The night before his 26th birthday, Edafe Okporo was attacked by a mob outside his home in Abuja. They had discovered he is gay—a criminal offense in Nigeria punishable by a 14-year jail sentence. Add to that there was already prevalent discrimination and violence against queer people in the country.
Following the life-threatening experience, Edafe escaped to New York City. However, America did not turn out to be what he expected. After being held at a detention centre for six months and weathering the difficult U.S immigration process, he was given asylum, but he had nowhere to go.
Edafe Okporo is now a global gay rights activist as well as Mobilization Director at Talent Beyond Boundaries, an organization that connects refugees to employment opportunities around the world. He also founded The Pont, an organization geared toward promoting LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace through consultation and training.
His forthcoming memoir, Asylum, captures his experiences as a gay man in Nigeria and traces his journey to settling into American society and building a life.
“Although writing the book triggered painful memories of leaving behind my family and coming to a new country knowing no one, I felt compelled to tell my story,” he wrote on his blog. “US immigration policies have not caught up with LGBTQ+ refugees fleeing persecution, and who better positioned to write the story than someone who has gone through the process himself.”
Asylum is expected from Simon & Schuster on June 7, 2022. Actor Elliot Page called it “Powerful, honest and deeply moving,” and Vice President and Executive Editor at Simon & Schuster LaSharah Bunting described it as “intersectional, persuasive, and timely in its plea for reform and compassion toward migrant policies and migrants.”
Okporo received the Immigration Equality Global Vision Award, was among the inaugural winners of the 2020 David Prize, and was named among The Advocate’s “People of the Year” for 2021. He starred in the HBO documentary The Legend of The Underground, which examines the challenges of the LGBTQI+ community in Nigeria through the lens of several queer activists. Raised in Warri, he has a BA in Food Science and Technology from Enugu State University and an MA from New York University.
Edafe wrote, “Alongside my personal story is a call to action—not only for immigration reform but for a just immigration system for refugees everywhere.”