Bullies Are Not Born; They Are Made.

Our society is not doing enough to address bullying of vulnerable young people, especially young people with disabilities. I grew up in a society where even teachersstop-bully-logo laughed at and maltreated students who suffer from learning disabilities.

There was this particular case, which even decades later, still makes me furious. Whenever I hear of children with disabilities who are bullied by adults, I instantly think of this boy in my junior high school class in Nigeria, who was constantly bullied not just by students but by teachers too.

The boy, I think his name was ‘Jamiu’, was always falling asleep during class sessions. We were told or rather, there were rumours that the boy was bitten by Tsetse fly and as a result had ‘sleeping sickness’. For years, I was terrified of flies.  Obviously, the child suffered from some sort of sleeping disorder, and he constantly fell asleep in class.  Teachers told us to mock him for falling asleep during class sessions. Teachers made him stand in front of the class where he was humiliated with the whole class staring at him like a freak. Since it was our first year in high school, we were between the ages of 12 and 13, but it seems the boy was much older. He was also bigger than most of us in the class. However, I rarely heard him speak. He seemed to bear his constant humiliation with stoic fortitude.

This young boy had learning disabilities and did not perform well in class. He sat at the back of the class. Looking back now, it seems that young people who had learning disabilities were always sat at the back of the class. The ‘bright’ ones were always sat at the front rows, while those who did not perform well were pushed to the back seats. The further down you are, the lower you are in the hierarchy of ‘intelligence’.

I used to feel so sorry for the child but also I was terrified to go near him for fear of ‘catching’ this sleeping disease. I felt sorry for him because he could not have been [Read more…]

Calling Out Misogyny or Bullying is Not An Attack; It is a Social Duty!

There is this unfortunate trend in social media where calling out someone for their sexist, misogynist, and/or inhumane remarks is seen more as an invitation for a fight rather than an opportunity to engage in rational discussion. Many, especially women, are discouraged from calling out sexist, misogynist, or stereotype remarks made by friends on social media like Facebook or Twitter, for fear of being tagged as the “type of feminist that gives feminism a bad name”.

There seems to be a renewed effort to tag outspoken,social justice conscious women as aggressive, judgemental, over-sensitive ‘bitches’ who just want to ruin everyone’s fun. It is particularly sad that this type of silencing technique is becoming even more prevalent in the Humanist/Atheist space.

November 17th-24th is  anti-bullying week and I pledged sometime ago not to be a bystander when I witness bullying. Of course, this has somehow earned me a reputation as the “fun ruiner”, especially amongst some of my fb friends.  Whenever i post or comment on such issues, it is at the risk of being referred to as the “type of feminist” they don’t like. Therefore, such discussions tend to irritate some ‘friends’ and many do get aggressively defensive when called out. However, i am sure that those who resort to aggressive behaviour when called out on how they treat others do not deserve the space they occupy on my virtual/real friendship list, simples.

I was shocked when I came across the status update below from a somehow close FB friend who identify as humanist and feminist: [Read more…]

On the street harassment video: Calling out racism should not drown out the sexism in the video.

When I watched the street harassment video titled 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman, my first thought was, forget 10 hours, that is my experience as a woman 557264_423393704397930_1730387465_nwalking the 10 minutes distance to my gym!

Catcalls and street harassments are daily experiences many women have learned to live with. Many of us have spoken out against this experience many times. However, are we ever taken seriously? No. Instead, trolls invade such posts with excuses like “Not every man”, “I am not your kind of feminist”, “This is why I hate feminists”… blahblahblah

Therefore, I was actually happy just to see a video documenting an actual experience of catcalls and street harassment going viral. In all honesty, I was not looking at the skin colour of the guys in the video, I was more about their words and often I went,  oh, I have heard that or oh that is a popular one. I guess to me, my street harassers have one thing in common, they are men, they say the same shit, they want control, they treat me like objects, and they feel entitled to my body. They are men that feel entitled to my time, who feel they must compliment my body and they get annoyed when I don’t beam at their validation of my beauty. They get angry when I don’t smile when they command me to smile on the street while going about my errands, some even get violent when I don’t reciprocate their unsolicited attention. They do all these regardless of their skin colour. So nope, I was not watching out for skin colour of my everyday street harasser in that video because what binds street harassers together is not their skin colour but their male identity, male privilege or better put, misogyny.

