Despite gains made in many parts of the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people are, in some regions, increasingly persecuted and denied basic human rights. Because bigotry thrives where we are silenced by fear, we've created this space for people to share stories of discrimination and survival. Read these stories, share them, and contribute your own. Let the world know that we will not be silent.

chalese_2085

Chalese/


“I was ashamed and buried in self-judgment, afraid of what my friends and family would think. Having been raised in the LDS community, a part of the Mormon religion, I denied my feelings for a woman and considered never coming out. But after two years of being in the closet, and endless arguments with the woman whose companionship I treasured, I decided to choose what made me happiest: love.”

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cameron

Cameron/


If you asked 2013 me where I saw myself in the future, I would have told you dead. today is a different story. today I’m living.

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garrett

Garrett/


“From being called ‘sister’ by my brother, ‘faggot’ by my uncle, being spit on, and being called ‘gay-rat’ by people in school, by the time I was in high school my self esteem was virtually non-existent. Flash forward to college and after the supreme court decision I came out to my friends and family.”

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Mo (left) is a 41 year old Jamaican transgender man. He is a police detective. He says “Jamaicans are very intolerant and homophobic, none the less, I live my life fearlessly” he goes on to say “you can never know when you can become a target… so I am always n defense mode.” Mo is in a long-term relationship with his partner Pinkie. To contact: monique391975@icoloud.com, phone: +1(876)5871997. Social Media: IG: spoiltchildmo FB: Mo Bibi Rowe. He sits with his partner 30 year old Jamiacan lesbian Pinkie says she does not face discrimination common to LGBTQI+ people in Jamaica. She attributes this to her feminine presentation. She says though that “In Jamaica most people don’t have a mind of their own, they just want to hear one person say ‘alright – you’re a lesbian you need for dead.’ It’s like the entire crowd come down on you, ‘you need for dead.’ There’s just not somebody to have a mindset to say ‘you know leave her alone or leave her alone.’” Pinkie is in a long-term relationship with her partner Mo. To contact: monique391975@icoloud.com, phone: +1(876)5910578. Social Media: FB: Exstasii whipped cream Codling. Jamaica is one of 76 countries where same-sex acts are illegal. The LGBTQI+ community in the country have regularly faced violent homophobic and trans-phobic attacks, and discrimination in almost every sector of society. However, in the last ten years, through the emergence of courageous grassroots LGBTQI+ grassroots non-governmental organizations and activists, the country has seen progressive gains for LGBTQI+ acceptance. Photo Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change. 29 September 2016

Mo/


“I am always on the alert and really on the defensive because when you have a predominantly male look, like I do, you can never tell when you may become a target so I am always cognisant of that and ready to go into defence mode. I really love Jamaican- it is my homeland. “

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F.J. Genus is a Jamaican queer man of transgender experience working as an IT consultant. In many public spaces he feels unsafe. He describes how every morning he must mentally prepare himself to face a world outside that often doesn’t accept him for the man he identifies as. To contact: +1(876)3135059, email: fjgenus@gmail.com. Social media handles: @to_gentleman (IG, Tw). Jamaica is one of 76 countries where same-sex acts are illegal. The LGBTQI+ community in the country have regularly faced violent homophobic and trans-phobic attacks, and discrimination in almost every sector of society. However, in the last ten years, through the emergence of courageous grassroots LGBTQI+ grassroots non-governmental organizations and activists, the country has seen progressive gains for LGBTQI+ acceptance. Photo Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change. 24 September 2016

F.J./


“Every time I introduce myself I am asked what I have come to refer to as the ‘Annoying Inevitable Question’: ‘What does FJ Stand for?’ the selection of a name is a critical part of the transition process of a transgender individual.”

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24 year old transgender/heterosexual Noelle (last name withheld) moves with great caution around Jamaica. While there are parts of Kingston Jamaica where she feels safe, in others, she says, she must ‘navigate spaces’ carefully knowing that she can be attacked because she presents as a woman. To contact: +1(876)4018 656, noelle92@gmail.com, Social media handle: ms. Noellen. Jamaica is one of 76 countries where same-sex acts are illegal. The LGBTQI+ community in the country have regularly faced violent homophobic and trans-phobic attacks, and discrimination in almost every sector of society. However, in the last ten years, through the emergence of courageous grassroots LGBTQI+ grassroots non-governmental organizations and activists, the country has seen progressive gains for LGBTQI+ acceptance. Photo Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change. 29 September 2016

Noelle/


“she told me to be Be-You-Tiful- be you because the real you is beautiful and you’re not here for the approval for anyone so give yourself a break and Be-You-Tiful. These words stuck with me and formed part of me in a literal sense as I had it tattooed on my chest as a reminder to myself every day when I wake up and I am preparing myself for the day ahead. This is the first time I’m speaking so candidly to such a large audience about my gender identity but at this point I really don’t care. I am Jamaican and trans is beautiful and I am beautiful.”

