LGBTQ+ Asylum Seeking: An Unrecognised Struggle

The rights afforded to us as citizens in one of the leading countries in the Western world, the UK, are often taken for granted. We forget that rights have not been afforded to us since the beginning of time; the battles for abortion rights, the right to vote, human rights, and many more, were fought tirelessly, too often encompassing bloodshed and fatalities. As a whole, we owe everything to the fighters who came before us. For this, we salute you and we thank you unconditionally.

LGBTQ+ citizens know the fight for basic rights only too well. The right to love; the right to be liberated; the right to marry; the right to start a family – the list is eternal. As easily as we forget that it was once a crime to exist as a gay man and socially alienating to exist as any other identifiable member of the LGTBQ+ community, we forget that this form of discrimination continues both in our country and in others. As we know, it is legal to be LGBTQ+ in the UK. In seventy-four countries, it is not legal, thus facilitating the need for LGBTQ+ citizens to flee to other countries in order to be safe.

In 2014, over one thousand people cited sexuality as reason for seeking asylum in the UK. This marked an increase by twohundred since 2009. It is clear that LGBTQ+ people increasingly need the help of more liberal countries such as ours to live as their true, natural selves, and yet, it remains an ongoing challenge for LGTBQ+ citizens to seek asylum. One woman, originally from Nigeria, appeared on Victoria Derbyshire: it took thirteen years for her to “convince” the UK Home Office that she was a lesbian. Endangered each day by persecution, violence, and discrimination, she was reduced to an inhumane practice of trying to decipher whether or not she was truly queer. This engendered a series of pervasive questions in which she was asked about her sexual history; when she “realised” that she was a lesbian, and suchlike.

In more conservative European countries, such as the Czech Republic, these practices worsen. At their worst, “arousal tests” are carried out to decide whether or not the person in question is queer. Humiliating and dehumanising are not sufficient adjectives. The point is this: trying to decipher whether or not an individual is queer by carrying out “gay tests” is both inhumane and patronising. To come out as queer takes an immeasurable amount of courage. To then be interrogated on whether or not this is the truth is cruel.

“I am gay” should translate into “okay, I understand”. Not “are you sure? Can you prove this? What is your sexual history?”. If someone tells the world who they truly are, then that very same world should believe them.

Eleanor Noyce

(Image courtesy of New Statesman)