Still Running: The Lost Stories of LGBTQ Refugees

It can be easy to take the little things for granted, like a roof over your head, or that safe feeling you get when you curl up under a blanket during a storm.

It might even be easy to take fundamental human rights for granted.

You can tie the knot with the person you love, or someone called you the right pronouns, and it was effortless. It’s simple not to think about issues that don’t affect you when you don’t have to defend your rights constantly.

Of course, you can get married — it’s what people do. No wonder that person called you by your preferred pronouns — what else would they call you?

If you don’t have to worry about infringement of your basic human rights, this is called privilege. And, with this privilege comes accessibility and the power to help make a difference so others can one day live like you do — free of discrimination and persecution.

LGBTQ asylum seekers and refugees all over the world are trying to escape persecution and finally feel safe. Educating yourself about this process and what goes on behind closed doors is the first step in becoming an ally for this community.

From Bad to Worse

LGBTQ individuals who flee persecution have another fight when they seek asylum.

Many governments have so much red tape that the abuse doesn’t stop after they leave their home soil. During the detention period, where officials analyze refugees, further persecution can and does occur.

There have been cases of verbal abuse with slurs, and even physical abuse with rape, from the staff at these detention centers.

Tragically, a high number of these cases go undocumented.

Officials interview people about their sexual orientation, which leads to invasive questions that can leave the interviewee feeling anxious or even ashamed. They hear orders to change their ways and go home, or workers tell them they will never get their papers because they are criminals.

Detention facilities have denied medications to individuals who need it. Staff at these centers call transgender individuals by incorrect pronouns and have made them stop taking the hormone replacement medication necessary to continue their transition.

Authorities have used sexual assault, injections to render people unconscious and other inhumane methods of treatment on asylum seekers against their will.

All these examples are antithetical to the concept of asylum — instead, it is more like a prison sentence for people who have committed no crimes. It is an unjust system that needs repairs and better training for staff to address everyone’s basic human needs with tolerance and fairness.

What Can You Do?

You have the resources you need to continue this conversation and help educate others. Refugees come from all kinds of different countries and cultures, and for a multitude of reasons.

LGBTQ asylum seekers and refugees are a diverse group that requires fair and equal treatment. Facilities need to be able to make detention a safe place where workers treat them with respect and dignity.

The intersectionality that occurs within the LGBTQ community is beautiful and a cause for celebration. Some members of the community have unique needs, such as hormone replacement therapy.

If privilege has prevented you from experiencing discrimination, don’t take it for granted — instead, use it to fight for LGBTQ refugees and others to receive fundamental human rights.

Written by Kate Harveston

I’m Kate! I’m originally from Williamsport, Pennsylvania. After obtaining my degree in Professional Writing, it only seemed natural to get out there and start blogging! I am currently pursuing a career as a journalist and freelance writer. My life goal is to be one of the best female writers online while having lots of fun along the way. When I’m not writing, I love exploring new coffee shops wherever I can find them and teaching Zumba Fitness classes.

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