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.

69 year-old, black gay man Michael at home in Orlando, Florida. Michael is a youth educator. 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

Michael/


“My journey started with fear and others knowing my attraction was for boys, trying to change, trying to fit, ran away unable to accept who I was”

READ THE STORY
76 year-old, Caucasian, gay man Bob Frew at his home in Orlando. Bob was widowed in January 2019 when he lost his partner of 30 years. 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. 19 March 2019

Bob Frew/


“Since I had already experimented and enjoyed teenage sexual excursions with other boys, I knew that she was talking to me, and that was enough to put me in the closet.”

READ THE STORY
74 year-old, Anglo, bisexual woman Sharon Durrant (right) at home in Orlando with her wife 82 year-old, Anglo Saxon , bisexual woman Ellen Hone (left). Both were previously married to men. They attend First Unitarian Church. 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. 24 March 2019

Sharon Durrant/


“The homophobic behaviors I have experienced in my life have been subtle and over, intentional and unintentional”

READ THE STORY
21 year-old, African American, pansexual, trans man Elliot ÔNikoÕ LÕeaux with his 21 year-old girlfriend white, pansexual, trans woman, Peyton Michelle in New Orleans. Elliot is a columnist, activist, poet and Òvisionary.Ó Peyton is the Board Secretary of Louisiana Trans Advocates. Photography by Robin Hammond, pitures@robinhammond.co.uk. Editor: Mallory Benedict, Mallory.Benedict@natgeo.com, +1 202.791.1282. 15 March 2019

Elliot & Peyton/


“Growing up in rural Louisiana is unlike everything in the world – beauty beyond what I can describe. But the culture surrounding me was much different.”

READ THE STORY
29 year old Eshan Regmi describes himself as follows: ÒMy biological identity is intersex. My gender identity is male. I am heterosexual.Ó He defines intersex as Òthose whose internal or external  reproductive organs do not match the traditional definition.Ó Detailing his early life he says: ÒI was born in 1989 as a daughter in a lower middle class family. I was a brilliant student, and I was always a topper in my school. At the age of thirteen when I was studying in class eight, I began developing masculine characteristics. My parents were in great pain.Ó This is when the discrimination began. ÒSociety began calling me different things. They looked at me differently, and started whispering as soon as I walked by. ÒIs this a boy or a girlÓÑ and laugh at meÉ My friends did not allow me to sit next to them or play with them. Teachers pulled my hair or pinched my breast. I left schoolÉ I started spending time alone. I cried a lot. I felt I was alone in this world. Why is god punishing me? I tried committing suicide several times. My parents were saddened to find me in this condition.Ó His father in particular never gave up on Eshan. ÒMy dad was in pain. Because for whatever I wasÑI was his child and he loved meÉ He realized that I was not like other daughters.Ó And then, his father died. ÒI felt that there was nobody left for me in this world. I felt that I was very broken.Ó Against his familyÕs wishes Eshan left home. He eventually came across Blue Diamond Society, a LGBTI organisation. Their focus was not on intersex but through them he started to learn more about the issue. Eshan started doing work with the organisation. On several occasions he tried to have relationship with women, but it never worked out. That was before he was reunited with an old friend. ÒWhen I felt alone in my village a person had helped me in many ways. She was my only friend. Later, I found out that she wanted to spend her life with me.Ó Eshan told her all about being intersex. ÒI warned her to not be closer. But thankfully it turned out that her childhood friend was just like me. She then agreed to be with me. We decided to live together. I dont know how much she loves me but I love her a lotÉ I had nobody and she constantly took care of me.Ó Complicating their relationship is the fact that they are from different castes. ÒI am a Brahmin and she is a Dalit. After my relationship began, my family learned of her caste. They resisted our union but I have always been insistent.Ó While EshanÕs brothers are aware of his partnerÕs caste, his mother is not. ÒI have always been rebellious,Ó he says mischeviuously. ÒMy mother does not know my partnerÕs caste, and she has eaten the food cooked from Ôan untouchableÕ.Ó While life has much improved, it is far from perfect. ÒMy identity has been my biggest challenge. I did not get jobs or opoortunities. I do not have the chance to live a dignified life and have faced discrimination at every turn.Ó Speaking of the future Eshan says ÒI want to do good work for the intersex community. I am in the process of starting my own organisation. I hope that my activism will allow people from the Intersex community to live a dignified life.Ó Nepal's current LGBTQI+ laws are some of the most open in the world Ð including the legal recognition of a third gender. Tangible implementation of the various government orders has been piecemeal though, a 2014 United Nations report noted. And government officials have continued to harass LGBT groups, including by alleging that organizing around homosexuality is illegal in the country. Furthermore, while laws are progressive, discrimination is wide spread, especially within families, where marriage between a man and a woman and the bearing of children are expected of young Nepalese. Kathmandu, Nepal. 31.10.18. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Eshan Regmi/


In many places the ‘I’ is kept separate from LGBTI. But within the I—the same way man and women can have different sexual orientation and gender identity—its the same with an Intersex person.

