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.

KIRAN, 28

“As a child, I never felt comfortable wearing boy clothes for school. Honestly, I would have rather been naked than wear men’s clothes. My feminine mannerisms caught the attention of my entire school because of which I got bullied repeatedly. I’d find obscene drawings on my desk or get pieces of paper thrown at me with filthy things written on them. Once I was cornered in the bathroom by a bunch of boys who asked me to strip naked for them. Initially when I started getting attracted to men, I couldn’t understand it and I had noone to talk to about it. I did not know anything about sexuality. It wasn’t easy at home either. My father was always critical of me and constantly compared me to my brothers. I felt like a misfit at my school and in my family. I chose to stay isolated. I failed my 12th board exams. It became unbearable for me to continue living at home. I left my family and started looking for jobs so that I could live independently. I worked for a brief time at a hotel, from where I got fired because the director was of the opinion that my behavior and ‘sexuality’ was making the other staff uncomfortable. At this point in my life, I knew that I wanted to be a woman and I felt trapped in a man’s body. Around the same time, I fell in love with an Army man, who bought me a flight ticket to Delhi. I simply followed him with the hope that maybe things would be different with him. But my boyfriend abandoned me and left me to pay the house rent on my own. I was offered to work as a sex worker or ask for money at traffic signals but I refused. When I went for job interviews, people would ask for my ID, notice the gender and stare at me. No one wanted me as a tenant because they perceived me as a bad influence, a threat to family and children. Some of my friends spoke about NGOs that supported transgender people. That’s how I came across Naz Foundation. Initially, I just went to Naz for support group meetings or to read at their library.

Kiran/


“As a child, I never felt comfortable wearing boy clothes for school. Honestly, I would have rather been naked than wear men’s clothes.”

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Harmione2

Harmione/


“I am just not ready to have that conversation with them yet because it will disrupt our lives, and honestly, I don’t think I ever will be.”

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Leon Tsai

Leon Tsai/


“‘Blossom’ not ‘Bloom’: as blossoming refers to the whole glory of blooming and not just its peak.”

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Kelsie Adelaide

Kelsie Adelaide/


“I will not grow my hair, I will not wear a dress, I will not stay indoors in windows of fleeting moments, I will be outside. Out and quiet and always proud.”

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Nikhil

Nikhil/


“I ALWAYS ENVIED PEOPLE WHO LIVED IN THOSE PARTS OF THE WORLD WHERE BEING THEMSELVES WAS COMPLETELY NORMAL, UNTIL I LEFT MY OWN LAND IN SEARCH OF ACCEPTANCE.”

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Ali

Ali/

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“In the context of young unaccompanied refugees, whose asylum and integration processes are often characterised by uncertainty, misunderstanding and feeling lost, in fact Ali Nasari’s life also seems to be extraordinary, extraordinarily stable.”

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Rohita

Rohita/


“Our lives are our own to live. The contentment we get from living life the way we want to is more important than how others view our way of living.”

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Ravi

Ravi/


“To all my trans brothers, I would only urge you to be your true self and never give up on the hope of living your life to the fullest. You don’t need anyone else’s validation.”

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Ajitha

Ajitha/


“Trans youth must believe that they have a better future — and that we will continue to strive for a fairer, more just society for the future generations.”

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Mohammed

Mohammed/

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“This is Mohammed B.’s story. A story of oppression, of suffering and desperation. But it’s also the story of Mohammed’s family, who could never understand him but who made him who he is today.”

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Farid

Faried/

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“I want to say thank you. It was a long, tiring and arduous journey, but now I am on a safe land.”

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Basem

Basem/


“Being identified as a Gay Muslim Shiia follwer is more targeted and persecuted.”

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Bharaa

Bharaa/


“Reach out, trust your talent, be open to learning, show your confidence – and you too will find places where you truly belong. Remember, talent has no gender!”

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Aurora

Aurora/


“I knew that society would never acept me, no matter how much of a good person I was, so I decide that I don’t needed society approve to love myself and to be a good person. That’s what’s matter.”

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Rathi

Rathi/


“I await the day when all people in our society see us as equals.”

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Rashika

Rashika/


“Life is different when you are free to live your truth. For the first time in a long time, I am secure, self confident and hopeful for my future.”

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Kehinde

Kehinde/

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“‘In Africa they believe that homosexuals are the spirit of the past – they don’t believe that we are who we are.’”

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Blue

Blue/


“I love China, but it’s hard to love when u feel unsecured, and weak.”

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21 year-old, homeless agender and demisexual, Julian Moreno at Trinity Place Shelter.
 
