At the time of writing, more than 80 countries worldwide criminalise same-sex relations, 7 with the death penalty. Less is said about gender non-conforming expression, although we know that transphobia is often more pervasive than homophobia even in relatively liberal societies.
This makes LGBT+ people some of the most persecuted individuals worldwide.
Asylum provides a mechanism for these individuals to legally remain in states that offer them greater legal protections specifically because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Many LGBT+ refugees and asylum seekers may conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity to protect themselves, even once arriving in the UK. ReachOUT is a support and advocacy charity for those who have had to flee their home countries because of the fear of physical or structural violence and discrimination directed towards them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We believe that everybody has the right to ‘Live and Love, Free from Harm’.
We have group meetings regularly in central Leeds. The asylum system is incredibly disempowering, as until one receives leave to remain one is not allowed to work, and even volunteering hours are curtailed. As such, depression and anxiety are all too commonly experienced by our service users, who live with the added pressure of living in silence or constant anxiety of being discovered as LGBT+ by the communities in which they live in the UK. ReachOUT creates a safe space where people can be out, can express themselves freely, meet people like them and build a sense of camaraderie around shared experience. Through skills- and confidence-building activities, ReachOUT becomes an active space in which service users can further themselves, have fun, get to know their city and one another.