Is it really freedom?

“Is it really freedom?” This is a deeply personal question, which echoes in my mind and the hearts of many LGBTQ+ individuals like myself, who are seeking safety in the UK. Our hope for safety and acceptance in a new country is soon tested by the harsh realities encountered upon our arrival. Are these harsh realities freedom?

Growing up in Africa, I know first-hand the suffocating grip of fear and secrecy that comes with being LGBTQ+. I spent years hiding my true self, living in the shadows, terrified of the repercussions of my identity being discovered. The weight of colonial anti-gay laws, relics of a bygone era, still loom large, casting a dark cloud over the existence of queer people. These laws, imposed by colonial powers, criminalised same-sex relationships and fostered a culture of discrimination and violence that continues to haunt LGBTQ+ individuals in many parts of the continent.

The pervasive influence of religion serves to exacerbate the oppression. Evangelical movements, often imported from Western countries, propagate doctrines that demonise LGBTQ+ identities, which further results in discriminatory attitudes within local communities. It feels like a betrayal from the very institutions that are supposed to offer solace and support.

For many queer asylum seekers, arriving in the UK is both a relief and a shock. On one hand, there is a glimmer of hope for a new beginning, a chance to live openly and authentically without fear of persecution. But the reality of adjusting to life in a new country is daunting. The cultural differences are distinct, and it takes time to navigate the nuances of British society. The freedom to express one’s identity openly is liberating, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. There are moments of loneliness and isolation, when dealing with the complexities of belonging in a place that is still foreign.

The UK’s asylum system, which is very challenging and complex, is another hurdle to overcome. Personally, going through the process, the burden of proof weighed heavily on my shoulders as I sought to convince officials of the validity of my asylum claim. There’s a prevalent culture of disbelief among decision-makers, with many undoubtedly viewing LGBTQ+ asylum seekers as not truly experiencing persecution. The implementation of hostile policies like the Nationality and Borders Act, which demands “strong proof” of evidence, and the Rwanda Bill, further exacerbate this inhospitable environment. It leaves me wondering: are we genuinely welcome here?

Decolonising and queering migration is about dismantling the systems of oppression that continue to marginalise and affect LGBTQ+ individuals around the world. It’s about challenging the legacy of colonialism that still casts a shadow over our lives, even in our new homes. It’s about reclaiming our identities and asserting our right to exist without fear or shame.

So, is it really freedom? It’s a question that lingers, a reminder of the journey, and the battles we are facing. And yet, despite the uncertainties and challenges that lie ahead, there is a glimmer of hope, a belief that with perseverance and resilience, a sense of belonging and acceptance could be found. Our voices will be heard, our stories will be told, and our humanity will be recognised.

Yours truly,

Anonymous, a queer asylum seeker

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