AROUND THE WORLD, IT CAN BE VERY HARD TO LIVE AS AN OPENLY HAY MAN. HOST MICHEL MARTIN LEARNS MORE FROM TWO LGBT ACTIVISTS: JAMACIAN MAURICE TOMLINSON AND NIGERIAN BISI ALIMI.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: To a related story now. In the seven years that we've been on the air, we've reported on big changes in the lives of LGBT people in the U.S. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 20 states here in the U.S. The success of shows like "Modern Family" and "Orange Is The New Black" have brought gay characters and transgender characters into the spotlight. But we've also been paying close attention to movements opposing LGBT rights in other parts of the world. For example, Nigeria passed a law earlier this year that could mean 14-year prison terms for anybody in a same-sex union and 10 years for anybody who, quote, "promotes homosexuality," unquote.
We've also reported on the atmosphere in places like Jamaica, where guests have told us that a hostile legal environment and a hostile cultural environment have put their lives at risk. We thought we'd check in on two of our international guests who helped us report on these issues. Maurice Tomlinson is a Jamaican activist and lawyer who moved from Jamaica to Canada because he no longer felt safe in his homeland. Adebisi Alimi was granted asylum in the U.K. after years of harassment following his decision to come out on Nigerian television a decade ago. Both men have shared their stories with us before, so we wanted to check back in with them one more time. Welcome back to you both. Thank you both so much for joining us.
MAURICE TOMLINSON: Thank you.
ADEBISI ALIMI: Thank you.
MARTIN: Maurice, let me start with you. You were a successful lawyer in Jamaica and I remember you were telling us that you really had no intention of coming out. Can you just briefly remind us of why you did?
TOMLINSON: The major LGBT group on the island, JFLAG, they needed a lawyer to provide human rights training for the members of the LGBT community – what their rights were, how to respond when they were arrested, et cetera. When I started helping these people, I started hearing their stories. I was largely ignorant of how bad things were because I lived in a bubble. So when I heard their stories, I started writing about it in the newspapers. And one thing led to another and I became identified, as they – as we say in Jamaica – the battyman lawyer (laughing) and that was that.
MARTIN: And threats ensued. You felt like you…
TOMLINSON: Yes, yes.
MARTIN: It wasn't it that you couldn't practice your profession anymore? It was that you couldn't live – you really, literally didn't feel you could live there anymore. You were under threat.
TOMLINSON: Things became very dangerous when I married my Canadian husband. That was when things really got bad. I think, you know, my marriage crossed the line and that was when the threats became more vocal and seriously very dangerous.
MARTIN: Adebisi, what about you? Would you remind us again briefly of why you finally decided you had to leave Nigeria?
ALIMI: Problems started when I had my breakthrough in acting and I had a show on TV. And then there was this huge interest in my private life, so much so my relationship with men. For me, the most frightening part of it was