Bisi Alimi speaks on LGBT issues, same sex marriage, Nollywood and Nigerian in an exclusive interview with Pulse.
Chances are that you have heard about Bisi Alimi.
Chances are that you think of him as an angry homosexual who rants on social media.
Bisi Alimi, 41, who is one of Nigeria's most foremost LGBT rights activist doesn't want you to see him that way. Now back in Nigeria for a special event, he wants to show people the real him.
On Saturday, September 16, 2017, the German Consulate will play host to Bisi Alimi. The event is "Bisi Alimi in Conversation with Gbenga Aborowa".
"The whole idea is to get to know the different side of me than what is portrayed of me in the media which is this raving angry homosexual which I am not," Bisi Alimi tells Pulse during an exclusive interview.
It's easy to think that Bisi Alimi is a raving angry homosexual. Gossip sites and Instagram handles have made sure he has been portrayed as just that.
"That's the work of the media, you put people in a box, you paint them that way and you keep them that way because it gets the crowd to see that person that way" explains Bisi Alimi.
This event is meant to portray Alimi in more realistic terms. "The whole idea is to let people know that I am not that kind of person" he further explains.
To be fair, Bisi Alimi has had his fair share of controversies, but as he would like to say he is an angelic troublemaker. "I always say he is an angelic trouble maker. I am a two edged sword" he admits.
Additionally, he says "I just feel that if you are trying to effect a change in something that a lot of people don't believe in, you will simply come across as being angry, very out of touch."
Yet during his interview with Pulse, Bisi Alimi shows that he is nothing more than a man who is passionate about his interests which are LGBT rights and Nigeria.
"I'm a very cool down to earth person. I am not very brutal but I could be if there is a need for me to be" he confesses. What can we say? That passion burns hotly sometimes.
At the very core of Bisi Alimi is the passion to move the conversation about homosexuality forward. One of the ways he does this is by regularly posting photos of him and his partner, Anthony Davies.
Bisi Alimi got married to Davies in 2016 but they met three years ago. "I will do it again and I will do it with the same man again" gushes Alimi. By posting and sharing photos of him and his partner he hopes to normalize gay culture in Nigeria.
"I know the average gets a little bit paranoid when the concept of my husband, my husband and my husband comes up" he says, the reason why I try to do that often is to bring the conversation forward but to also normalize what it is like, to put into the consciousness of people that you love who you love."
This strategy has gotten his fair share of haters online. On his wedding day, Bisi Alimi did not allow for cameras because he didn't want the pictures online. It would have undoubtedly attracted negative and mean comments. He did later share the photos.
Bisi Alimi understands that some of the backlash is from the fact that he out there and doesn't hide his sexual orientation.
"It comes with the love and I spent a lot of time appreciating many Nigerians that will come on to my Instagram page," he says.
Bisi Alimi doesn't have time for the haters in his comment section, "they have never met me, they don't know who I am but will stand there and fight. It's just the love I appreciate more. I don't have time for haters."
He has had to develop a thick skin as a gay Nigerian. Bisi Alimi holds the record for being the first openly gay man to come out on Nigerian TV. His act of boldness came with a price.
On October 6, 2004, the host of "New Dawn" Funmi Iyanda brought Bisi Alimi on her show. New Dawn was a popular talk show in Nigeria at the time. On the show, Bisi Alimi came out as a gay man on national television.
It was sensational. Homosexuality was a taboo topic on TV much less a government owned TV station NTA Channel 10. For Bisi Alimi he would have to live with the consequences of his action for the next three years.
"It was very, very difficult. And I think that's one time in my life I did something that I wasn't sure what the consequences were going to be" admits Bisi Alimi.
After the taping of the show, Funmi Iyanda personally drove him to the front of his house at Jakande Estate for the fear of being attacked. The backlash was quick for the young Bisi Alimi.
"The show was aired on Thursday and I was in my room and I was watching the show. I came out and there was this group of people who were saying 'oh we don't want homosexuals here! Get out of our estate'" he remembers.
"And for three years I faced one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. I was beaten, called names and stoned. Coming out of my house was really hard. Nigerians hadn't caught up with social media at that time. So I could still get around a little bit but it was hard. It was very, very difficult for me but it has pushed me to where I am today" boasts Bisi Alimi.
Coming out as gay also cost Bisi Alimi a career in Nollywood. At the time he went on Funmi Iyanda's show he was an actor on a TV series shown by Galaxy TV. After he made history on New Dawn he was cut from the TV series.
Now Bisi Alimi believes Nollywood has a role to play in educating the average Nigerian on homosexuality and LGBT culture. For now, he doesn't like what he sees on TV and movie screens. He considers them a caricature of real gay culture.
