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Gay Nigerian minister visits D.C.

Rev. Jide Macaulay founded House of Rainbow in 2006

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Jide Macaulay, gay news, Washington Blade

Rev. Jide Macaulay is a gay Nigerian minister who founded House of Rainbow, an LGBT-inclusive fellowship. (Photo courtesy of Macaulay)

The Foundry United Methodist Church in Dupont Circle earlier this month hosted a gay minister from Nigeria.

Rev. Jide Macaulay on July 6 met with congregants to discuss the House of Rainbow, an LGBT-affirming fellowship he founded in 2006. Macaulay also spoke at the Colesville United Methodist Church in Silver Spring, which has a number of congregants from Sierra Leone and other African countries.

“It was just interesting to share my story,” Macaulay told the Washington Blade on July 13 during an interview at the Dupont Circle home of Dupont Circle Village President Emerita Peggy Simpson.

Macaulay on July 7 met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Randy Berry, who is the special U.S. for the promotion of LGBT and intersex rights, at the State Department. Macaulay described the meeting as “very, very good” and said Berry and his colleagues at the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor “are still very focused on human rights for LGBT people around the world.”

“That is very, very important,” Macaulay told the Blade.

Macaulay had dinner with a group of African clergy while he was in D.C.

He participated the United Church of Christ Open and Affirming Coalition — a group that advocates for LGBT members of the United Church of Christ — conference in Baltimore that took place from June 27-29. Macaulay also attended the UCC General Synod in the Charm City that began on June 30 and ended on July 4.

“I find the UCC General Synod conference enlightening, safe,” he told the Blade. “It’s very inclusive.”

Macaulay traveled to New Orleans on Tuesday to attend a gathering of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, which Bishop Yvette Flunder founded in 2000. Macaulay is scheduled to return to his home in London on July 24.

‘I did attempt to pray the gay away’

Macaulay was born in London but grew up in Ikeja, which is the capital of Nigeria’s Lagos State.

His father is a leading Nigerian theologian who founded the country’s second largest theological institution. Macaulay described both of his parents as “very dedicated Christians.”

Macaulay told the Blade he struggled “a lot with my sexuality” when he was a young adult.

“I did attempt to pray the gay away,” he said. “I thought I was successful praying my homosexuality away and I remember asking God to give me a wife to prove that he has cured me.”

Macaulay, who has dual British citizenship, soon met a woman at the London church he was attending at the time. They moved in together two years after they met and later married after the church pressured them to do so.

Macaulay and his now ex-wife have a son who turns 25 this year. Macaulay said his son “made decisions that didn’t include a space for me” when he became an adult, but their relationship has since improved.

“The table has turned full circle,” he said. “We’re now in a good place. We’re communicating well.”

Macaulay lived ‘Christian’ and ‘gay’ lives

Macaulay joined a Pentecostal church in London in 1996. He became an ordained minister on Sept. 12, 1998, after he studied with his father in Nigeria.

“Doing it under my father was just a great joy for both of us,” Macaulay told the Blade. “But I had a dark secret around my sexuality that I hadn’t actually dealt with.”

Macaulay said he had a “very strong Christian life” and “my gay life” by the time he appeared in a 2000 documentary that focused on LGBT people of African descent.

The film crew that interviewed him at his home recorded him in silhouette in an attempt to hide his identity. Macaulay said people at his church who watched the documentary knew it was him and gave the pastor copies they recorded on their VCRs.

“I was subjected to several weeks of attempted deliverance to exercise the homosexuality and the demon,” he told the Blade. “it was a process of praying for me, making me make confessions about homosexuality, who else in the church might be gay, who else have I corrupted.”

“When they prayed for me they hit me, they stepped on me,” Macaulay recalled.

He told the Blade he left the church after a man at a prayer meeting told him, “’Don’t worry Jide. God will bless you with a wife.’”

LGBT Nigerians face ‘terrible wave’ of arrests, kidnappings

Macaulay told the Blade he did not attend church for two years until two South Africans who he had hosted at his home introduced him to the Metropolitan Community Church London. He joined the congregation as a minister in 2003 and later studied liberation theology in Berkeley, Calif.

“It really changed everything for me,” said Macaulay.

Macaulay told the Blade gay people he met in Nigeria soon began to ask about the possibility of opening a gay-friendly church. He praised Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, as he discussed his decision to establish House of Rainbow in Lagos 2006.

“I thought he had the charisma, he had the energy,” said Macaulay. “He had the convictions that I also saw in myself.”

House of Rainbow initially had more than 200 members, but this number dropped to under 50 during its second year. Macaulay said attacks against him and congregants, death threats and the congregation’s relocation from a hotel in a Lagos industrial area to a private home are among the factors that contributed to the drop.

“It became quite intense for myself and for House of Rainbow,” he said.

In spite of these difficulties, House of Rainbow now has more than half a dozen groups that meet regularly. Macaulay has also emerged as a vocal advocate for LGBT and intersex rights in Africa.

Macaulay in 2007 testified against a Nigerian bill that sought to impose a 5-year prison sentence against anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or officiated one.