I was born in Mexico to a Mormon family. When I was eight we moved to Utah. This was not an inclusive place.
I grew up around heavily enforced gender roles. By age twelve I knew that I had to eventually get married in the temple, have kids, and raise them in the church. Women were encouraged to go to college, but there was an expectation that one would leave their career to stay home with the kids. I dreaded that future but I knew there was no option if I wanted to go to heaven.
So I did not have many friends except through social media from other parts of the country and from different backgrounds and life experiences. It was thanks to these friends that I realized I was queer.
In my first year of high school, I was particularly close with one of them. In October she told me she had a crush on me. She was my best friend and I loved her and I didnÕt know how I felt. I spent that semester questioning my feelings and my sexuality. I discovered that I had feelings for her and we started dating.
[history of mental health issues]
. I didnÕt really feel like a cis woman but identified as non-binary and felt comfortable presenting as femme. I hope my identity and pronouns, [inaudible 00:04:59] them at the time, would be better understood and respected in New York.
[details problems in mental health treatment]
Especially growing up in the Mormon church, it really, really affected my mental health because I was all of these things that they didnÕt like. I mean, I was queer. I was trans. I didnÕt know it at the time, but I was. And I was, even being a feminist, I Know Mormons in Utah whoÕve been disowned by their families for being feminist, because theyÕre just that conservative. And so, all of these parts of myself that I knew that if I came out with them to my friends and the people that I knew, it would not be well received and that they would stop associating with me. So, I just had to deny all these parts of myself because they were, you know, I taught that they were inherently horrible and I couldnÕt get, they were parts of me, but I just had to deny them constantly.
The reason IÕm a homeless is because I, the reason IÕm homeless this because of the actions of institutionalized transphobia in the school that I was attending. And because I would rather stay here and transition than go home to Mexico where itÕs not really an option.
Even now with my gender marker changed and my name legally changed, I know IÕm not going to go in and theyÕre going to just misgender me and [inaudible 00:13:35] me. The fear is still there because it was so prevalent for most of my life that people would just dismiss me. Often on the basis of my queerness and itÕs hard to get a job and all these things just isolate people and make it so hard to survive the world.
So, the reason being deadnamed and misgendered hurts so much is because itÕs ultimately a denial of the person that you are. ItÕs just people refusing to see you as you are based on their social understanding. Often itÕs an act of direct violence if somebody knows your pronouns and chooses to use the wrong ones, itÕs an active attempt to deny your humanity. But other times when itÕs just strangers on the street who donÕt know better, itÕs like little pebbles that add up. And just one ends up despairing because for the longest time I thought, IÕm never going to be seen for who I am.
You can be the gender that you identify with without necessarily having to give everything up from your old life. Because ultimately you havenÕt changed. YouÕve always been the same person.

Julian/

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“Manhattan College refused to refund one penny. I am now thousands of dollars in debt for credits I didn’t receive and housing I couldn’t access.”

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David

David/

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“Even if the authorities in Germany do not want to believe it: Coming out is not possible in Sierra Leone – you are rejected by your family, ostracized by society and hunted by extremists.”

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44 year-old, Black Jamaican, pansexual, transgender gender expansive person, Spirit McIntyre at home in New Orleans. Spirit is a musician, reiki practitioner and compassionate facilitator. Behind the scenes photography and video and assistant: Myles Golden, mylessgolden@gmail.com, Phone +1 757 751 3135. Photography by Robin Hammond, pitures@robinhammond.co.uk. Editor: Mallory Benedict, Mallory.Benedict@natgeo.com, +1 202.791.1282. 07 March 2019

Spirit/


“The first time I bought ‘man shoes’ I was terrified to wear them, I think they’re the light blue bowling shoes I have; the first time someone asked me what my pronouns were, I think it might have been @ a BreakOUT! event.”

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Edward

Edward/

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“In Uganda there is currently not a single Safe Housing project left…With five euros we could feed someone for three weeks, with ten euros we could buy a mattress. It doesn’t take countless donors, but just a few to rebuild a safe house.”

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JP Michaels

JP Michaels/


“On a warm August day in 1960, at the age of five my Devout, Irish, Catholic Mother, while teaching me how to sew on a button, told me I was gay.”

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66 year-old, white trans woman Joann Sullivan at home in Titusville, Florida. Joann is single, retired and lives alone. Behind the scenes photography and video and assistant: Juan Pablo Ampudia, juanpablo@cuartocreativo.com. Phone +52 1 55 8676 5741. Photography by Robin Hammond, pitures@robinhammond.co.uk. Editor: Mallory Benedict, Mallory.Benedict@natgeo.com, +1 202.791.1282. 26 March 2019

Joann Sullivan/


“was placed in the psychiatric ward at Florida Hospital in Orlando. I couldn’t stop crying. All those feelings that I had bottled up for tens of years came rushing out all at once.”

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Nahil/


“Years and years of pain, pressure of being the perfect Muslim child, anxiety and confusion, anger. All of it was calmed by one fateful night.”

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24 year-old, homeless bi-sexual gender non-conforming, Royse at Trinity Place Shelter. Trinity Place Shelter is a non-sectarian, 10-bed transitional shelter that provides LGBTQ youth and young adults with a safe place to sleep, shower, eat and store belongings. Trinity Place Shelter provides a unique home and family-like environment where youth receive individualized care, respect, and the basic services so often denied them. Having such a space, staffed by professional social workers, supports our residents in gaining the skills and confidence needed to exit homelessness and begin to live into their dreams. In 2012 the Williams Institute estimated that of all homeless youth, 40% LGBTQI+. The US Interagency Council on Homelessness says the number is closer to 20%-40%. Behind the scenes photography and video and assistant: Alison Lippy, Allison@allisonlippy.com, Phone +1 410 967 1096. Photography and video by Robin Hammond, pitures@robinhammond.co.uk. Editor: Mallory Benedict, Mallory.Benedict@natgeo.com, +1 202.791.1282. 01 February 2019

Royse/


“The many attempts to socially and racially eradicate me and then liking men – They constantly told me I was a problem – and that it should have been straight.”

