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LGBT Nigerians seek asylum in U.S., Canada

Bisexual man jailed, treated ‘like a criminal’

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Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, gay news, Washington Blade

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. (Photo by World Economic Forum; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Duke, a 38-year-old bisexual Nigerian man who asked the Washington Blade not to publish his last name, arrived at his friend’s home in Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, in the spring of 2012 after driving from a his pig farm when police officers arrested him.

He said the officers told him they took him into custody because he is gay. Duke said they proceeded to beat him “like I’ve never been beaten before” before they stripped him naked and placed him into a cell with a concrete floor with his hands handcuffed behind his back “like a criminal.”

Duke said his cellmate, who had been arrested in a gay club, died the next day from a combination of a lack of medication to treat his asthma and injuries he suffered when officers beat him.

Duke said they left the man’s body in the cell for three days before removing it – and they accused him of killing his cellmate.

The officers released him only after he signed a written confession that said the man died while he and Duke were having sex. Duke told the Blade they told him to report to local authorities a few days later, but he instead fled to Canada where he has lived since June 2012.

“If you go back these guys are going to kill you or they’re going to send you to jail,” he said during an interview earlier this month from Toronto, recalling the conversation he said he had with a friend before he left Nigeria.

Duke is one of four LGBT Nigerian asylum seekers in the U.S. and Canada with whom the Blade recently spoke.

O.T., a 27-year-old man who lives in Tenleytown, arrived in D.C. last November after he fled Lagos.

He told the Blade during a Feb. 17 interview that he has been arrested three times after police raided gay parties. O.T. said the officers charged them with sodomy – they also threatened, abused and treated him and others “like a criminal” while in custody.

O.T. told the Blade a man whom he met through a friend blackmailed and extorted money from him – he said he once threatened to stab him with a broken bottle in his own bedroom. O.T. said he fled Nigeria after the man threatened to tell the police he was having sex with him.

“I love my life,” said O.T. “I don’t want anything to happen to me, so I gave him some money. Unfortunately he kept coming back for more.”

A 49-year-old gay Nigerian lawyer who currently lives in Montgomery County told the Blade he was living in a village outside Abuja, the country’s capital, in September 2012 when a mob attacked him. He said he spent a week in the hospital after the police arrested him and beat him.

“This is why I came to America,” said the man who asked to remain anonymous.

A 21-year-old lesbian Nigerian woman told the Blade from Toronto she moved in with her aunt in Lagos as a teenager after her father kicked her out of her family’s home because of her sexual orientation.

She fled to Canada in 2012 after her girlfriend’s boyfriend caught them together.

“It didn’t end up very well,” she said. “He was threatening to expose us to everybody and all of that, so I had to leave.”

Asylum seeker returned to Nigeria in spite of danger

Nigeria is among the more than 70 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual acts remain criminalized. Those found guilty of homosexuality in the northern part of the African country under Shari’a law face the death penalty.

Duke told the Blade he fled to Gambia, a small West African country sandwiched between Senegal, in 2000 after his classmates caught him having sex with his boyfriend and attacked him.

Duke said he was “quiet about whatever I was doing” while in the predominantly Muslim nation because he “was aware of the dangers in case something happened.”

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh described gay men as “vermin” during a Feb. 18 speech on state television that commemorated the 49th anniversary of the country’s independence from the U.K. as Reuters reported. He said in separate remarks at the U.N. General Assembly last September that homosexuality is among the three “biggest threats to human existence.”

Duke told the Blade he and his boyfriend in late 2011 had a heated argument about having sex with his girlfriend before he was to have traveled to Ghana to apply for a work visa that would have allowed him to travel to Canada. He said a neighbor called the police after the two men began fighting.

Duke quickly left for the airport and flew to Accra, the Ghanaian capital, as scheduled.

He told the Blade he tried to call his boyfriend’s cell phone from Ghana several times, but he did not answer. Duke said he eventually spoke with a Gambian friend who told him “not to come back” to the country because the police had arrested his boyfriend and taken him to an unknown location.

Duke remained in Ghana for four more days before he reluctantly returned to his homeland.

“I sensed the danger in Nigeria, but that was many years ago,” he said. “I left Accra and went to Nigeria.”

Every entity in Nigeria ‘detests homosexuality’

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan last month signed a draconian bill into law that punishes those who enter into a same-sex marriage with up to 14 years in prison. The statute also prohibits anyone from officiating a gay union, bans same-sex “amorous relationships” and membership in an LGBT advocacy group.

“We regret that this bill was passed by Nigeria’s Assembly and signed by the president,” Aaron Jensen, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department, told the Blade on Wednesday. “This law goes far beyond prohibiting same-sex marriage.”