However, I was glad when people started pointing out the racial aspect of the video, especially when the maker of the video was exposed for a similar racist editing he had done in a previous ad video and also a homeless man makeover ad video.  The discussions were good and enlightening.

However, as a woman who is very much affected by this catcalling, street harassment culture, I am worried that in an attempt to call out racism, focus is being taken [Read more…]

Jamie Olivier; Hands Off My Continent’s Jollof Rice! #Jollofgate

 

Like many West Africans, I was aghast when I saw the picture of what Jamie Olivier tried to pass off as Jollof rice. Twitter was set ablaze by the B1aijQDCEAApYGlrighteous fury of West Africans, protesting the audacity of an international white celebrity chef, who dared to plagiarised (and badly so too), West Africa’s much beloved dish, Jollof Rice. To an outsider, this might seem like much ado about nothing, but hey jollof rice is not just any rice, it is a national treasure, a national signature, and as #Jollofgate fury has proved, it is an African pride. Touch our Jollof rice; we will come at you with united fury! [Read more…]

Culture is not an excuse to perpetrate injustice; LGBT Rights are about Human Rights not Culture.

As part of the celebration marking Black History/LGBT Month, I was interviewed by  Tundun Adeyemo, presenter of the program ‘Outspoken’ BookCoverImage new vistaon www.africaukradio.com. Below is a text of the interview, also available on her blog.

October is Black History/Lesbian Gays Bisexual Transsexual Month. In parts of London, people have been marking this in various ways. To help us give that some perspective is author Yemisi Ilesanmi who joins us from London to talk about her book and why homosexuality is not just an European concept.

Hello Yemisi, Many thanks for joining us.

 1- You have written this book ‘Homosexuality is not unAfrican.’ Why did you write this book?

Thanks. I wrote this book to counter the erroneous impression that homosexuality is Un-African. This is a rhetoric that many African politicians keep sprouting in their bid to defend the discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and Transsexuals. With the upsurge of anti-gay bills springing up in many African countries, it became imperative to provide necessary information and create awareness on the issues of sexual orientation especially homosexuality and bisexuality. Information is power and education is key to human development.

In this digital age, where information is easily accessible, it is sad to know that many people especially Africans still fall for the homophobic, biphobic and transphobiic rhetoric that sexual orientation is a matter of choice. In the book Freedom to Love For All; Homosexuality is not Un-African, I put together a collection of my essays debunking the myths that Homosexuality is Un-African.

First, I started by clarifying the meaning of sexual orientation and providing accepted definition of the different kinds of sexual orientation and gender identity that we [Read more…]

London Black Atheists Celebrates 2nd Anniversary In Style!

London Black Atheists (LBA) celebrated its 2nd anniversary on Saturday, 25 October 2014 at Conway Hall, London.  It was also an opportunity to mark Black History Month. It was a fabulous evening with fantastic people, amazing talents and delicious food and drinks.

Clive Aruede and a few other atheists with the aim of bringing together black atheists in London founded London Black Atheists two years ago. LBA provides a nurturing atmosphere for black atheists to come out of the closet and interact in a safe environment.

600_426592902 600_426613782

London Black Atheists organises meetups including talks and social outings. It announces scheduled meetups on its Meetup page. Its ‘About info’ states: [Read more…]

Why I hate some supposedly wise sayings: Paradise points are not a reason to help!

In my part of the world, every advice seems to be followed by some supposedly wise sayings. African societies have rich collections of very good 1000003_10151996190466873_26189186_nproverbs, but those proverbs are being relegated to the background in favour of some suspiciously evangelical ‘wise’ sayings.

These supposedly ‘wise’ sayings do get on my nerves. Some of these sayings are so common that I am beginning to think perhaps people just say those things from force of habit, without actually thinking them through.

In particular, I hate ‘wise’ sayings that attach a reason to why we need to help others. For example:

  • “Be nice to people on your way up, because you might meet them on your way down”
  • “You don’t know what this person would be tomorrow, be nice to them today”
  • “Help someone because that is what God wants good believers to do”

Do we really need a reason before we extend a helping hand to someone in need? [Read more…]

Closets Are For Clothes; I Am More Than My Clothes: I Am Coming Out!

Today, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day! According to Wikipedia

 National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is an internationally observed civil awareness day celebrating individuals who publicly identify as a gender identity or sexuality minority. The day is observed annually by members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies on October 11

Whether you are Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian, Gay, or even Atheist, coming out of the closet is always often a difficult experience for many. Most Logo_ncod_lgtimes, it is a decision that subjects us to a lifetime of discrimination, isolation, ostracism, and judgements not just from the society but unfortunately, also from those we care most about i.e. our family members and friends.

