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.

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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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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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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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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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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javier

Javier/


“The guy who I was holding hands with stood up to defend us and received a beating in exchange. It was five guys who beat us up, including my own brother. When I realized things had gotten out of control, I kneeled before my brother and begged him to stop. Upon his refusal, I decided to run to the car I used to go to the university and flee. When I finally had the courage to return to my parent’s home, two days later, I confronted my parents by telling them what happened and hoping that they would do what was right.”

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yuki

Yuki/


“I am an only child and my family had always told me to ‘prosper and populate the family’. When I realized I was gay, I wished I had not been born. After my only gay friend actually committed suicide (I never forget that day), I became motivated to save the lives of gay people and, to be honest, myself. Finally, against my friends’ advice, I came out to my parents. They were devastated at first but gradually became supportive and suggested that I move to a place where gays are more accepted, somewhere I could raise kids in a committed relationship.”

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samuel

Samuel/


“It was a rare day if ‘Homo’, ‘faggot’ or ‘gay’ was not shouted at me, living in a small village meant That i Had deal with small minded people. Being 12 years old and constantly Being Told you were ‘gay’ was a weird thing.”

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kofiAA

Kofi/


“In Ghana if you’re gay then you’re deemed an abomination, sick and preverited and most of the time I’m church when the preacher speaks on the subject it’s always the same THING ‘if you are gay then you’re going to hell’ because of this I can’t even go to church cause EVERYTIME I enter the house god I feel ashamed but I still pray cause in my heart I know that god still loves me no matter what.”

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A posed portrait of 25 year old bisexual Olga Bakhaeva who resigned from her position as a high school history teacher in Magnitogorsk city when the director of the school found out her sexuality. Her director, under pressure from the Education Board, told her not to support LGBT and other groups in opposition to the government. The environment at the school became hostile when Olga continued to be active on social media. She felt humiliated by the director of the school when she outed her in front of other teachers. Privately, afterwards, she was told by the director of the school “It would be better if you found another job”. Olga says that the director in fact was not concerned with her sexuality but was worried about the reputation of the school should she not act. In Russia, laws have been made, purportedly, to protect children from LGBT “propaganda.” State schools are very pro-government. According to several LGBT teachers, even if there is no law stating LGBT teachers cannot be employed, it is, in reality, not possible to be openly LGBT and a teacher in Russian Government schools or Universities. After Olga resigned her activism increased. Now she is a strong supporter of LGBT non-governmental organization ComingOut SPB and bi-sexual non-governmental organization LuBi. St Petersburg, Russia. 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

Olga/


“I had a conversation with the director of the school, during which it was made clear to me that I must accept her conditions: disappear from all LGBT groups; stop putting any similar information on my wall; and not participate in discussions on the subject… That is to say, ‘make a choice, what is more important to you – being a teacher, or your activist views.’ Just the chance to accept these conditions put me into a two day depression of looking at myself in the mirror with constant abhorrence. In essence, it meant the betrayal of myself, and everything I believe in.”

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Shivam/


“I’m gay and proud of it. There’s nothing that I would change about myself. But my country and my parents would never agree to that. Where homosexuality is a crime. In India and on the other hand if do tell my parents about me, especially my dad, he’ll kill me. No doubts.”

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Kurt & Fletcher/


“There were 60 people in our town- about 15 of those were kids. On reflection the hardest thing growing up gay was how it made Fletch feel, having an older gay brother, knowing how much he was judged and I think how mad that it may have made him for him to come to terms with his own sense of self.”

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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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domi

Domi/


“I came out to my closest friends when I was 14, and my parents turned out to discover when I was 15, and since that my life has been really hard. My dad accepts me but my mom doesn’t. She moved me away from my school and friends, she doesn’t let me go alone anywhere, and tells me I’m the shame of the family.”

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The Veiled Truth/


“My mother calls me gay when she wants to tell me that i am sick, and then after it she asks if i am ill or if there is something wrong with me, as if her remark on me being gay is not enough emphasis for her that i am -in her opinion- sick and got something wrong going on in me.”