“The parliamentarians thought because I was in a dog collar that I was going to be on their side, until I opened my mouth,” he recalled. “They thought, ‘Oh my God he’s really gay.’ It became very interesting.”

Then-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 signed a law that bans membership in an LGBT advocacy group and punishes those who enter into a same-sex marriage with up to 14 years in prison.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death in areas of northern Nigeria that are under sharia law.

Macaulay noted to the Blade that LGBT Nigerians currently face a “terrible wave” of arbitrary arrests, blackmail, extortion and kidnappings. He is also critical of Steven Anderson and other anti-LGBT pastors from the U.S. who have traveled to Botswana, Malawi, Uganda and other African countries.

Police detained Macaulay at 2016 Uganda Pride pageant

Macaulay was the grand marshal of 2016 Uganda Pride that took place last August in the country’s capital of Kampala.

He was among the more than 300 people who were detained during a raid on a nightclub — which is across the street from the U.S. Embassy — that took place during a beauty pageant.

Macaulay told the Blade the police officers who entered the nightclub “dragged away” a prominent transgender rights advocate. He said they also pulled out the hair weaves of some of those who were detained and sought to determine the gender of trans men.

“A few of my friends who were trans were so afraid that they thought they were going to die or be attacked or raped or even worse,” said Macaulay.

Macaulay added officers and others who he suspect were journalists also tried to take pictures of him and others who were detained.

“They wanted to get head shots of all the people,” he told the Blade, noting he feared Ugandan newspapers would publish them. “I kept my head down.”

Macaulay told the Blade one of the officers said he “would not accept this abomination in his district” before they released him and the other pageant attendees about three hours after the raid began. Macaulay said an activist picked him and his Ugandan chaperone up and brought them to a taxi stand.

“By the time I got to my hotel I was just in tears,” he recalled. “I was just so broken.”

“It was really that terrifying,” added Macaulay. “Just thinking about it is going to make me angry.”

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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards

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Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade

 

A Puerto Rico Senate committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy on the island.

Members of the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against Senate Bill 184 by an 8-7 vote margin. Three senators abstained.

Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, a spokesperson for Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups, in a statement sharply criticized the senators who opposed the measure.

“If they publicly recognize that conversion therapies are abuse, if they even voted for a similar bill in the past, if the hearings clearly established that the bill was well-written and was supported by more than 78 professional and civil entities and that it did not interfere with freedom of religion or with the right of fathers and mothers to raise their children, voting against it is therefore one of two things: You are either a hopeless coward or you have the same homophobic and abusive mentality of the hate groups that oppose the bill,” said Pagán in a statement.

Thursday’s vote comes against the backdrop of continued anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence in Puerto Rico.

Six of the 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2020 were from Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency over gender-based violence that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared earlier this year is LGBTQ-inclusive. Then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in 2019 signed an executive order that banned conversion therapy for minors in Puerto Rico.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” he said. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after members of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party  he chaired at the time, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth. Seven out of the 11 New Progressive Party members who are on the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against SB 184.

“It’s appalling. It’s shameful that the senators didn’t have the strength and the courage that our LGBTQ youth have, and it’s to be brave and to defend our dignity and our humanity as people who live on this island,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, in a video. “It’s disgraceful that the senators decided to vote down this measure that would prevent child abuse.”

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Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami

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Survivors Pathway works with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants and other vulnerable groups in South Florida. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Duberli)

 

MIAMI – The CEO of an organization that provides support to undocumented LGBTQ immigrants says the Biden administration has given many of his clients a renewed sense of hope.

“People definitely feel much more relaxed,” Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli told the Washington Blade on March 5 during an interview at his Miami office. “There’s much hope. You can tell … the conversation’s shifted.”

Duberli — a gay man from Colombia who received asylum in the U.S. because of anti-gay persecution he suffered in his homeland — founded Survivors Pathway in 2011. The Miami-based organization currently has 23 employees.

Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli at his office in Miami on March 5, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

Duberli said upwards of 50 percent of Survivors Pathway’s clients are undocumented. Duberli told the Blade that many of them are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking and victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Part of the work that we have done for years is for us to become the bridge between the communities and law enforcement or the justice system in the United States,” said Duberli. “We have focused on creating a language that helps us to create this communication between the undocumented immigrant community and law enforcement, the state attorney’s office and the court.”

“The fear is not only about immigration,” he added. “There are many other factors that immigrants bring with them that became barriers in terms of wanting to or trying to access the justice system in the United States.”

Duberli spoke with the Blade roughly a week after the Biden administration began to allow into the U.S. asylum seekers who had been forced to pursue their cases in Mexico under the previous White House’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

The administration this week began to reunite migrant children who the Trump administration separated from their parents. Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place.

Duberli told the Blade that Survivors Pathway advised some of their clients not to apply for asylum or seek visa renewals until after the election. Duberli conceded “the truth of the matter is that the laws haven’t changed that much” since Biden became president.