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moussa

Moussa/


“In the end of 80s my father emigrated to Italy and we reached him in 1992. I felt very relieved because for sure my original country wasn’t the right place to stay. However growing up in Italy wasn’t that easy. Also here I was bullied and discriminated. First I thought that it was for my colour skin or because I was the nerd of the town. Later I will understand that there was something more.”

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Asumi (left) and Oriana stand in the light of a police car during a nightly raid. "There's lots of physical and verbal abuse, and the police will break into the women's homes and arrest all of the women in the house,” says photographer Danielle Villasana. "There are some accounts of police arresting transwomen who aren't even working, they just arrest them for being transgender. A woman might be running to get food during a police raid, in her pajamas and not in her work clothes, but she will still get arrested.”

Takeover: Danielle Villasana/


Danielle Villasana shares stories from “A Light Inside”, documenting transgender women living in Peru.

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brickwall-emily

Emily/


“Growing up, my dad proudly told everyone he could, “If either of my sons comes home and tells me they’ve decided to be gay, I will laugh at them and kick them out of my house until they come home and tell me they’ve changed their minds and apologize.” He didn’t realize that he was actually talking about me, not my brothers. They had already disowned me for reporting my dad for molesting me as a child when I emailed them to come out, which I did to avoid having to hear their reactions, because I knew they would be vicious.”

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A posed posed portrait of Ibrahim (not his real name) who says he has been imprisoned and tortured because of his sexual orientation – he is Gay. He does his best to support other young gay men who have suffered persecution through his small group Hope Alive Intiative. Since Nigeria’s president signed a harsh law criminalizing homosexuality throughout the country last month, arrests of gay people have multiplied, advocates have been forced to go underground, some people fearful of the law have sought asylum overseas and news media demands for a crackdown have flourished. Three young men were recently flogged 20 times in a northern Nigerian court room for being gay. Some consider them lucky. The penalty for gay sex under local Islamic law is death by stoning. Nigeria, April 2014. Photo Robin Hammond  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Ibrahim/


“My experience of discrimination started since when I was 12 years old. In the school where I attend all my class mate hate me so much, they don’t play with me, each time I go to play with them, they reject me and say they will not play with a girl (referring to me).”

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devon

Devon/


“Ever since I was a young girl I knew I wasn’t like everyone else. I remember when my aunt would bring home her beautiful friends over and I couldn’t help but wish I was older so I could be with them. I never knew what bisexual meant until I was about 7 or 8.”

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brickwall-fuaad

Fu'aad/


“when we was in car i talked to him i have something to tell you but you must not be angry and i want you to be quiet when i ask he said “okay” , but in that moment i cant told him i want to see you all naked bcz of shy i tried but cant he told ” if you dont tell me you will not see me again ! ” he pressed to me to talk i said okay ” i want see you naked ” suddenly he got angry and got out of car i said him stop i want to explain it to you he left … “

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A posed portrait of the older sister of LGBT Activist and Journalist Eric Lembembe (in the picture she is holding), Ndongo Alice, 37, at home in Yaounde. Eric and Alice were very close when they were growing up. There was gossip in the family about his sexuality but Eric was never open about being gay. Eric was an outspoken campaigner for LGBT rights in Cameroon though and critical of state sponsored discrimination. Eric was murdered on the weekend of July 15/16, 2013. Eric had been brutally tortured. His legs, arms, and neck were broken. He had burns on his body from an iron.  The corners of his mouth were sliced, his eyes had been gouged out, as had his tongue. Before his death Eric had told his sister, Alice, that he had many problems but he refused to share them with her. After his death Alice found out he had been threatened many times. After his death she also received threats. One SMS said “You will die like your fag brother”.  Eric’s death has profoundly affected the family: “By loosing Eric we have also lost our mother. She has changed completely, her health, everything. And I feel really lonely without him. He was really helping me.” Eric’s killer/s have never been caught. Yaounde, Cameroon. December 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Alice & Eric/


“The death of Eric (little brother) is a death in our family, it also killed our mother because since the tragedy, the poor woman developed hypotension. We are left to ourselves (brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces). Imagine a pillar of the family goes without farewell or a trace, words cannot express the pain that I carry in my heart, how can we console our mother? What can we say to the children?”

