My name is Jean and I am from West Africa. In my country I was a king of a large community. I was also a very successful international businessman. I was the owner of cyber cafe, snack bar, groceries and electronic shop, all located in the same building, ground floor and 1st floor.
In my country, the government does not like gay people. So, most of us, get married and have children as a “cover” for our sexuality. I did that. I have a wife and children. I also have had boyfriends in hiding. That was discovered in 2005 and my boyfriend and I were put into jail and beaten and tortured. Also, they mutilated our manhood because they said that we were not real men! My boyfriend died from the torture and bleeding. I survived and said that I had changed my ways and went back to my business. After a period of watching me, they believed me as I went back to work in my village and stayed with my wife. In time, I got a new boyfriend and thought that no one knew.
In June 2012, I was coming back home from a visit to the USA when I heard that the building in which I had my business and offices was being burned down. While I was on the plane, someone sent me pictures of it burning. There was NOT ONE firefighter or policeman who came to the building. There were no rescue attempts. People walked up and down the streets watching my building burn to the ground without any intervention because a rumor had again surfaced that I was gay. Few days later I told the mayor that there was a mistake and I did not have a boyfriend. He told me that I could rebuild if I got the money. I found the money to have the building rebuilt. Two months after I got the money and had the building rebuilt the same mayor ordered the destruction of the work.
My blood pressure went higher up and I quickly booked a flight for USA in order to receive treatment. I had a visa to travel the world due to my international computer business. I informed my boy-friend about my trip and he said we should meet to wish me good bye. We did not know we were being spied on and followed. My boy-friend escaped through the window while I was caught and driven to the police station where I received a heavy beaten and was tortured for two days. My spine was broken, my feet were beaten and I have wounds in my body. It is hard for me to walk long distances. With the complicity of one policeman, I succeeded to escape from the police station. Later, I learned that that policeman was killed because I escaped.
Because I had money, I was able to come to Worcester to live with a distant relative. After arriving in America, I found that all of my money had been taken by the Cameroonian government. I am poor now. I had two beautiful cars (Mercedes and Toyota), a palace-like home , and well educated children. I had respect, prestige and was a king of my community in my country. Since they found that I had a boyfriend, I am poor, homeless, my children are not safe, there is no money for their education and I am an immigrant in a country; I have absolutely no power or prestige. My wife ran with the children and they all live in hiding except for my two older children who are in college in England and in the USA .
I found Hadwen Park Church and have been going there just to pray to God for my family, safety and freedom. I had no idea how cold it is in North America, but the LGBT Asylum Task Force found me warm jackets, gloves and boots. I go to fundraising parties where I tell my story, AND ALSO, there is very good American food!
When the LGBT task force learned that I was penniless, they voted to financially support me monthly with a check for food, transportation, cell phone and other necessities. Now, I don’t have to walk to my doc appointments, I have money
for a bus and sometimes, in the dead of winter, even money for a cab. The night after I received my first monthly check, I slept like a baby for the first time since I left my country. Thank you for financially supporting me and gay people from around the world.
Two months ago I could not tell my story without tears. Today, with moral support from task force friends, I do.
When I get my papers in the USA and have legal status, I will rebuild my business and help my children to be educated. And, I will financially support the Task Force so that others like me might find a new life.
Long live LGBT task force! Long Live Hadwen Park Church! Long live America!
Can you please give so that we can be housed and safe?
POST SCRIPT: July 2017
Jean had his hearing in March of 2015. Most asylum cases are decided in weeks. Jean has not heard yet whether he will be granted asylum or lose his case. He lives in constant worry and despair. His two year old grandson body was attacked by teenagers in the village and he had to have surgery to repair his genitals. Jean has a job (actually 3) in the health care industry as a personal care assistant. He makes minimum wage and has to work about 100 hours a week to pay for his car and the costs to live. He also continues to pay for his children to go to colleges in the USA. Please pray for Jean. As the ‘temperature” against immigrants has changed in the USA, it seems harder and longer to get a decision.
Diane was raised in Uganda and has never wanted to marry and that was, again, when the signals went up to her family that she was not straight, but gay.