Jensen also dismissed claims the law’s supporters have made that homosexuality is something the West brought to Nigeria.

“Gay people and being gay is not a Western privilege; it’s a reality,” he said.

The Nigerian government did not return the Blade’s request for comment on the law or the reports of systematic anti-LGBT violence that have emerged from the country since Jonathan signed the statute.

The LGBT asylum seekers with whom the Blade spoke said they feel the Nigerian president signed the anti-gay bill into law because he wanted to bolster his re-election chances in the country’s 2015 presidential elections.

“I could not believe that he would actually approve that,” said the 21-year-old lesbian Nigerian who has applied for asylum in Canada. “I can’t even imagine what’s going to happen.”

O.T. told the Blade the statute has made things “more complicated for gay people in Nigeria.” He added he feels Jonathan should instead focus on reducing poverty and fighting Boko Haram, an Islamic extremist group that has killed an estimated 10,000 people in attacks throughout the northern part of the country since launching a violent insurgency in 2009.

“Unfortunately he signed the bill once it got to his desk,” said O.T. “The only thing that can bring the Muslim and Christian community to sit at one table and [talk] is the gay issue… two enemies that really want to kill each other can agree on this particular issue.”

Duke, who told the Blade he narrowly escaped a group of men in 2012 before they beat his partner unconscious in his home, made a similar point.

“If you look at Nigeria from left to right, east to west, north to south, every entity in that country detests homosexuality,” he said. “Every single group has given [Jonathan] a thumbs up.”

The 21-year-old lesbian Nigerian woman with whom the Blade spoke in Toronto said she has begun the Canadian asylum process, but it has not gone “so good” because she wasn’t able to receive her passport and other documents from her family. Duke’s first hearing took place last September, but the lawyer who originally represented him was Nigerian.

“The 21-year-old lesbian Nigerian woman with whom the Blade spoke in Toronto said she has begun the Canadian asylum process, but it has not gone “so good” because she wasn’t able to receive her passport and other documents from her family. Duke’s first hearing was to have taken place last September, but his current lawyer who is Jewish asked the judge to postpone it because it coincided with religious holiday.

Duke said he hired him because he felt his original lawyer, who is Nigerian, “detests LGBTQ” people like “those back home.”

O.T. said he filed his application for asylum in the U.S. two weeks ago.

The 49-year-old gay Nigerian man told the Blade his final hearing is scheduled to take place in October 2015. He said he is currently applying for a permit that will allow him to legally work in the U.S.

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Federal Government

Federal government prepares for looming shutdown

White House warns of ‘damaging impacts across the country’

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U.S. Capitol Building (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

However remote they were on Monday, odds of avoiding a government shutdown were narrowed by Thursday evening as House Republicans continued debate over their hyper-partisan appropriations bills that stand no chance of passage by the Upper Chamber.

As lawmakers in the Democratic controlled Senate forged ahead with a bipartisan stop-gap spending measure that House GOP leadership had vowed to reject, the federal government began bracing for operations to grind to a halt on October 1.

This would mean hundreds of thousands of workers are furloughed as more than 100 agencies from the State Department to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation roll out contingency plans maintained by the White House Office of Management and Budget. On Thursday the Office of Personnel Management sent out memos to all agencies instructing them to ready for a shutdown on Sunday.

Before 1980, operations would continue per usual in cases where Congress failed to break an impasse over spending, as lapses in funding tended to last only a few days before lawmakers brokered a deal.

Since then, the government has shut down more than a dozen times and the duration has tended to become longer and longer.

“Across the United States, local news outlets are reporting on the harmful impacts a potential government shutdown would have on American families,” the White House wrote in a release on Thursday featuring a roundup of reporting on how the public might be affected.

“With just days left before the end of the fiscal year, extreme House Republicans are playing partisan games with peoples’ lives and marching our country toward a government shutdown that would have damaging impacts across the country,” the White House said.

The nature and extent of that damage will depend on factors including how long the impasse lasts, but the Biden-Harris administration has warned of some consequences the American public is likely to face.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, for example, warned: “There is no good time for a government shutdown, but this is a particularly bad time for a government shutdown, especially when it comes to transportation.”

Amid the shortage of air traffic controllers and efforts to modernize aviation technology to mitigate flight delays and cancellations, a government shutdown threatens to “make air travel even worse,” as Business Insider wrote in a headline Thursday.

