My name is Elvis, I am a 62-year-old Nigerian man. I first came to the UK in August 2011, fleeing for my life.
Before I came to England, I was living a decent life in Nigeria. I was married but also had a concealed relationship with my same-sex partner. In April 2011, however, our relationship was discovered. My partner got arrested and this was the last time I ever see him alive.
Fearing for my life, I escaped to the UK with a visitor’s visa but when I arrived here, I was suffering from severe trauma.
I often felt very paranoid, thinking that those who were persecuting me because of my sexual orientation were everywhere.
In Nigeria, I worked as a Telecom engineer and I was able to look after my family but now I was in the UK, confused and traumatised. I began to suffer mental breakdowns but was too ashamed to talk to anyone about it. I was 53 years old when I arrived in the UK, and a man of my age, I found it so hard to tell anyone that I am gay and have problems. I grew up in Nigeria where being gay is not openly talked about and can lead you to death.
As my life and general wellbeing deteriorated, I found myself street homeless and spent five years living and sleeping rough around King’s Cross station without any hope of recovery. There was a time when I lived for a day and didn’t care about the next day.
In April 2019, I spoke to a research student who was doing a study on homelessness. It was out of this that we talked about how and why I ended up on the street. Hearing about my issues with my sexuality, he checked on his mobile and asked me if he could give me information for support. This is when I first heard of Say It Loud Club’s projects for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and refugees.
I reached out to Say It Loud Club and after attending to an appointment, I felt a little shine of hope.
I began to take an active engagement in social and educational programmes, through which I regained my confidence and self-esteem, but most important for me was the sense of feeling like I was a human again. I was referred to a legal aid solicitor and was supported emotionally and for the first time I realised that I didn’t have to conceal my sexuality anymore. It was with this confidence and support that I applied for asylum in the UK on grounds of my sexuality. At the age of 62, you don’t think that you can find yourself talking about your sexuality in front of another person.
Fortunately, the Home Office heard my case and granted me asylum in February 2020. I am now able to live my life the way I want without having to worry about those who persecuted me because of my sexual orientation.
I want to encourage other people out there who are struggling to come out and seek help. It’s a joy to live openly.