READ THE STORY
Marcel (not his real name), a 35 year old gay man and healthcare worker, has not come out to his family. He tested positive for HIV in 2007. He says he contracted the virus because he didn’t understand how to protect himself. “The solution is more of education” he says. In a society that highly values family, Marcel’s mother urged him to find a wife. She also saw it as a way to hide his sexuality: “She was really warning me with getting my wedding and getting a child and also to cover up who I am. To cover up what would think or people suspect me to be, within the family or outside the family.” Marcel says this is not unusual:“There are a lot more LGBT people within the community who are forced themselves to get married and to have kids. Just to cover up, just to change the perception or the misconceptions about their families and the people they live with.” Ghana. 15 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Marcel/


“My junior brothers and my parents do suspect me, but I always find a way to educate them on my sexual life. They don’t really feel comfortable, but my Dad and Mum said they love me who I am and accept me the way I am.”

READ THE STORY
23 year old Avelino (sitting) & 25 year old Neston (lying) are a gay couple. Neston’s family did not approve of his homosexuality. Avelino, byt contrast, when he cam out to his mother, she accepted him. Avelino recalls when Neston had a fight with his family, “‘Why don't you come and live with me,” Avelino said, “let's live together in my house’ and he asked ‘Are you serious?’ and, because of what my mother had told me before, I said ‘Yes’.” Avelino’s mother welcomed Neston, but his father did not know about his son’s sexuality at the time: “It was a huge shock when he found out, we had already been going out for about 6 months when he (his father) found out exactly what we meant to each other. It was such a big shock that we spent about 2 days out in the street… The whole family here had a meeting, in a weird way, a big confusion and everyone, brothers, nephews, everyone revolted against my father ‘He is everything, he works hard in school, he works hard in athletics... What difference does it make?’ I still get emotional when I remember that my father sat with us, apologized and asked him [Neston] to live with us.” But not everyone has been so accepting. When a photo of Avelino and Neston kissing was posted on facebook, Avelino, an international track athlete, lost his spot on the team: “They were made aware of my sexual orientation, they stopped summoning me for international competitions… To let go of the Mozambican Athletics Federation in order to live what I am, who we are... I do not regret anything, if I had to go back in time and do something different, I would not do anything different, I would do everything the same.” Maputo, Mozambique. 22 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Avelino & Neston/


We are a gay couple, we are a couple together for almost 4 years, like a common couple we have gone through many problems, but love has always spoken louder.

READ THE STORY
Tunisia, Tunis. 25 November, 2016. A posed portrait of 22 year old, gay man Amine (+216 24323670). Amine is a survivor of regular homophobic violence at the hands of his own family. The impact was not only physical. The rejection from those closest to him drove him to attempt suicide several times. His desire to be with the man he loved saw him leave his home in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, to join him in Libya. But the persecution did not end. While walking with his boyfriend on a beach they were stopped by the police. ÒI was caught by the Libyan police,Ó he says, Òthey wanted to kill me. They beat me and detained me for seven days. I had to move back to Tunis, and stay away from my loveÉa piece of me.Ó His boyfriend stayed behind in Libya and married a woman to conceal his sexuality. He occasionally sends Amine money. Photo Robin Hammond /NOOR for Witness Change.  The Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia, and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It eventually led to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections. Tunisian LGBTQI+ community hoped that the revolution would usher in a more open society, and an end to homophobia and transphobia. This has not come to pass. The laws that target LGBTQI+ people remain, most notably article 230 which makes same-sex acts illegal, punishable by up the 3 years in prison. Transgender people are targeted under public decency laws. The general public is no more accepting of LGBTQI+ people than they were before the revolution. Despite the legal and societal discrimination, LGBTQI+ activists are dedicated to campaigning more openly.

Amine/


“My family beat me, so I tried to commit suicide several times. One day I fell in love with a boy who lived in Libya, so I joined him there.
I was caught by the libyen police, they wanted to kill me. They beat me and detained me for 7 days.
I had to move back to Tunis and stay away from my love…a piece of me.
He got married, even though he is gay, and it depressed me…”

READ THE STORY
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.”

READ THE STORY
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.”

