I want to bring to your attention the dangers faced by us Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) people in my beloved Sierra Leone. Homosexuality is considered illegal in 37 African countries, Sierra Leone being one of them. We face violence and exploitation at home, in our schools, communities, clubs, churches, mosques and the street. For me, violence has become a way of life. It hurts my body, mind and family because it is kept invisible.
It is an issue which most African leaders do not like to address as LGBTQI people are considered ‘a waste to society and deader than the dead’. In fact, many African leaders do not want to even acknowledge that we exist.
But we do exist. I was born gay – I am sexually and emotionally attracted to other men, not to women. One day I want to marry a husband who loves and cherishes me. I want to love a man and be loved back by a man, openly. Because of these feelings, I live in constant fear of the police and officials who have arrested and detained me several times.
My family has disowned me and kicked me out of the house, as is very common for LGBTQI people when their identity becomes known. I was mocked and a lot of people gathered around me to provoke, mock and disgrace me publicly. This made me feel ashamed and shy.
I was abused, neglected, dejected and looked down on by society. As a street youth things were very hard. There are no shelters during rainy seasons, and even one meal a day is lucky. In order for me to survive, I was forced by hunger to do menial jobs like washing plates for cookery shops, collecting garbage from the gutter, and carrying foodstuffs for people in the market stalls.
Despite all the inhuman and degrading treatment I’ve faced, I am more determined than ever to never let this background affect my future. My vision is to help other LGBTQI people like myself to become better individuals in society and also to create access to HIV treatment, care and support.
I believe that the proactive work will make a visible change in the lives of other LGBTQI youngsters. I am thrilled to assure every LGBTQI young person that, “Change starts with a small intention, being put into action is realized far beyond our imagination” and “never sacrifice who you are just because someone has a problem with it”.
MTV Voices asked me whether I would like to remain anonymous. But I want to use my name so that I can empower others by sharing my experiences to build their lost hopes in life. I also want to thank the MTV Staying Alive Foundation for making a difference by providing access to services on HIV&AIDS for LGBTQI youngsters in Sierra Leone.
For a Q & A with George have a look at our sister site’s blog post here.
We recently wrote a piece on dating via Grindr highlighting just how differently the lives of the LGBTQI community are around the world – have a read here.