Diane lived with her grandmother. A friend of her grandmothers’ began asking private questions about why she didn’t marry. Diane tried to keep the answers general. But, the lady was persistent, “You are so beautiful, why don’t you have a man?” Diane talked about her career and that she wanted to be self-sufficient. That is culturally frowned upon. She dodged the questions as best she could.
However, one night, she was sleeping and two men came to her grandmother’s house. Diane is convinced that this woman turned her in to the Ugandan police/authorities/or groups that are trying to “rid” Uganda of all gay people. These men had wood with small nails sticking out in their hands. They asked her if she was Lesbian, and she said no. Her grandmother said no, but they beat her and beat her and beat her. Chunks of her skin were beaten off of her. You can see big holes in her body where skin used to be and now, it looks like a sinkhole! One man tried to rape her but the other stopped him. He made derogatory remarks about her not being “worthy” of rape, which actually saved her from that ordeal.
The beating went on for hours. When they left, her grandma tried to take care of her, but she couldn’t so they went to the hospital. There she was cared for.
She was out of work for three weeks, but went back. When folks asked her why she was so bruised, she said that she was stung by a bee in her face. She said, it would not have mattered if she had told them the truth, that men came to her house to beat her, because no one could have stopped it anyway and it might have brought more attention to her as a “possible” gay woman as the culture is aware that such things happen to the gay population.
At any rate, she felt that God came with a plan to save her. It was, she said, nothing short of a miracle and it was a Divine intervention that gave her a second chance. Her boss offered for her to go to the USA for a conference IF she had the money to pay her way. Diane had been careful with her money and had the money. She agreed to be one of the employees who went to USA for this conference in Washington DC. Her boss did the organization of the trip, including getting her passport and making flight arrangements.
Diana had had a partner for 11 years. However, to stay under the radar, she stopped all communication with her so that she could get safely out of Uganda. She has no idea where she is and doesn’t want to cause problems for her grandmother or her partner by trying to make contact. If she could contact her and help her get over here, she would … as Diane cares a great deal for her. Diane is also pragmatic. She wants to live and love and will always remember the love and support that her girlfriend gave while they lived in Uganda, but she is open to a new life and love here.
Coming to America was the first time that Diana was in an airplane. It was SO exciting and also a bit scary! However, she was trusting that this move to America would bring her the freedom that she had desired all of her life. She remembers being so grateful as the plane took off that God was guiding her and has a purpose for her life.
Diane had a friend, a straight Ugandan acquaintance, in Waltham Mass, so as soon as she landed, she called this friend. Diane hailed a taxi and put her friend on the cell phone with the taxi driver. Her Massachusetts friend talked on the phone and instructed the guy how to get her on a bus to get to Waltham. She arrived and is caring for the woman’s children in exchange for room and board.
The situation is not great, as the woman sort of feels that she “owns” Diana. It is not easy for her to get away from her childcare responsibilities to be with our group and experience being OUT as a lesbian woman. While with this woman Diane must be completely closeted, even careful about phone conversations. She has no internet and is really still imprisoned.
When Diane contacted the LGBT asylum task force, we began to support her with travel money. She came to the Task Force’s community dinners and met other Ugandan women. Eventually, she came to live in Worcester with another African woman who was a member of Hadwen Park and was not homophobic.
When it was time for Diane to have her immigration interview (about 18 months after she actually filed for asylum) she asked members of the Task Force to write affidavits for her. You see, if you claim that you might be harmed in your home country for being gay, you must prove the country conditions and also, prove you are gay! Pictures of Diane dancing at the Women’s Dance at Fenway Health Center and pictures of her speaking at LGBT events we had help with the evidence. Pastor Judy, as a white, straight, Christian grandmother, pastor also writes an affidavit after having private pastoral counseling sessions. On church letterhead, Pastor Judy stated under oath and notarized that she believed Diane’s story to be veritable. To date, when the LGBT asylum Task Force supports lgbt persons and participates in their cases, no case has been lost.
Diane received asylum 3 years ago and is working and creating a life. She has a girlfriend, a car and is working hard to forget the trauma of her past. Diane is not sure how she would have survived in America had she not encountered new friends with the same story, a church where she was told she was created in the image of God, and help with her asylum case.