Democratic lawmakers including California Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, meanwhile, have sounded the alarm in recent weeks over the consequences for the global fight against AIDS amid the looming expiration, on Oct. 1, of funding for PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

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Federal Government

QAnon follower pleads guilty to threatening member of Congress

Conspiracy movement claims Satan-worshipping pedophiles secretly rule the world

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QAnon banner at a pro-gun rally in Richmond, Va., in 2020. (YouTube screenshot from Anthony Crider)

A New Mexico man has entered a plea deal after being charged with a federal criminal complaint of making threats through interstate communications directed at a member of Congress.

Federal prosecutors charged Michael David Fox, a resident of Doña Ana County, for calling the Houston district office of an unnamed member of Congress on or about May 18, 2023, and uttering threats that included knowingly threatening to kill an active member of Congress.

The plea agreement was brought before U.S. Magistrate Judge Damian L. Martinez of U.S. District Court in New Mexico in the Las Cruces by Fox’s attorney from the Federal Public Defender’s Office in August.

According to the criminal complaint as outlined by a Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal investigator for the Albuquerque Field Office, Las Cruces Resident Agency, on May 18 at approximately 9:04 p.m. Fox called the office of a congresswoman for the District of Texas, U.S. House of Representatives (Victim One/”V1″), who is from Houston. The call was received by V1’s office.

In the phone call Fox stated “Hey [Vl], you’re a man. It’s official. You’re literally a tranny and a pedophile, and I’m going to put a bullet in your fucking face. You mother fucking satanic cock smoking son of a whore. You understand me you fucker?” 

Law enforcement was able to trace the call back to Las Cruces, N.M., and it was believed that Fox was the user of cell phone account used to make the call. According to the FBI agents who interviewed Fox, he admitted to making the call.

Fox acknowledged that the threat was direct but claimed that he did not own any guns. Fox
claimed to be a member of the Q2 Truth Movement, the Q Movement. Fox explained these
movements believe all over the world there were transgender individuals running
governments, kingdoms and corporations. 

Fox told the FBI that there is a plan called “Q the Plan to Save the World” which he learned about from an online video. Fox claimed that he believed Q was going to engage in the “eradication” of the people who were causing all the world’s misery. He believed that part of the eradication had already happened.

Fox explained that he had run Vl’s skull features through forensic analysis and determined
that Vl was born male and is now trans. Fox discussed his military service with the
U.S. Air Force, “Q the Plan to Save the World,” and how God communicates using
numbers. 

Fox continued to reiterate several different types of conspiracy theories indicating
extreme far right ideologies as his explanation for why he conducted the phone call to
threaten V1.

According to the FBI, Fox rescinded his threat against Vl and apologized. Fox claimed he was not intoxicated or under the influence of drugs when he made the call. Fox stated he understood how Vl would feel threatened by his phone call, and he acknowledged that anyone he knew or cared about would also be concerned with such a threat.

The charge of interstate threatening communications carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

QAnon began in 2017, when a mysterious figure named “Q” started posting on the online message board 4chan, claiming to have inside access to government secrets. Since then, QAnon has grown into a conspiracy movement that claims Satan-worshipping pedophiles secretly rule the world. It is claimed by QAnon adherents that former President Donald Trump is the only person who can defeat them. 

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based journalist Ana Valens, a reporter specializing in queer internet culture, online censorship and sex workers’ rights noted that Fox appears to be a “transvestigator.” Valens noted that the transvestigation conspiracy theory is a fringe movement within QAnon that claims the world is primarily run by trans people. Phrenological analysis is common among transvestigators, with a prominent focus on analyzing celebrities for proof that they are trans.

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Acclaimed gay doctor to be honored at LGBT History Month event

Pediatric cardiologist moved from Louisiana to N.Y. in protest over anti-LGBTQ bills

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Dr. Jake Kleinmahon, his husband Tom, and their kids.

Dr. Jake Kleinmahon, a gay pediatric cardiologist and pediatric heart transplant specialist, is scheduled to be honored Oct. 1 by the Equality Forum at its annual LGBT History Month Kickoff and Awards Celebration in Philadelphia.

He has been named a recipient of the Equality Forum’s 28th annual International Role Model Award. 

Kleinmahon became the subject of national news media coverage in early August when he announced he was leaving the state of Louisiana with his husband and two children and ending his highly acclaimed medical practice in New Orleans after the state legislature passed bills targeting the LGBTQ community.

He had been working since 2018 as the medical director of pediatric heart transplant, heart failure, and ventricular assist device programs at Ochsner Hospital for Children in New Orleans.

Kleinmahon told the Washington Blade his and his family’s decision to leave New Orleans was a difficult one to make. He said it came after the Republican-controlled Louisiana Legislature passed three anti-LGBTQ bills, including a so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill targeting public schools and a bill banning transition-related medical care for transgender youth.

