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Moud: How do asylum seekers prove they’re gay?

Moud works at Micro Rainbow International, an organisation that seeks to tackle poverty affecting LGBTI people worldwide. In the UK, their work focuses on supporting LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees to step out of poverty. I

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Moud works at Micro Rainbow International, an organisation that seeks to tackle poverty affecting LGBTI people worldwide. In the UK, their work focuses on supporting LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees to step out of poverty.

I am a refugee from Zimbabwe. I sought asylum in the UK more than six years ago. I know how traumatic and draining a system it can be.

I remember the first time I went to claim asylum at the Home Office. You’ve got so much to tell, you just want to tell someone your story, and then after a couple of minutes it sinks in: “Oh my god, they aren’t going to believe me.”

People are required to prove themselves. To prove their sexuality. There’s this culture of disbelief.

Sometimes you meet good immigration officers, but if you meet the ones who are not so good, it’s a horrible experience to go through. You’re instantly deflated because they disbelieve. It feels like they won’t believe you until you prove yourself.

How do you prove you’re gay? It’s a documented history of your relationships. If you have evidence of a previous relationship, or if you have a current partner, it’s evidence of that relationship. You have to have loads of proof. But not everyone has proof.

Just imagine, if you’re fleeing, if you’re being attacked. You’ve been found out, maybe you’ve been found with your partner. In that moment, you know this homophobic extremely religious crowd are just thinking of attacking, beating you. You barely run with the clothes on your back. Are you going to now think, “oh okay, I might be seeking sanctuary soon so I need to go back and get my pictures. I need to go back and get my tenant’s agreement with my partner’s name on it.”? What do you take when you’re fleeing?

It is extremely frustrating, but sometimes you just have to remember: “I have to do this, because I need to be safe. I can’t go back home because I will be persecuted.” You are forced to go through this humiliating process, just to be safe.

For most women, they think, “okay, I’ll get out of this place where I am being persecuted. I am going to go to a place where they are open-minded. They are going to help me.” But then when you get there, you are sometimes detained.

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It’s currently suspended to detain asylum seekers, but they used to detain us so much. They still do detain women.

You are put into jail and you don’t understand why you are there. It doesn’t make sense because you haven’t done anything wrong, except seek safety. And then after that you go through this whole process where someone doesn’t believe you.

The Home Office official who interviewed me couldn’t fathom that this black African woman is a lesbian. I had one boy, but I also had another little boy co-parenting with my partner and a gay dad. They just didn’t understand that dynamic and everything was considered to be a lie. They didn’t understand how a lesbian could have children. It was like, “You’re lying. How can you have children?”

They take western stereotypes and values, and try to say if you don’t fit into this box then you’re not gay. Even some western people don’t fit into the western stereotypes. Not every gay person is camp or butch. Not everyone is active, not everyone wants to be an activist. Some people just want to lead their lives quietly and be with their partner, or just be without a partner.

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Because of culture and religion, people automatically assume that people of colour wouldn’t be lesbian or bisexual women.

When I went to a club once with a group, the security kept saying: “You do know this is a gay bar?”

“Yes we do.”

“You do know this is for lesbians only?” He repeated this so many times. All the other women we could see going in weren’t black.

We had to say: “Do you want us to shout and say that we are lesbians, or what? Are you going to let us in?”

It feels like no one believes you from instinct. You have to prove you’re gay. If this system that’s applied to LGBT asylum seekers were applied to middle-class white British people, if they were asked to prove themselves, I think most of them would not be able to come up with proof.

But this is something that we have to go through. We are required to prove ourselves.

For more information on organisations that support asylum seekers and refugees, visit Micro Rainbow International and UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group. All photos by Paige Ofosu.

1000women@naz.org.uk

1000women is a platform for minority ethnic women to tell their own stories, on their terms. To find out more about joining the team or sharing your story, write to 1000women@naz.org.uk

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