Rizi Timane is a transgender minister and grief counselor now living in Los Angeles, who grew up in northern Nigeria. Realizing at age eight that he was a boy living in a girl’s body, he approached his parents about this dilemma. His parents, converts to fundamentalist Christianity, responded with attempted exorcisms and other reparative therapies that sought to “pray the gay away.” This was echoed by harassment in the larger community by his peers. Thankfully, he also had a handful of friends and relatives who also supported him. He has written a powerful book, “An Unspoken Compromise,” which describes his own coming-of-age tale, his ongoing struggle to get his parents to understand and accept him, his transition from female to male, and his marriage to a loving wife. In a special second edition to the book, Rizi describes a personal journey now come full circle with the reconciliation that has come in the past year with his parents.
Rizi comes to these experiences as a minister and grief counselor, but someone wary of the prevalent hypocrisy and hatefulness made manifest in the name of religion. He encourages Christians and others, regardless of their religious background, to explore a spiritual path that rejects these man-made perversions of faith, encouraging them instead to embrace a life modeled on the example that Jesus laid out for the world, one in which “love thy neighbor as thyself” is the resounding message.
At the same time, Rizi describes the painful and horrific current-day realities now facing other LGBT Nigerians, at a time of the passage of draconian laws, when mob violence and witchhunts are the catalyst for campaigns that single out LGBT people for persecution. Underlying these actions is the stated belief that homosexuality is a Western construction incompatible with being an African. And yet the pre-colonial history of Africa is filled with a very different history. And at a time when the flames of homophobia are being fanned with the notion that being LGBT is a symptom of imperialism, the evidence points to American fundamentalists as being behind much of recent regressive legislation. These are struggles that Rizi believes demand a concerted worldwide response from people of conscience, in the larger battle to move beyond the basic violations of human rights now occurring in his homeland of Nigeria, the oil-rich most populous of African nations, which threaten to spread throughout Africa and beyond. His book is a powerful story of personal transformation, but also a call to action.
For more information on Rizi, his book, his music, and his ministry, see http://www.rizixaviertimane.com/ .
Interview produced and hosted by John L. Quinlan, Monday host of “A Public Affair” at WORT Community Radio in Madison, Wisconsin. A gay community leader, Quinlan is also the Wisconsin Division president of the United Nations Association-USA (www.unausa.org), and sits on that organization’s national steering committee. In April of 2014, efforts have begun to form an LGBT international human rights affinity group in the context of the UNA. For more information, write to [email protected] .