Survivors Pathway has worked with LGBTQ people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in South Florida. American Civil Liberties Union National Political Director Ronald Newman in an April 28 letter it sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called for the closure of the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami, the Glades County Detention Center near Lake Okeechobee and 37 other ICE detention centers across the country.

The road leading to the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Survivors Pathway responded to trans woman’s murder in 2020

Survivors Pathway has created a project specifically for trans Latina women who Duberli told the Blade don’t know they can access the judicial system.

Duberli said Survivors Pathway works with local judges and police departments to ensure crime victims don’t feel “discriminated, or outed or mistreated or revictimized” because of their gender identity. Survivors Pathway also works with Marytrini, a drag queen from Cuba who is the artistic producer at Azúcar, a gay nightclub near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Marytrini and Duberli are among those who responded to the case of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a trans woman and well-known activist and performer from Cuba who was murdered inside her downtown Miami apartment last November. Carey’s boyfriend, who had previously been charged with domestic violence, has been charged with murder.

“That was an ongoing situation,” noted Duberli. “It’s not the only case. There are lots of cases like that.”

Duberli noted a gay man in Miami Beach was killed by his partner the same week.

“There are lots of crimes that happen to our community that never gets to the news,” he said. “We got those cases here because of what we do.”

Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera was murdered in her downtown Miami apartment in November 2020. (Photo courtesy of social media)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Patrick O’Connell, acclaimed AIDS activist, dies at 67

Played key role in creating red ribbon for awareness

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Activist Patrick O’Connell was instrumental in creating the red ribbon to promote AIDS awareness. (Photo courtesy of Allen Frame; courtesy Visual AIDS)

Patrick O’Connell, a founding director of the New York City-based AIDS advocacy group Visual AIDS who played a lead role in developing the internationally recognized display of an inverted, V-shaped red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS advocacy, died on March 23 at a Manhattan hospital from AIDS-related causes, according to the New York Times. He was 67.

Visual AIDS said in a statement that O’Connell held the title of founding director of the organization from 1980 to 1995.

During those years, according to the statement and others who knew him, O’Connell was involved in the group’s widely recognized and supported efforts to use art and artist’s works to advocate in support of people with HIV/AIDS and efforts to curtail the epidemic that had a devastating impact on the art world.

Thanks to a grant from the Art Matters foundation, Visual AIDS was able to retain O’Connell as its first paid staff member in 1990, the group said in its statement.

“Armed with a fax machine and an early Macintosh computer, Patrick helped Visual AIDS grow from a volunteer group to a sustainable non-profit organization,” the statement says. “A passionate spokesperson for the organization, he helped projects like Day Without Art, Night Without Light, and the Red Ribbon reach thousands of people and organizations across the world,” the group says in its statement.

“We were living in a war zone,” the statement quoted O’Connell as saying in a 2011 interview with the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “But it was like a war that was some kind of deep secret only we knew about,” O’Connell said in the interview. “Thousands were dying of AIDS. We felt we had to respond with a visible expression,” he told the newspaper.

With O’Connell’s help, Visual AIDS in 1989 organized the first annual Day Without Art in which dozens of galleries and museums in New York and other cities covered art works with black cloths to symbolize the mourning of those who died of AIDS. Among those participating were the Brooklyn Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which replaced a Picasso painting with a “somber informational placard,” according to the New York Times.

In 1990 O’Connell helped Visual AIDS organize the first Night Without Light, which was held at the time of World AIDS Day. New York City’s skyscraper buildings, bridges, monuments, and Broadway theaters turned off their lights for 15 minutes to commemorate people who lost their lives to AIDS, the New York Times reported.

In the kickoff of its Red Ribbon Project in 1991, McConnell helped organize volunteers to join “ribbon bees” in which thousands of the ribbons were cut and folded for distribution around the city, the Times reports. Those who knew McConnell said he also arranged for his team of volunteers to call Broadway theaters and producers of the upcoming Tony Awards television broadcast to have participants and theater goers display the red ribbons on their clothes.

Among those displaying a red ribbon on his label at the Tony Awards broadcast was actor Jeremy Irons, who was one of the hosts. In later years, large numbers of celebrities followed the practice of wearing the red ribbon, and in 1993 the U.S. Postal Service issued a red ribbon stamp.

The Times reports that O’Connell was born and raised in Manhattan, where he attended Fordham Preparatory School and later graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in history. According to Visual AIDS, O’Connell served as director of the Hallwalls arts center in Buffalo, N.Y. from 1977 to 1978 before returning to New York City to work for a gallery called Artists Space.

The Times reports that O’Connell learned in the middle 1980s that he had contracted AIDS and began a regimen of early AIDS treatment with a cocktail of over 30 pills a day. His involvement with Visual AIDS, which began in 1989, ended on an active basis in 1995 when his health worsened, the Times reports.

As one of the last remaining survivors of his New York contemporaries who had HIV beginning in the 1980s, O’Connell continued in his strong support for AIDS-related causes through 2000s and beyond, people who knew him said.
Visual AIDS says it is gathering remembrances and photos for a tribute post for O’Connell on its website. It has invited people to share their memories of him by sending written contributions and images via email to: [email protected].

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