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wlii-c-200129-Canada-Amber

Amber/


“Growing up I’ve always known I was very different and there were virtually no trans people in the media or in the fashion industry. This made it very difficult to discover my identity as there was no representation to relate to.”

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Ashutosh

Ashutosh s. Shankar/


“I was proudly out to my friends and endorsed LGBTQ+ rights outside the four walls of my home. However, inside those four walls, I was completely the opposite. I would never talk about sexuality, about me or my identity. I was still in the closet for my father and mother.”

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Cameron

Cameron/


“I am exactly who I was always meant to be: A queer, bi-racial, HIV+ human.”

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25 year old homeless transgender non-conforming Caribbean-American person Abena Bello (wearing hat) with their partner 24 year-old homeless lesbian Hispanic woman Patricia Felix in The Bronx, New York. In 2012 the Williams Institute estimated that of all homeless youth, 40% LGBTQI+. The US Interagency Council on Homelessness says the number is closer to 20%-40%. Assistant: Alison Lippy, Allison@allisonlippy.com, Phone +1 410 967 1096. Photography and video by Robin Hammond, pitures@robinhammond.co.uk. Editor: Mallory Benedict, Mallory.Benedict@natgeo.com, +1 202.791.1282. 10 February 2019

Patty & Bello/


“Are we just here? sitting in the wind Do people see us? Do they even know we are here Screaming so loud.”

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wlii-c-200213-Malaysia-AppleLuna

@applegreenluna/


“Being a loud educated transgender woman as a lecturer I am well prepared mentally and physically that this will be a bumpy road for me.”

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21 year-old, Latino trans man A.R. with his girlfriend 23 year-old bisexual female N.C. at their home in New Orleans. A.R. studies law and N.C. is a Line Therapist. Both are from Puerto Rico. Behind the scenes photography and video and assistant: Myles Golden, mylessgolden@gmail.com, Phone +1 757 751 3135. Photography by Robin Hammond, pitures@robinhammond.co.uk. Editor: Mallory Benedict, Mallory.Benedict@natgeo.com, +1 202.791.1282. 06 March 2019

A.R./


“I knew that I was on my 3rd strike with them. If I did anything else that they considered “gay,” I knew they’d kick me out.”

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wlii-c-200122-Canada-JustinAnantawan

Justin Anantawan/


“In my life, I have had two rebirths – at age 21 when I came out of the closet and at age 29 when I was diagnosed with HIV.”

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72 year-old, Caucasian, gay man Russel Hiett at his home in Orlando. Russel was a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam war before becoming a therapist. He is married. Behind the scenes photography and video and assistant: Juan Pablo Ampudia, juanpablo@cuartocreativo.com. Phone +52 1 55 8676 5741. Photography by Robin Hammond, pitures@robinhammond.co.uk. Editor: Mallory Benedict, Mallory.Benedict@natgeo.com, +1 202.791.1282. 20 March 2019

Russel Hiett/


“‘Gay’ did not exist in my small rural Michigan community. Only words like ‘queer’ or ‘faggot,’ with all their negative connotations.”

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wlii-c-191226-Peru-Veralucia

Veralucia/


“It hurt to come home and not feel home. In the United States I feel like a stranger, but here? I feel like I don’t belong at all.”

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25 year-old, black, bisexual, trans male Paxton Andrew Hail Francois in New Orleans. Paxtpn os a waiter and barrister. Photography by Robin Hammond, pitures@robinhammond.co.uk. Editor: Mallory Benedict, Mallory.Benedict@natgeo.com, +1 202.791.1282. 16 March 2019

Paxton/


“Sooner or later I’ll realize that I’m enough.
Sooner or later I’ll realize that the disrespect is too much.
Sooner or later I’ll say I’ve had enough.”

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wlii-c-200114-USA-Ferris

Ferris/


“I know i don’t have it even a fraction as bad as so many members of the lgbt+ community across the world, but it hurts just the same.”

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wlii-c-200123-mexico-EzraSebastian01

Ezra/


“No one tells you how complicated it is to go to a public bathroom, everyone looks at you, everyone talks about you, mocks you…”

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wlii-c-200110-USA-ChloeEnderton

Chloe/


“After growing up in a rural conservative area where LGBT rights were seemingly nonexistent, I left and enlisted in the Army.”

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wlii-c-200107-Canada-SzeYang01

Sze-Yang Ade-Lam/


“Entering the dance world further amplified the racism, homophobia, transphobia, femmephobia, and body policing that I was already experiencing in the gay world. Who knew the dance world and Grindr would have so much in common?”

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