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elle

Elle/


“I have been recently coming out for the past few years. i come from a very conservative family and upbringing but a liberal city. i am not out to my family but i have been coming out to friends and coworkers. i like to travel by myself a lot. on my most recent trip, there … READ THE STORY

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jenn

Jenn/


“My dad and i were truly best friends I felt like we were always laughing at our silly jokes…. these were the good old days until he began to get brain washed at his parish.”

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L

L/


“One day, I walked into algebra class with my girlfriend, and I saw that my seat was taken by one of the popular jock boys. I asked him to get up, but he refused, then began hollering offensive slurs at me. Several more boys joined in, and they started screaming names, like “carpet muncher” and “faggot” and “queer degenerate” at me and my girlfriend; one even violently yelled “people like you should be shot”. The whole time, I sat holding back tears as my girlfriend defended me. Everyone else in the classroom was either sitting idly at his or her desk, ignoring us completely, or laughing along with the boys.”

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stephanie

Stephanie/


“After beginning to visit a psychiatrist I came out stepwise. Some friends I lost but the majority supported me. During my leisure time I began to go out dressed like a women. Harassments started but I stood up for being me. Later, I was 27, I called my mom and told her. She was puzzled. Full of sorrows she asked me about dad. I insisted she should tell him.”

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dylan

Dylan/


“In my first year I was introduced to the world of social media and decided to sign up in the now popular site Facebook. There, I met countless of people who gave me hope, but I made the mistake of telling someone my sexuality. He would always blacked mailed me with it and I always felled to his wishes because I was afraid. Afraid of what the consequences would be because I lived in a very homophobic country and what would my mom would think of me.”

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parry

Parry/


“The promise that they would make me straight offered me a life that I could only imagine…Could I fall asleep with out anxiety attacks? Would the loud condemning voices in my head stop? Maybe suicide would seise to be the best available option.”

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Jordan copy

Nina/


“I had my first kiss when I was 17, I was not experimenting.. I was in love. We stayed together for 9 years and struggled by keeping our love and relation in the shadow”

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ben

Ben/


“i grew up in a masculine household, and have memories of being called ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ because i chose dance and music over sports, and my ultraconservative mom saying gay sex was disgusting. It was only natural that i thought i could suppress the smaller, gay in me, replace it with fear and hate”

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adam

Adam/


“It’s really hard to explaine what i’m going through, i’m gay i’m proud but my town hates me they bully me, hit me , harrasse me and throw rocks at me , i’ve tried to hide it , bUt my vOice , my talk , my walk and the way i am is telling !”

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brickwall-tina

Tina/


“I confided in one of my friends that im actually not straight. …in a space of 3hrs…the news was viral……I got hate texts,mockery videos,she got everyone to turn against me…my family found out……I got a breif weekend break from volunteering went home….they tried to an exorcism.”

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nicolas

Nick/


“about 6 or 7 years ago, a friend and I were walking along a street, laughing out loud and somehow, a guy started to shout ‘faggot !’ indefinetely on the other side of the street. Sheer provocation : I couldn’t stand here and smile stupidly because I thought at first that he wasn’t talking to me ; so I said the guy to shut up… He crossed the street, pacing in my direction, pushed me and swore my death the next time he’d see me. Sadly “classic”, this story wouldn’t get out of my mind, even though I had to do if everything was normal the rest of the day, not only to my friends, but also to my family.”

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wendy

Wendy/


“They used to throw paper balls at me, mess with my things, call me faggot. once they set fire under my chair during the class and the next day a guy put I nife on my neck make sure I would never tell anybody who did that to me.”

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A posed portrait of Funeka Soldaat, 53, who heads Free Gender, a black lesbian organisation working to end homophobia, based in the township of Khaylitsha, Cape Town. When talking about the formation of the group Funeka says “We had to fight or die, we didn’t have a choice”. Funeka is a survivor of sexual violence targeted because of her sexuality, or, as termed by the media a “Victim of corrective rape”.  Her attacker was never convicted. She also survived being stabbed in the back multiple times. The attack landed her in intensive care unit: “when I hear of someone being stabbed, I still feel the pain”. South Africa. November 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Funeka/


“I told the policeman what happened. He asked me: ‘Are you a woman?’ I told him: ‘Yes I am.’ He didn’t take my statement. Instead he went to other police and I heard him laughing. The other police also came to ask me what had happened. I later found out they were making fun of me. I went home, wearing one shoe, and feeling very devastated. I never believed that the institutions I trusted could do this to me. I arrived at home and went straight to bed without a statement being taken.”

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robin

TEDx/


Watch this TEDx talk in which Robin Hammond shares stories of discrimination and survival; stories that matter from where love is illegal. Stories that need to be heard.

