By Ahmed Elmi, this is a summary article – original post can be found at IMIX

To celebrate Pride month, IMIX invited five queer sanctuary seeking people to the world-famous Gay’s The Word bookshop in London’s King’s Cross, to highlight the importance of safe spaces for queer people, and to raise awareness about the plight of LGBTQI+ people who have refugee status around the word. There are still almost 70 countries in the world where it is against the law to publicly identify as LGBTQI+, including roughly 70% of the Commonwealth countries associated with the British Crown. This has sadly resulted in many lesbians, gay, bisexual, and trans individuals having to flee their own countries in order to seek safety.  

LGBTQI+ Asylum in the United Kingdom 

Of the handful of countries around the world that allow queer people to seek asylum, the United Kingdom is one of them. However, many queer people experience anti-LGBTQI+ hostility in the UK asylum system. For example, there have been vast reports about the procedures queer people are put through when they claim asylum, including humiliating ‘tests’ to see if they are, in fact, homosexual or bisexual, with ‘flamboyancy’ in gay men being used as credible way to discern their sexuality, in some cases. It has been said that there is a ‘culture of disbelief’ in the system when it comes to LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum, as 4 in 10 claimants say that their cases are outright rejected on the basis that they cannot ‘prove’ that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, or that their life was in danger before they fled. This will further increase as Clause 31 of the Nationality and Borders Bill comes into effect, as it raises the ‘standard of proof’ for queerness.  

In recent months the threat to LGBTQI+ asylum in the UK has proved to be even more precarious, with the threat of deportation and detention increasing, as the Government’s Rwanda offshoring scheme becomes a dangerous risk for LGBT people seeking safety in this country. As many campaigners have pointed out, ‘ill treatment’ of LGBT people in Rwanda is still rife. 

LGBTQI+ Ambassadors 

The ambassadors in this campaign each have a unique experience of the system, as well as escaping some harsh realities in their respective home countries. From fleeing family and community violence to sleeping rough on the streets and being placed in detention, these resilient queer people have a story worth telling. One that reacquaints us with the original ethos of ‘Pride’ and why it still resonates in 2022.  

LGBT Ambassadors for Pride month meeting at Gay's the Word
LGBTQI+ Ambassadors. Credit: IMIX/Kasia Clark