The state’s Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, vetoed all three bills. But the legislature overturned his veto of the bill banning transition-related medical care for trans minors beginning Jan. 1, 2024.

Kleinmahon said he and his family moved at the end of August to Long Island, N.Y., after he accepted a new job as director of pediatric heart transplant, heart failure and ventricular assist devices at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in the town of New Hyde Park, which is located along the border of the Borough of Queens in New York City and Nassau County, Long Island.

“The decision to leave is not one that we took lightly at all,” Kleinmahon told the Blade. “And it was not one because I got a better job or other factors,” he said. “The main driver for it was that as we realized where things were going, we were raising our children in a state that was actively trying to make laws against your family,” he said in a phone interview. “And that’s not the type of environment that we want to raise our kids in.”

Kleinmahon said he and his husband Thomas timed their move to Long Island at the end of August so their daughter, who’s seven, could begin school at the start of the school year and their son, who’s four, could begin pre-kindergarten sessions.

“We have been open with our children about why we’re moving because we think it’s important that they carry on this message as well,” said Kleinmahon, who noted that his daughter expressed support for the move.

“We were at the dinner table one night and we were explaining what happened,” Kleinmahon said. “And she goes, you know daddy, we do have a choice, but there is only one good one. And she agreed with our moving to New York.”  

Kleinmahon acknowledges that some in New Orleans, which is considered an LGBTQ supportive city in general, questioned his decision to leave on grounds that the two bills that would directly impact him and his family did not become law because the governor’s veto of the two bills were upheld.

“One of the things I’ve heard is that none of these really directly affect a family because the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill didn’t go into effect, and my children are not transgender, and I don’t work in a transgender clinic,” he told the Blade.

“But that’s really not the point,” he continued. “The way we think about it as a family, the people who are elected officials that are supposed to take care of the people in their state are casting votes against our families,” he points out. “So, sure, while the laws may not be in effect this year, certainly there’s a push to get them passed. And why would we want to remain in a state that is trying to push forward hateful laws?”

He said he will begin his new job at Cohen Children’s Medical Center on Long Island on Nov. 1.

“They have been incredibly supportive,” Kleinmahon said. “They have actually encouraged me to be open with why we left Louisiana,” he said. “And they have a Pride resource group that’s reached out to me to lend their support,” he said, adding that the hospital and its parent company have been “exceptional in helping us make this transition.”

During his medical practice at Ochsner Hospital for Children in New Orleans, Kleinmahon has been credited with helping to save the lives of many children suffering from heart-related ailments. He said his decision to leave behind his colleagues and patients was difficult.

“Unfortunately, it had ramifications for the kids in Louisiana, which was the hardest part for me,” he said. “And the reason for that is I was one of three pediatric heart transplant cardiologists, and I was the director of the only pediatric heart transplant program in Louisiana.”

He added, “While there are two other fantastic heart transplant cardiologists in Louisiana, the ability to keep a program running that serves an entire state needs a full army of people. And me leaving took 33 percent of that army away.”

He said he was also one of just two pediatric pulmonary hypertension providers in the state, and he just learned that the other provider had also left Louisiana recently. Pulmonary hypertension doctors provide treatment for people with the condition of high blood pressure in their lungs.

Regarding his extensive experience in treating and caring for children with heart disease, Kleinmahon, in response to a question from the Blade, said about 400 children receive heart transplants in the U.S. each year.

While heart transplants for kids are not as frequent as those for adults, he said kids needing a heart transplant and their families “deal with a tremendous amount of stress and medical appointments that really change their life,” including the need to take medication to prevent the body from rejecting a new heart for the rest of the children’s lives.

“My hope as a transplant doctor is that I can get these kids to live as normal a life as possible,” he said.

In addition to presenting its International Role Model Award to Kleinmahon, the Equality Forum was scheduled on Oct. 1 at its LGBT History Month event to present its Frank Kameny Award to Rue Landau, the first LGBTQ Philadelphia City Councilperson. It was also scheduled to present a Special Memorial Tribute to the late Lilli Vincenz, the longtime D.C.-area lesbian activist and filmmaker credited with being a pioneering LGBTQ rights activist beginning in the early 1960s.

“I am beyond humble to receive this award that is really not an award for me but is an award for my family and for families like ours and for people that are going to continue to fight discriminatory policies,” Kleinmahon said.

Blade editor Kevin Naff will present Kleinmahon with the award on Oct. 1 in Philadelphia.

“Dr. Kleinmahon and his family took a brave stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community and they deserve our gratitude,” Naff said. “I’m excited and honored to present him with the International Role Model Award.”

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