He lives here in Abuja. 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 got to a point I almost took my own life. Thank God a friend found me.”
So what exactly has motivated you to speak out as a Lesbian?
“My motivation comes from losing a good friend who took her own life because of her struggle with her sexuality, from trying to make people understand I was born this way and from trying to tell other lesbians going through what I have gone through that they are not alone or 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”