For me personally, all the isolation, judgemental remarks, ostracism, discrimination or jail terms in the world are not enough deterrents to keep me in the closet about my sexual orientation or non-belief.

The Freedom to be me, Freedom to love, Freedom to express my love and shout it from on top mountains, Freedom to assert my sexual and gender identity, Freedom to proclaim my non-belief in religious nonsense etc. are things I will not trade for the safety of the closets.

I cannot and must not let my Freedom to be me be curtailed by people who rejoice in wallowing in ignorance and hate.

Closets are for clothes; I am more than my clothes. [Read more…]

Sensationalising the Plight of African LGBTs

I am often approached at LGBT events especially at protests rallies by filmmakers and journalists who want to write a piece or make a 04338_yemisi_ilesanmidocumentary on the ‘horrible’ situation of African Lesbians and gays (they hardly take cognizance of bisexuals and Trans).

There is no doubt that African LGBTs who reside in countries where their sexual orientation is criminalised face a daunting task. Living a closeted life or choosing to face the consequences of being out and proud in a society where one’s sexual orientation is criminalised is frightening and dehumanising. I have been there, I am still there, and I know how horrible the threats can be. So yes, I understand why the filmmakers and writers are fascinated with telling this horror story.

However, a recurring theme makes me cringe every time I am approached by filmmakers or journalists demanding that I tell the horror stories or at least provide them some graphic pictures of violence suffered by African LGBTs. There is this fascination with the horror stories and abused bodies of African LGBTs that I am beginning to wonder if it is a voyage into morbid porn and/or just another way to portray Africans as victims.

When I inform these filmmakers and journalists that I do not have pictures of abused African LGBTS to share with them, they are immediately crestfallen. It is my opinion that most of them haunt African LGBT activists protest grounds not because they are interested in the fight for African LGBT Rights but because they see the plight of African LGBTs as a way of furthering their career in Journalism or film industry.

A heart-wrenching, graphic documentary on the abuses suffers by African LGBTs and why African LGBTS need white saviours could turn a [Read more…]

Christian Association of Nigeria’s President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor and the $9.3m, Arms and Ammunition scandal

When President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, was presented with a private jet for his birthday on the Oritsejafor-360x27040th anniversary of his ministry, he probably did not envision it was going to be his waterloo.

Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor’s private jet was seized in South Africa on the allegation that it was used to convey $9.3 million cash allegedly meant for the purchase of arms and ammunition. South African immigration officials discovered the undeclared money. Two yet to be identified Nigerians and an Israeli were said to be aboard the jet. According to latest reports, the private jet has been released after Nigerian officials entered into diplomatic dialogue with the South African Officials, but the $9.3m is still confiscated by South African government.

Funny enough, Nigeria’s government has moved in to defend the embattled Pastor. Government spokespersons have claimed that the money [Read more…]

Why I can’t be bothered to wish Nigeria a Happy 54th Independence Anniversary.

For the first time since I can remember, i cannot be bothered to wish Nigeria a Happy Independence anniversary. The sad part is that I feel 385935_186228838142571_185630604869061_319047_711932141_nindifferent about it. I am not angry, I am not excited, I am just indifferent. Am I finally bereft of any emotion for my once beloved country, Nigeria?

Too much is wrong with Nigeria and its people for me to care about whether it breaks up or stay together as one ignoramus, corrupt entity. The one thing i now only care about is our shared humanity. I hope no innocent lives will be further lost in whatever determines or is determining the present and future of Nigeria.

To think i once inhaled tear-gas, faced bullets and was ready to die for that country!  However, I take solace in the knowledge that my actions were not really for the country but motivated by my strong belief in inalienable human rights.

I marched on the streets and confronted the military junta because I believed and still believe in the right to determine who represent me in the seat of power as a Nigerian via the ballot box and not through military coups.

As a student union leader, in the face of oppression, detentions, and suspensions, I stood my ground to speak out against hike in school fees, cultism, and access to education for all. I remember vividly [Read more…]

Body Parts And Little Things We Take For Granted

My waist is broken. Sadly, it is not a sex injury; it is probably a gym injury. Excruciating lower back pain sent me running to the doctors again.SDC14523 Last week it was flu, this week it is broken waist, i smell foul play. Now, I must ask my doctor why my waist can no longer support my big bums.