“Maybe, just maybe, we can create a future world where no one needs to cover their face, change their name, hide who they are. A future world where everyone’s story matters. A future world in which love is never illegal.”

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vantull-wall

Vantull/


“I’m 15 and I’m gay , I’m from morocco , I still haven’t come out to my family yet , only to a couple of friends , being gay in here is a sin , a crime , and a shame bringer”

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tiara

Tiara/


“even if i wanted to be out and proud, who would listen? especially to someone who is a racial minority with mental health issues? I can’t wait to get out of here, to be free to be me again.”

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paul-dee

Paul Dee/


“When I witness the progress in places such as North America and Europe, I further realize how lonely and isolated I am at times to the point it becomes unbearable. I am at an age where I want to express my sexuality, find companionship, a lover, a partner. I don’t know what the future holds for me living here. Sometimes I wonder if this is just my burden to bare. Maybe one day in the afterlife if exists, I will finally be able live without fear.”

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kemal

Kemal/


“I’m a muslim guy born in a Turkish family. I came out for my homosexuality when I was 15. For my family this was not ok. So I moved by my own at my 17 without nothing. Now 12 years later I’m very strong and powerful.”

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john

John/


“Time came that I need to tell the truth to them, I was so scared of what might be the consequences of my confession. Before I went to college I confessed to them about who I really am but I was beaten by some of them, they were disgusted and even cursed me and since that day they started avoiding me.”

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mattie

Mattie/


“Last year, I tried to kill myself. I felt so trapped and stuck, like nothing would ever get better. I felt like there was something was wrong with me but realized it was something wrong with society. I was certain the society was never going to change. No one knew who I was. I was living a lie. My parents are still trying to figure out why I did it. If only, they knew.”

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A posed portrait of 26 year old Kamarah Apollo, a gay activist in Uganda. Apollo lists the discrimination he has faced: “In 2010 I was chased from school when they found out that I was in relationship with fellow male student. I was also disowned by my family because of my sex orientation. I left home with no option but to join sex work for survival and fight for our gay and sex workers’ rights because I was working on streets. I was also arrested several times because police officers thought I was promoting homosexual acts in Uganda. I have been tortured several times by homophobic people and police officers by tying me with ropes and being beaten, pierced by soft pins, nicknamed, a lot of psychological torture by local leaders and police. I can’t forget when I was raped in the police cell by prisoners, after all that I decided to start an organization with some campus students. An msm organization called kampuss liberty Uganda. During the petitioning of the anti-homosexuality act I appeared on local televisions so much and it became hard to me to a permanent place to stay because the majorities are homophobic. I also appeared in local newspapers as a promoter of homosexuals so right now it’s hard for me to get a safe place to rent yet I am not working. I was fired from work because I am gay.” Uganda, September 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Apollo/


“I have been tortured several times by homophobic people and police officers… I can’t forget when I was raped in the police cell by prisoners, after all that I decided to start an organization with some campus students. I also appeared in local newspapers as a promoter of homosexuals so right now it’s hard for me to get a safe place to rent yet I am not working. I was fired from work because I am gay.”

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omar_1024

R/


“Just want someone to come and take me out of this situation someday. I dont need all the luxury or money or the job that I have, I need love and freedom to be myself and want to surround myself with happy people.”

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daniel

Daniel/


“At that moment the sense of sin/guilt and social exclusion collaborated to go into depression. Every day, before bed, in my prayers asking for God to take away my own life if I were to continue living fighting myself because I had fought all the ways to not be so.”

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vincenzo

Vincenzo/


“I can’t describe the feelng of fear and violation when someone shows you torn pages of your most secret thoughts after you deny them.”

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alex-2

Alex/


“The thing that has always kept me strong in every decision I’ve made in my life is pursuing my own happiness, understanding that I don’t need to deny what I am or try to maintain an appearance of what I’m not before anyone and by no means in front of my parents.”

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michael

Michael/


“I dated women for 7 years, even to the point of having a fiancée, just to make him happy. It’s taken all my being to keep trying to salvage whatever love might be harvested deep down inside him. I still hope one day he comes around, but for now, I am stuck with some more bills and memories of the man who drove me home the last day he thought I was worth loving.”

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shion

Shion/


“When I was 15, I heard that I was ‘a shitty lesbo’ and was raped BY A CLASSMATE to ‘learn to be a proper girl.’ I didn’t go back to school after that day.”

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eddie-graphic

Eddie/


“love is all about chioices, not gender, and i really want international community can do something to let china openly and optimistically discuss gay rights issue with lgbt people instead of a bunch of government officials who didn’t even want to talk about it.”