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A posed portrait of 37 year old Yves Serges.  Early one morning in January 2011, Yves Serge was asleep in his room. He was awoken by the voice of his cousin. He looked out the window to see his cousin surrounded by around 15 men. He was crying. Yves opened the door, when he did so the men rushed inside. They dragged him out, put him on the back of a motorbike and drove into the night. He had no idea where his kidnappers were taking him. They stopped at a cross-road, pulled him off the bike, stripped him, and started beating him all over his body with planks of wood. He was forced to sit on an empty beer bottle so that it entered his rectum. They continued to beat him. They started interrogating him, “you are a faggot, tell us who you have sex with and where we can find them?” Yves refused to answer. The kidnappers piled three large truck tires and made Yves to go inside of them. They came up to the height of his chest. They took petrol from their motorbikes and poured it over his head and body. They wanted to burn Yves alive. At that moment, people from Yves neighborhood arrived. The details of what happened next are not clear to Yves, he was semi-conscious and overwhelmed by fear. He does know though that some of his family members saved him from the lynching. While Yves has recovered physically, the experience has left him deeply traumatized. He is constantly reminded of the night, he is deeply afraid of the return of his kidnappers and has difficulty making relationships now. Douala, 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

Yves Serges/


“they judged it was time to take the next step which was to burn me alive in big trucks wheels that were in this intersection, no sooner said than done, that’s when I found myself in these wheels naked, they removed the fuel from a motorcycle and poured it on me.”

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Nix/


“I went to an all boys grammar school, where the words ‘gay’ and ‘faggot’ were often thrown around. I felt the need to hide and ‘stay in the closest’ because being openly gay was not socially acceptable there. I didn’t want to give the bullies another reason to harass me, because they already bullied me for the colour of my skin, my demeanour and my feminine voice.”

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A posed portrait of 31 year old Mimi (not her real name) who came to Kuala Lumpur from Selangor, outside the city. “I came to Kuala Lumpur, just like everyone else, to get a job, and what I thought would be an easy life. At first it was just that - I worked with a fashion designer for four years. I was happy. I was renting an apartment dressing as myself (as a woman). At night time I’d go out, have fun… I had a boyfriend, he was my first love, but I found out he was seeing another trans woman, so after two years we broke up. I was very depressed. I wasn’t getting any support, I was feeling vengeance towards men so I started hanging around with my trans friends, many of them were sex workers, but they could understand everything. I got involved in nightlife – sex work and drugs. It helped me to forget about my boyfriend and the pressures I felt from society. My performance at my job went down dramatically. Before I knew it, I was addicted to drugs. I stopped my job. I moved closer to the other trans. I didn’t realize how low I was getting until I was taken to prison. I was arrested for selling drugs. No matter how much money I found from sex work, it was never enough, it always went on drugs. Now when the police see me they say – “oh you again.” I’ve been arrested many times. Sometimes for drugs, sometimes for sex work, but the most often it is the Jawi (the religious department, under the Sharia Law) for cross-dressing.” There is very little support for transgender drug users. There is only one place that provides support but only to males and females. “It is hard for us to go to het health services. When we go there they call us by our male names”,  “Society looks down on us transgender. There is a real prejudice. People call us names, they look at transgender as a sex object, nothing else, we are not seen as normal people like men and women are. People persecute rather than getting to know or help us.” “Now I’m sleeping on the street, on a cardboard. If I’m lucky I get a client and I can stay a night in a hotel with them.” “I want to stop drugs but I must take them to survive, just to be normal. I’m getting older now, I have nothing, and I’m the eldest in the family. I feel bad because I am a very bad example to my younger siblings.” Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. January 2015.  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

Mimi/


“I started to involve as a sex worker initially just for fun, then i get serious and working full time. At first everything is fascinating, i get so many customers and my life was quite luxurious.
I always go shopping and fulfill my every needs. At that time life is so perfect but ‘the sky is not always bright’.”

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daniel

Daniel/


“The most difficult was for my brothers, one of them beat me, he deformed my face. We stop to talk during one year and half. After that he apologized for being a monster and what he wants is my happiness, doesn’t matter if you’re gay or not. I want your happiness because you’re my brother.”

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Prescott/


“The contemporary Chinese youth are very open, but the elder are conservative very much, they will feel disgusting and strange if he see gay people, my family are like kind of this espeically. Once upon a time, my mum asked me why I love Lady Gaga, why I love the gay people? I told her the gay is nothing, they are just like normal people, a people to find his true love, is anything wrong? She got very angry, she thought my point of view and attitude are wrong absolutely, she said love is built on the physiology!”