"We all don't catwalk, we don't call ourselves wives. It's this kind of caricature that is very problematic because the power of film and television is huge.
"And people see things, it stays in their memory. They go out and expect that thing to be the way they have seen it, the way it has been sold to them" states Bisi Alimi on Nollywood's portrayal of gay people.
"There was this recent film ("Busted") with Kate Henshaw and Liz Benson. The movie talked about lesbianism as a demon that infects people" points out Bisi Alimi.
He goes further to pick out the silliness of the plot "I mean if that's the point and we were that powerful to be infecting people, we would have infected everybody in Nigeria with the level of hate we get. But that's not how things work."
Apart from Nollywood writers doing research on homosexuality, Bisi Alimi believes that it is time for the LGBT community to come out and tell their own stories.
"Film has a huge part and I also hope that the community starts tapping into how we also tell our stories because it is not just going to happen," he says.
"We have to take the lead as well and say how do we release our own movies that actually talk about our own story", but I hope it gets through the film censors board" he adds.
To be fair, Nollywood has started to deal with homosexuality as a theme. The short film "Hell or High Water" starring Daniel K Daniel and Enyinna Nwigwe was released in 2017. It boldly tackles homosexuality devoid of stereotypes.
When our conversation steers to Nigerians and homophobia, Bisi Alimi gives his most surprising answer of the interview.
"I don't think the average Nigerian is not homophobic," he says with a straight face.
How do we reconcile his answer with the fact that in August, 42 men (including minors) were arrested at an exclusive party in Lagos on the suspicion of being gay?
"I think average Nigerians lack the understanding," says Bisi Alimi. He clarifies on why he thinks are not homophobic. "If I talk about homophobia in the context of the UK, I am talking about where there is a lot of knowledge of, there are lots of teachings.
"If you turn the TV there are a lot of gay and lesbian couples, you walk down the street there are two men or two women holding hands and kissing.
"We have the gay pride event, we have a lot of events and LGBT people still get beaten up even in London, they still get killed."
"So homophobic? I will give Nigerians a pass on that" he boldly says.
Alimi is no moral police and he encourages people to live their truth but because we live in such a conservative country, he has had to reach out to a few of them to tone it down just a bit.
"Things evolve and I think what these young men are trying to do is challenging stereotypes. Whether they are doing it deliberately, doing it to survive, or they are just doing it because you know what 'F the system, we really don't care, we just want to be who we are'" he explains.
"I see these young boys who are pushing boundaries. It could be an act for them to get following on Instagram because if you know that you do that Instablog 9ja will carry you, Linda Ikeji will carry you and when they do this a lot of people will come to your page and like your page.
"And I have seen a lot of them sometimes who pose in a very erotic way online. I silently send them messages and say 'no you don't have to do this'. It's not because I am your moral police, I'm not. It's because of the country that you live in. If you are out of the country and you do this it's fine".
"I think it's not about cross dressing but about the culture for likes and for follows. They hunger to be huge online. It is pushing a lot of people to challenge stereotypes, to want to be different, and for some it is good. Some make a lot of money from it. For some, it is really, really bad."
Does Bisi Alimi think the Same Sex Act of 2013 one day will be repealed in Nigeria? Before answering he gives an answer that might be surprising to a Nigerian who is uneducated about homosexuality.
"The most important thing is that gay people are not really looking for marriage in Nigeria. I think the average gay person wants to live in a country where it is ok for them to be who they are, to be able to get a job and be able to come to the office as who they are" he says.
"I think these are the little things the LGBT community are asking for. They are not predominantly asking that they want to go to church and get married" he adds. Fair enough.
As for the ban on sex same marriages, "I don't see that in the next 60 years. We have a long way to go but I think..."
Bisi Alimi is also ambitious that things will get better not only for the LGBT community but the country as well.
"I am a prisoner of hope in the sense that I believe that we do move as human beings and we do change. I strongly believe that Nigeria is going to change.
"We are human beings. We are not animals. I don't believe we are going to be static and not shift. I think we are going to shift for good" he believes.
ALSO READ: Caitlyn Jenner steps out with Bisi Alimi
Bisi Alimi believes in living his truth. This is his ethos, this is what keeps him going.
He is back in his home country that doesn't understand his sexuality, where movie makers lampoon his culture and where same sex is banned.
"Maybe I would have gone underground like so many people that I know" he says slyly, "maybe I would have married a woman like so many people that I know, have kids like so many people that I know and have my car that I pick up boys in the cover of the dark and have sex with them in the car.
"Then go back to my wife and cuddle up with her and make her feel she is the most special thing in the world or I choose to live my authentic self even if it comes with a price and I chose that,"he says.
Well, he did say he is an angelic troublemaker after all.
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