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A posed posed portrait of 25 year old Miiro, who describes being evicted from his home because, he says, he is gay: “We heard people stoning the door and windows while shouting, telling us to immediately leave the house because they were tired of us, claiming that we are curse to the village, and even to the teenagers in the village… After a while of storming the door, it broke and we were pulled out, thrown on the ground, beaten and flogged for almost an hour. We were half dead. And they burnt all things in the house in the process. The leader of the village intervened and they decided to take us to the police station for life imprisonment.” Miiro spent four days in police cells before being released by human rights lawyers. He went into hiding for two and a half months. He received $160 relocation money from a non-governmental organization but he says it wasn’t enough to start a new life. Uganda, September 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Miiro/


“We heard people stoning the door and windows while shouting, telling us to immediately leave the house because they were tired of us, claiming that we are curse to the village, and even to the teenagers in the village… After a while of storming the door, it broke and we were pulled out, thrown on the ground, beaten and flogged for almost an hour. We were half dead.”

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victor

Victor/


“When I was 11 and about to finish primary school, a girl told everybody to not talk to me because I was weird and she believed I liked boys. I guess I sometimes showed a part of me that I didn’t even know at the time so it was shocking, I couldn’t accept that.”

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A posed portrait of 27 year old, pansexual trans man Dorian. Dorian was assigned female at birth. He grew up feeling alone and pressured to conform to family and societal expectations. As the eldest child in a conservative Indian family he didn’t feel safe to discuss his desire to live as a man. His depression reached such a level that he attempted suicide several times. His parents found out he was seeing a woman and when he was 18 years old his father gave him an ultimatum, stay at home and be the straight woman ‘he should be’, or leave. Dorian left and went to Singapore. He faced constant persecution based on his sexuality including loosing his job in a cafe when his boss saw him being affectionate with a woman. Always impoverished, and sometimes homeless, he was forced to do sex work for money. The first time he met a client, he found that penetration was too painful. He asked the client to stop. The client refused and raped Dorian. He bled for 12 hours afterwards. He was employed at a mechanics workshop. The men there would constantly harass him. He was groped and told that the reason he liked woman was that he had never been penetrated – and that he should allow them to do it for him. While in Singapore he found out it was possible for him to shape his external self to match who he was inside. In Singapore he started his transition by taking hormones in January 2010, and then in September 2014 had a double incision mastectomy (top surgery). Today he lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with his partner and their 5 year old son. Feeling so alone growing up has inspired Dorian to become an activist for trans men in Malaysia. To this day his parents and siblings struggle to accept him as the man he is. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. December 2014.   While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Dorian/


“Ma,I know you mist feel like I’m the greatest mistake of your life. Perhaps you wonder why you did not smother me under a pillow as I took my first steps. Or even better, perhaps you wonder why you did not abort me as soon as the first wave of morning sickness came…You look in shock and horror as I unabashedly that your daughter claims to be a man, a son you did not want to ask for. You would not see that I’ve alway been a son in the disguise of a daughter.”

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alex

Alex/


“i cowered, i was afraid that she would consider me one of lgbti, even though i was and being one of them was never a fault. i was such a coward, i did not have courage to face the judgement brought by the exposure of me sexual orientation. and my grandma’s reaction just made me feel like i was making a huge mistake. but fortunately i held on.”

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image1

Carson/


“fear was a huge part of growing up in my small midwestern town where the word ‘gay’ was synonymous with: abnormal, disgusting, diseased, evil, & poisonous. when he found out, my step-father put me in therapy to fix my ‘faggot phase’ and refused to call me by anything other than ‘faggot’ or ‘little shit’.”

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stefano

Stefano/

,


“Cameroonian mother and a Congolese stepfather my parents divorced when I was three and grew up with my catholic mother african Culture and catholism together is the worSt comBination when that you grow up you know you like men also. Years have passed while growing up I was beaten because i had certain tendencies that a boy was not meant to have”

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juanjo

Juanjo/


“When I was a young kid, I had my own hobbies different to the rest of the kids, and some of them called me gay in a bad way like ‘fag’. During my puberty some of them too, because my interests were different. i came out with my friends this year, and i was surprised about how gentle and fine they were with me. this has been a complicated topic in my life, since i knew who i was. but my friends always treated me with respect and love.”

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amqa

Amqa/


“I saw all of my peers and friends got there own life married. … children … most of them even the gays ones and I was somehow like am totally wrong and too many question marks about me …. I felt alone … I feared the future … I feared to be old all alone here outcasted who has nothing. … so I met a girl.”

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