We invited you to ask Louis anything about what life is like being gay in a country where homosexuality is illegal.
Our correspondent, Louis (whose name we’ve had change to protect his identity), agreed to talk to us about what life was like living in a country where his sexuality is a criminal offence. Louis had to flee his country because his sexuality was exposed and his life was endangered. He was beaten repeatedly and received death threats, all because he was attracted to other men. When Louis’s family found out he was gay they disowned him and even tried to change their family name to disassociate themselves with him. In many countries around the world, young gay men are marginalised and are unable to receive adequate health care and social support. As a result there are at increased risk of HIV infection. We invited you, to ask Louis anything about his life. Here’s what he had to say.
I was born gay, I’m sexually and emotionally attracted to people of the same sex. It’s natural and nobody taught me to be gay. When I was growing up I thought I was the only gay in the world and was difficult for me to come out.
I have been arbitrarily arrested and detained on several occasions and the thing that hurts me the most is these cases are not recorded on police records and they do not obtain statements from me at all. On the occasions when I was detained, the police tortured me and only stopped when they were satisfied.
The situation is bad. When my family found out that I was gay, everyone disowned me and my father even asked me to change the family name. In my church, I was driven away from the youth fellowship and all the other members treated me as a pervert and a disgusting person. Gay people face a lot of challenges and discrimination when they come out or when people perceive you to be gay. I lost all my friends and support systems. Someone recently exposed my sexuality and I was attacked as a result. I was severely beaten and reported the incident to the police, who did nothing in response. I received several follow-up attacks by people who were looking to murder me. I had to sleep in different places at night for fear of being killed. I was followed and received death threats. The situation became so unbearable that I had to leave my country. I’m now seeking asylum. In my country, there is no legal protection for lesbians and gay people.
I decided to come and help others gay people like me, because I was living in the street after my mum died when I was 9 years old. So I went through a lot of bullying, psychological torture, and was severely beaten on several occasions. I’ve dedicated my life to help other people going through similar situations and helping them get access to HIV-prevention services and HIV support. The situation is so bad in some countries that gay people are not included in the national health care services. I need to stand up and fight for LGBTI people so that they have basic human rights. My strength comes from my Mum. Before she died she told me to “stand up for what you believe in, even if nobody supports you.”
Yes, I do meet other gay people and we have a closet LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, and Intersex) network where we organise social events and parties in the closet. There’s also a telephone helpline to support LGBTI people to have access to HIV care and support and also to give psychosocial support and security tips.
The internet has been a power tool for me, as I have been able to network and give support and referral services on HIV prevention, care and support. The internet has also helped me to meet with other LGBTI human-rights defenders and HIV advocates to push for the promotion and protection of the rights to sexual orientation and gender identity.
I come from a Christian family and they do not accept homosexuality. They are very much homophobic, the only person that supports me is my cousin. My plan is to conduct extensive research about the history of homosexuality in my country because it was not criminalised here until it came under colonial rule.
It’s also important to monitoring and document LGBTI human rights violations to advocate for policy and structural changes. It’s also vital that health-care services like HIV prevention, care, and support are available to LGBTI people because of their marginalised status in many countries.
My dream is to see a world where LGBTI people live in peace, respect, and enjoy their full human rights. “Together let’s join hands to stop discrimination and embrace diversity!”
Do you know anyone who has been threatened with violence for being gay?