International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia

“Being gay is not a challenge. I was born like that. I left my family in my home country and created a new family with the LGBTI community here”

Today we mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). This year’s theme is centred on ‘family’ specifically the role of families in the well-being of their LGBTI members and the respect of the rights of LGBTI families (rainbow families).

UNHCR is committed to protecting the rights of LGBTI refugees and asylum-seekers. UNHCR and its partners provide support to persons with specific needs including LGBTI through material assistance, psycho-social support, livelihoods assistance and medical assistance.

In 2015, UNHCR launched Protecting Persons with Diverse Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities, its first global overview of its progress in protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex asylum-seekers, refugees and others.

Through UNHCR’s ‘Human Stories’ project to to share stories of love and courage of LGBTI persons of concern, two (2) refugees from Africa shared their stories of resilience and what family means to them.

H., an LGBTI refugee in Africa

“Being gay is not a challenge. I was born like that. I left my family in my home country and created a new family with the LGBTI community here. It is a happy family, a family with no stress. Without them I would suffer trauma and stress. My biological family discriminated against me and that is why I had to flee.

We never used to do much. We would sleep all day and not work. That is why I founded an LGBTI association with support from UNHCR and other LGBTI organizations in my country of asylum. Our motto is ‘In Solidarity We Stand’. We are family.

It is a struggle for some of us to find work because of our LGBTI identities. Some LGBTI individuals will only work from the safety of their homes and yet there are many skills sets among the LGBTI community here. Some did not have experience with craft making, design or tailoring, so I trained them and they are now part of a business that helps us support ourselves in addition to the financial assistance we get from UNHCR.

I work tooth and nail for my LGBTI association to make a better life for myself.”

E., an LGBTI refugee in Africa

“My friends and I always try to avoid the conversation about family. I love my family. I cannot blame them for how they would treat me if they knew about my true identity. But that is how it is.

I live with friends and we consider ourselves family. This family is not the same as my biological family but we have to establish a new family wherever we go.

My LGBTI friends and I are each other’s support system. We are the same age and in the same situation. We celebrate holidays together. We talk about issues affecting us.
We face a lot of challenges but they make us stronger.”