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A posed posed portrait of ‘E’ a young gay man in Uganda who regularly self-harms. Some people persecuted for their sexuality or gender identity become depressed. 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 g

E/


“When I hear those hate words that homophobic people keep saying about gay people, I really get angry because it feels indirectly that they are saying or referring to me coz I am one of those gay people they are hating on.”

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Saaree/


“I BORN UNLUCKY….. I had good childhood until I was sexual assaulted by my uncle in the age where I don’t even no the meaning gay barbie girlie it was my pet name nobody’s thought why I am like this, whether its my mistake or gods.”

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Anonymous/


“I thought she’s my best friend she would understand, when I came out to her at the age of 13 she said that I am sick and I need to go to hell, she never spoke to me ever again and eventually I lost all my friends and my depression grew depper and depper at the age of 14 I tried to commit suicide.”

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C.C./


“At the race briefing I pulled the race coordinator aside and asked her if there would be a problem with the club shirt I planned on wearing on race day. I told her I was representing a lesbian running club. The concerned look on her face said it all.”

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A posed posed portrait of 23 year old Raymond, a trans-woman and sex worker in Kampala, Uganda. “In my childhood I used to play with dolls, some boys nicknamed me girl boy. One time some boys undressed me to see if am a boy or a girl and I felt so small. I went to tell my auntie about what the boys did and said that I deserved it. It pained me so much whereby she just supported them. Due to behaving like a girl, my auntie who I was living with didn’t allow me to stay with their kids. She made me stay in a chicken hut for three years. I used to think that I am abnormal because people used to say that who practices this is a homosexual and such people are cursed. I prayed a lot to myself and had to fast but nothing could change. Things worsened when my face appeared in newspaper on the front page. I started receiving phone calls threatening me from different corners that they are going to kill me and my landlord threw me out that he doesn’t entertain gay people.” 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

Raymond/


“Things worsened when my face appeared in newspaper on the front page. I started receiving phone calls threatening me from different corners that they are going to kill me and my land lord threw me out that he doesn’t entertain gay people. I became a security threat to my friends and to my organization where I work from.”

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nawras

Nawras/


“despite the beatings and insults and the humiliating and hard words and despite being deprived of my most basic rights for almost 3 months… I would not give up because I knew I was right… breathing in the free air and crying both from happiness/relief and sadness. I thanked God and prayed and stood there staring at the sea until it was time to escape from Syria.”

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A posed portrait of Nathalie (not her real name), 41, who describes herself as a woman who used to be a man. “I’m very happy the way I am, I love myself as a girl. I hate people considering me a transsexual, I’m a full girl!” She is from Aleppo, Syria. She was effeminate as a young man which gave her great problems especially when she entered her 2 ½ years compulsory military service. She faced regular discrimination and punishment during military service because she was effeminate. At the end of the service she was imprisoned in the military jail for 9 month because they knew she was gay. There she was tortured. Back in her home town of Aleppo she faced regular discrimination. She became deeply depressed and tried to commit suicide by jumping from the balcony of her apartment. Things were bad before the war, but they got worse because of the fighting in Aleppo. Her house was destroyed in the bombing. There was chaos and people turned on each other. “No one loved us as a family because of who I am.” She said. People from the LGBT community started being targeted to a much greater extent. She was deeply affected by the murder of her gay friend - “I knew a gay guy that they caught. They slaughtered him and placed him in the garbage. When I heard his story… this guy was so nice to me, this incident affected me so much. He was my friend. If they could kill him then we could see everyone would be a target. They (The Free Syrian Army) even said on TV they would kill us (LGBT community)”. She and her family decided to leave the country due to the bombing and the danger Nathalie felt she was in. “If I was living 1% in ease in Syria, I wouldn’t have come here” she says. Her mother has always accepted her for who she is “My mum is my life, she suffered with me so much. She is like my soul.” Nathalie now lives in Beirut with her mum and her sister hoping to be ressetled. “I want someone to hold me, I want a hand on the heart and a country that offers me security. That’s what my mum has been to me. I couldn’t leave my mum and come alone. I hope this message will reach someone.” They survive on donations and support from NGOs. “I will die before I go back to Syria” she says. Beirut, Lebanon. February 2015.  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

Nathalie/


“I don’t want to write about my story because it bothers me a lot, it is exhausting me and makes me cry.”

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