It is painful and somewhat embarrassing. I can barely seat or bend. Lying in bed is difficult and turning sideways is as scary as hell would be if it were real. I get some funny looks because I now walk in a Zombie-like manner. I cannot afford to swing my waist and hips as usual, one of these little things I used to take for granted!

I said “Sadly it it not a sex injury” because in a way, it would make me feel better if it were at least an injury sustained when trying out some 50 shades of Grey positions.  Actually, the ‘sex injury’ reference is cultural. In Nigeria where I grew up, waist injury is associated with ‘prolific sex’. When lovers or potential lovers flirt, it is common to hear exchanges like “I will break your waist o”. It is a reference to how prolific they are (or think they are) in bed. I grew up hearing this myth and even local musicians sang of it. Therefore, when i finally had a broken waist without the benefits of the sex, I feel cheated. At least the memories of pleasurable orgasm could have put a smile on my face when I scream “ouch” whenever the pain hits.

I now attract puzzled looks from passengers in the bus and on the street with my constant shouts of  “Ouch”, “Shit men”, “Fuck” as yet another pain jolts through my waist as i attempt to go about my daily business!

Since it seems I will be stuck indoors for a few days while I heal, I stopped at a supermarket to get grocery. One of the shoppers suddenly [Read more…]

5 Things You Should Not Ask A Bisexual

 5- “Maybe you are just confused?”

No, I am not confused, thank you. It is astonishing how many people still ask bisexuals this question, even within the LGBT community. Being264251_240895435929789_1041013_n capable of emotional and/or sexual attraction to persons of same-sex and opposite sex does not mean bisexuals are confused about their sexual orientation.

BISEXUALITY is romantic or sexual attraction toward males and females; it also encompasses attractions to all gender identities and biological sexes. Because Bisexuals do not fall into the normative heterosexual attraction or the homosexual narrative does not mean bisexuality is invalid or in any way confusing. Bisexuals are people who are capable of sexual attraction to same, opposite and/or all genders. It really is as simple as that.

If you understand that heterosexuals are people who are sexually/emotionally attracted to people of opposite sex and that homosexuals are people who are attracted to same-sex, it shouldn’t be difficult to understand that bisexuals are people who are attracted to same-sex and opposite sex.

Please, do not dump the ‘confused’ label on bisexuals just because you are reluctant to think beyond the regular narrative.

 4- “Are you not just being greedy?”

What is so annoying about this question is the judgemental tone that usually accompanies it. [Read more…]

Just another sexist and racist encounter at the hospital

After many failed attempts to get an appointment at the surgery, I decided I was not going to endure another restless, sleepless, sweaty, tossing and turning night, so I dragged myself to my local Accident & Emergency/Walk in Center. At the entrance to the hospital is a big sign that reads, “If you have flu, stay at home, and call your GP”.  Well, I have flu-like symptoms and I have spent the last three days trying to get an appointment with my GP to no avail.  Majority of the NHS surgeries now have a rule that one can only book an appointment on the particular day within the hour of 8:00am -9:00am. Anything outside that, one would have to wait until the next day and start the process again. The problem is, as soon as it is 8:00am, the line becomes engaged. Try every minute and you will keep getting the busy tone. It is frustrating.

Anyway, I decided I have not been diagnosed with Flu, I needed treatment, and i am not going to self-diagnose or self-prescribe. Therefore, I walked to the reception room, and requested to see a doctor.

The following discussion ensued- [Read more…]

Creeps, creeps, creeps everywhere; Atheist movement sure has more than its fair share of creeps!

An enlightening piece titled Will Misogyny Bring Down The Atheist Movement? was recently published on buzzfeed by Mark Oppenheimer. It is a long read that exposes the sexist, misogynistic behaviour of some well-known male Atheists leaders. I guess they are referred to as Atheist leaders because they are well paid to speak at atheists events, coveted by the media and well, some of them have written popular books, but as an atheist and feminist, I wouldn’t think of many of these creeps as ‘leaders’ in any way.

longform-18522-1410480372-3longform-20586-1410475071-3

The article particularly focused on the many allegations of sexual harassment surrounding Michael Shermer. It also exposes the indefensible thought process of those in power who have protected and shielded him from the consequences of his questionable actions towards women at Atheist conventions.
James Randy was quoted in the article as saying- [Read more…]