LGBT asylum seekers risk it all to be out

Published: August 23, 2013

Beaten and tortured for being gay, Jean, a 55-year-old Cameroonian, had vowed to change his ways after surviving police brutality that took his lover’s life.

 
But he couldn’t deny who he is.
 
Although he lived a luxurious lifestyle as an entrepreneur in Western Africa, Jean chose to leave his family, money and businesses behind in order to pursue life as an openly gay man in the United States. Once he arrived, he sought help from a group based in Massachusetts.
 
In 87 countries around the world, there are laws against homosexuality. While gay rights are expanding in the United States, that’s not the case in places such as Africa, Russia and the Middle East.
 
The estimated number of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers entering the United States each year is 4,000 and rising, said Max Niedzwiecki, leader of the LGBT Faith and Asylum Network, a national network dedicated to helping asylum seekers based on sexual orientation or gender identity. These numbers are estimates due to the sensitive nature of divulging one’s sexual orientation.
 
Still, some asylum seekers are speaking out and making their cause known to the world.
 
From riches to rags
 
One such man, who wishes to remain anonymous for his family’s safety in West Africa, fled to the United States in September 2012 after years of persecution and physical abuse. He has adopted the alias of Jean for protection.
 
 
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