My name is Susan. I will not say my last name publicly as I am worried about the safety of my child in Nigeria.
Let me tell you my story, briefly. I was born in 1987 and my mother died during childbirth. That left my father and myself as the family unit. I went to school and loved it. I had a happy childhood trusting the love of my father.
My father sent me to boarding school to get a good education. There I began to explore my sexual orientation and found that I was attracted to women. I got in trouble for that and was bullied a lot. I did well in school. I loved math. I am good at numbers. I dreamed of growing up to be a successful accountant. In my dreams, I imagined sharing my life with a woman, but I knew that was impossible in Nigeria. After I graduated from high school, my father began to pressure me to marry. I resisted. Finally, I told my father I was lesbian. He beat me for the very first time in my life. It broke my heart.
My father imprisoned me in my own home. Late that night, two men entered my room and I was raped all night. It is called “corrective gang rape” in my country and it is common! While I was hurt emotionally and physically, what broke my heart was that there was no forced entry into my home. I came to realize that my father ordered this horrible act in hopes of changing my sexual orientation. I screamed for my dad to come and save me, he was in the next room. He did not come.
My father put me under house arrest, but I escaped to live with my Grandma. I discovered that I was pregnant. One year later, my grandmother died. I was homeless with an infant, so I went looking for work. I saw a travel agency sign saying there was work in Egypt. In desperation, I left my son at my father’s house and left without talking. I only hoped my dad would love my little boy, like he loved me as a child. I was to later find out that he did. But I had years of nightmares about my son dying or being in an accident.
Another long story, but I was sold into domestic slavery and sent to Egypt. To survive, I cared for three children, three adults, all household duties and food prep. They had a HUGE dog and I was terribly frightened of dogs because dogs stay outdoors in Africa! The sad thing, is that I watched those people love that dog, while they treated me worse that a dog.
They vacationed in California. I had, by luck, arrived in America, a single poor gay woman. I knew that I had to fight for my freedom here. I escaped from them. I went to Greyhound bus station with $350 desperately saved dollars. I told the lady at the counter, “I want a ticket to Boston” I did not know if it was a state, a city, an island... something whispered to me and said, “Boston is where you need to go” The ticket was $300.
That is just one reason why I believe in God!
On that four-day trip, I was so scared; I wanted to jump off the bus. I was able, by the grace of God, to sit thru this long and hungry trip to come nearer to a Task Force that would safe my life. But for that ride, I was horribly alone and frightened.
As I approached South Station in Boston, I heard a woman speaking my home language. I begged her to take me home with her. She left South Station to ask her husband. I stood in the same spot for 6 hours. I did not go to the bathroom or eat. I am here today, because that woman’s husband returned. He walked toward me and said, “Are you Susan.” I want to tell you that I believe that God has a plan for me and has saved my life. Eventually, after couch surfing with many homophobic Africans living in America, the attorney that I found on the internet, told me about the LGBT asylum task force in Worcester, Mass.
Since then, my life has changed. I feel safe. I feel respected, accepted, loved! I know that I will get my son here. I know that I will get an education and work hard. I know that I have a bright future. I got my work
permit and a parishioner at Hadwen Park church paid for me to become a C.N.A and I work in health care in a nursing home. I have a car.
Pastor Judy tells me to dream. I do. I see little Jacob jumping off a school bus. I imagine shopping for his school shoes. And, I see a day where my beautiful girlfriend might be with us if she can escape her horror in Sudan. I am no longer supported by the asylum task force, but 16 others are. It takes $12,000 a month to pay their rent and give them food to eat. You and so many other lgbt friendly churches send pledges monthly to bring more to safety.
And, please, for the sake of my son and my girlfriend, Lynette, remember the children and people who are suffering today, right now, in Africa and around the world due to homophobia.
Thank you for listening and God bless you.
BLESSED POST SCRIPT!
Susan stood before the immigration hearing and told her story. She was officially granted asylum and is on her way to permanent residency and citizenship (which can take up to 10 years!) She also has begun the proceedings to request that her son come live with her. Prayers that her partner can get a visa to come to the USA and seek asylum. God IS still speaking.