This post is by the good folks at AsylumConnect, a web resource for LGBTQ asylum seekers.

There are still 70 countries, mostly in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, where homosexual activity between consenting adults is illegal, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association’s latest State-sponsored Homophobia report. There are also currently six countries in which homosexuality is punishable by death.

According to Amnesty International, even in countries where homosexuality has been decriminalized, LGBTQ people can still face violence, arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and torture. An estimated 400 million LGBTQ people continue to face the risk of criminal imprisonment due to their LGBTQ identity.

As a result, every year, millions of people flee their home countries due to persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity (an estimated 5% of U.S. asylum claims are based on persecution of sexual orientation or gender identity, which suggests there are over 40,000 currently pending LGBTQ asylum cases in the United States).

After fleeing violence, imprisonment, and death threats in their home countries, LGBTQ asylum seekers arrive in the U.S. in pursuit of a better life. However, many LGBTQ asylum seekers are traumatized when--nearly as soon as they arrive on U.S. soil--they are thrown into immigration detention facilities that replicate the very persecution they sacrificed so much to escape. LGBTQ asylum seekers, especially trans and gender non-conforming asylum seekers, are routinely targeted in ICE detention. For example, trans asylum seekers in detention are often denied access to hormones and gender-appropriate clothing, and some are physically and sexually assaulted.

The psychological and physical trauma endured by LGBTQ asylum seekers at the hands of their own government and families makes them especially vulnerable when they arrive in the United States. In addition to facing challenges as asylum seekers, LGBTQ asylum seekers face unique obstacles due to their LGBTQ identity:
  • An estimated 44 percent of LGBTQ refugees suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when they arrive in the United States.
  • LGBTQ asylum seekers may be forced to “prove” their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to an asylum officer or immigration judge. Many are forced to face gendered stereotypes when dealing with those who are not properly trained in processing LGBTQ/SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) claims.
  • After experiencing severe levels of transphobia and homophobia in their home countries, many LGBTQ asylum seekers fear the organizations that they go to for help in the U.S. will also discriminate against them based on their LGBTQ identity. Once in the U.S., LGBTQ asylum seekers must find services that are both immigrant-friendly and LGBTQ-friendly during the lengthy asylum process.

While organizations that help LGBTQ asylum seekers do exist in this country (such as LGBTQ centers and verified LGBTQ-friendly immigration services), information on where to find these resources is difficult to access.

In 2014, a lesbian American and a gay asylum seeker co-founded AsylumConnect to fill this information gap. AsylumConnect is a nonprofit organization providing the first and only resource website and app designed for LGBTQ asylum. The AsylumConnect catalog currently helps LGBTQ asylum seekers find verified safe resources during the U.S. asylum process. LGBTQ asylum seekers can use AsylumConnect as a one-stop-shop to meet their needs in all aspects of their lives, including where it is safe to go for help with housing, hygiene and clothing, legal assistance, food, medical care, mental health treatment, community support, translation, transportation, education, and employment. Nonprofits and attorneys can also use AsylumConnect to easily gather verified resource referrals for their LGBTQ clients.

There should never be a moment when someone does not know where it is safe to go for help due to their LGBTQ identity or immigration status.

For more information, visit AsylumConnect.org. You can also make a tax-deductible donation to AsylumConnect to help persecuted LGBTQ people find safety.