When I became the executive director of Qmunity, I didn’t know I would regularly be writing letters to convince an appointed panel of three people that somebody was gay. Or trans. Or a lesbian. Yet this is a regular part of my job.
Every LGBTQ refugee who arrives in B.C. is required to testify in front of a hearing board. These boards have varying levels of queer competence. Which means that they may not understand why a lesbian has children. Or that a gay man was married to a woman out of cultural necessity. Or that a trans person could not live openly without fear of police-inflicted violence and therefore has no history in their gender indentity.
In fact, sometimes it means that the hearing board will require a refugee to draw a floor plan of Celebrities Nightclub…which I am completely incapable of doing. I guess I can’t prove that I’m queer.
Sometimes in the Vancouver/Canada bubble, it’s easy to forget that it is still illegal to be queer in over 80 countries. In five countries it is punishable by death.
It’s also easy to mistake arriving in Canada for being safe. The reality is that the economic, cultural and employment barriers that exist for refugees can be overwhelming. This in addition to many people having survived serious traumas prior to arriving in Canada. Imagine having to hide who you are your entire life, only to try and immediately undo those deeply embedded learnings in a new language, new climate, and new culture.
Our global family matters.
Imagine what we could collectively achieve if we worked together. On May 15, come join us at the 11th annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia breakfast to learn what it means to be an LGBTQ refugee and fight for your chance to live a life without fear.
You can make a difference.
Dara Parker is the executive director of Qmunity, B.C.'s queer resource centre based in Vancouver.