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Solidarity with Aderonke Apata Tumblr campaign
Reyes Sedano /

This Tumblr campaign is attacking Home Office homophobes

The government believes that a Nigerian LGBT activist can't be gay because she's had relationships with men. That's just plain wrong

Hey gays, are you still gay if you once kissed someone of the opposite gender? Still gay if you had a child? Still gay if you once fake-dated some guy or girl in Year 6 because you were still in the closet? According to the Home Office, all these experiences makes you definitely not gay. Surprise!

Nigerian LGBT activist Aderonke Apata is claiming asylum in the UK after fleeing Nigeria, where her former girlfriend was killed. Apata has children and has had previous relationships with men, but she identifies as a lesbian and is engaged to a woman. But the government argued in court this week that she could not possibly be a lesbian because she has children.

A Home Office lawyer claimed that Apata was not a bona fide member of the "social group known as lesbians" and had only "indulged in same-sex activity".

"You can't be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day," he said. "Just as you can't change your race." Jeez, nobody tell this guy about bisexual people – his head might explode. 

Outraged by Apata's situation, two queer university students have created the Solidarity With Aderonke campaign on Tumblr. Over 40 bi, gay, queer and trans women have already posted selfies describing their complex sexualities in a bid to point out that the government has no place to judge somebody's orientation based on what little it knows of it.

One queer woman writes: "I have had sex with men, quite a bit actually. I don't have a child, but this could easily be a different story. Yet none of this erases or reduces the fact that I am not heterosexual."

Abigail and Nehaal, the two campaign founders, say that neither of them know Apata personally but were outraged by the Home Office's "incredibly homophobic" position on the case.

"Aderonke faces 14 years in prison if she goes back to Nigeria," they tell us. "Before she left, members of her family and her girlfriend of 20 years were killed. She was sentenced to death in a sharia court, but was able to go into hiding and escape the country."

They add: "This idea that you can prove someone's sexuality one way or another way, that sexuality should be treated as something reified by categories defined and legitimised by the Home Office – or anyone other than the person in question – is really damaging."

There's also a nasty element of xenophobia at work, they point out. The Home Office claims to support the indefensible human rights of LGBT British people, so why does that moral reasoning go out the window when it comes to an asylum seeker?

"There would be uproar if the Home Office decided a British LGB person was ‘actually’ straight," Abigail and Nehaal argue. "Aderonke’s immigration status produces her as a target for the kind of homophobia and biphobia the Home Office would not be able to enact on a British person."

The High Court is now considering Apata's case, and a major decision is expected by the end of the month. If you want to help, you can sign this petition asking the Home Office not to deport Apata or contribute to the Tumblr campaign here