Two years after leaving Nigeria to seek asylum in the United States, Saheed Ipadeola lives in a tidy one-bedroom apartment in Coney Island, Brooklyn. He works late nights as a kitchen porter in a boutique Williamsburg hotel near the East River.
“This is the only job I can get. I’m alone here. I have to do everything myself. I want to gather some savings and upgrade to the next step. My dream is to be a nurse and I am determined that I will be a nurse,” said Ipadeola.
On his days off, Ipadeola rarely leaves his home still afraid of the outside world. He still gets flashbacks of the Lagos area boys, who would lay in wait for him on the street corner to his home. These are the undercurrents of fear that lie beneath his new life in New York City.
Ipadeola, who was an HIV outreach coordinator, fled Nigeria in 2012 to seek asylum in the United States, just as the same-sex marriage ban was introduced and finally passed in the Nigerian National Assembly in 2014. The law criminalized LGBT people in Nigeria and threatened to detain and jail suspected gay Nigerians for up to 14 years. Mob attacks, police harassment and detentions of gay men in Nigeria spiked since the law passed.
Though the numbers haven’t been formally tracked, immigration equality advocates say that LGBT Nigerians, especially gay men, are increasingly looking to the United States for asylum.
"Exiled from Home" is a series about the lives of a community of gay Nigerian asylum seekers who have made New York their home due to this law.