READ THE STORY
A posed portrait of 29 year old Wolfheart (not his real name) from Beirut, Lebanon. In July 2011 he was arrested: “I was in a cruising area in Beirut. I was with my partner, in my car, driving around, meeting new people of course. I started chatting with someone in a car coming in the opposite direction. We were talking when a green car with tinted windows stopped behind us. The car in which the person I was talking to drove off quickly. Before I knew it I had the barrel of a Kalashnikov against my head and I was ordered out of the car. My partner tried to escape, but he was caught. One of them was wearing a military uniform. They shouted at me to put my hands behind my back, they handcuffed me to my partner and blindfolded us. We were taken up to the police office and they starting searching us. We had to take off our pants and drop our underpants. We were made to squat to see if we were hiding anything. One of the three officers in the room took out his mobile phone and started to take pictures while the others would take turns making fun of us, making signs behind us, and the other would slap us. They took my partner to another room. Then I started hearing my partner screaming next door. They were torturing him. I felt sad, we had been together for six years, it was horrible to think of him in that situation. They found gay porn (on my phone). When they found that I started to feel scared. They didn’t stop insulting us. They would ask us questions like “do you like to get fucked?!” If we didn’t answer they would slap us.” For three days they were tortured and questioned. They were then taken from the military department to the police department. They were placed in a small airless room. “I felt like I was suffocating there.” They stayed in there for 12 days. They were then sent to the police office specialized in investigating moral issues. “We were there for 18 days sharing a small cell with, at one time, 22 others.” The interrogation continued. “They asked us many questions about my sexuality. They continued to beat my partner. I could sometimes hear him screaming.” After 18 days they were taken to court. There they waited seven days for trial, “we were being charged with homosexuality.” They were given a prison sentence of 45 days and a fine of US$200. “I was very happy to leave prison. But I was unhappy because the news had reached my partners family and they were really unhappy. We had to break up.” “Six months later I drove through the same area and saw the same guys doing the same thing, holding a gun to the head of some people in a car and arresting them. I felt angry, I would like to see their own children subjected to this treatment! I felt angry but powerless and that at anytime I might receive the same treatment.” 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

Wolfheart/


“The crime was that I am homosexual, and the punishment was forty days in jail losing my job, and losing my partner.”

READ THE STORY
LGB150213P_00461-2

Jessie/


“This is the tradition. I know he will keep trying and if he doesn’t do it with his own hand one of the family members will… but I was born this way and I will die this way!”

READ THE STORY
Halil

Halil/

,


“It hasn’t been easy but coming out gives you that freedom, claiming yourself and knowing yourself better”

READ THE STORY
Maksim

Maksim/

,


“My coming out is the most positive result of my participation in a reality show. Having confessed to the whole of Ukraine that I was gay,”

READ THE STORY
Zosya2

Zosya/

,


“My father and I almost cried when we saw the Ukrainian checkpoint, it was great happiness. We were just lucky. It was very scary – cars all around were burned to the ground, crushed by tanks.”

READ THE STORY
Witold

Witold/

,


“At first she didn’t accept it, but as I grew up she decided to focus her love on who I really am and not on my orientation.”

READ THE STORY
Valeriia

Valeriia/

,


“There was a situation in Kyiv when a girl with a rainbow flag was attacked; after that we realized that we had to be ready for anything and carried pepper spray with us.”

READ THE STORY
Taras

Taras/

,


“I actually recently received some homophobic comments from my friend in Donetsk when I posted a story on my IG with a flagpole of three flags: Ukrainian, LGBTQ+ and European Union.”

READ THE STORY
DJALIL

Djalil/

,


“It’s like a knot in your stomach, as if you were burning from the inside, as if you feel your heart blazing, and you say to yourself, what is happening?”

READ THE STORY
HILMA

Hilma/

,


“I think that to believe in something, even if you don’t necessarily believe in God, but you believe in an entity, it’s a kind of pillar and allows you to have hope in the world.”

READ THE STORY
RIZLAINE

Rizlaine Quran/

,


“I thank God everyday that I’m not straight. When you love someone outside of a norm, you step out of that norm. You love the person.”

READ THE STORY
Kacim

Kacim/

,


“My family perceived femininity in me, so they tried to contain it, to repress and expel it. Why do I dance? A boy doesn’t dance. He’s supposed to love football. I did not like football”

READ THE STORY
wlii-c-220406-Canada-Justin

Justin Anantawan/


“I challenge Christians who are attacking the LGBTQIA2S community to think about the harms you are committing and ask yourself if that is something an all loving God would want.”

READ THE STORY
RAMZIYA

Ramziya/

,


“I am a transgender and Muslim woman, and this changes nothing about my relationship with Islam. Not with Ramadan, not with Allah, and not with my worship. There is not a single thing that has changed in this regard. I am who I am because of religion. I don’t care about the opinions from people … READ THE STORY

READ THE STORY
RIZLAINE

Rizlaine/

,


I thank God everyday that I’m not straight. When you love someone outside of a norm, you step out of that norm. It’s a relationship to love that goes beyond something. You love the person.

READ THE STORY
WLII-Fellowship-WLIIWebsite

Fellowship Winners/


We are very proud and excited to announce the winners of the first Where Love is Illegal Fellowship! They are Camille Farrah Lenain, Kwasi Darko, and Anton Shebetko! The Where Love Is Illegal Fellowship is designed to support LGBTQI+ identifying photographers to contribute to the narratives that define queer communities. Three photographers have been awarded … READ THE STORY

READ THE STORY
wlii-c-220210-Afghanistan-RamizSA

Ramiz S/


“On day of August even Taliban get control of Afghanistan I am trying to be hide and that time also I need immediately money for myself because I need to get passport and something else For that I was gonna to my office to get my salary that I haved on office before of Taliban … READ THE STORY

READ THE STORY
David

David Contreras/


“The man told us that if we brought a girl he could rent us only one room, otherwise we had to rent two separately. We got really upset and left there.”

READ THE STORY
Kenya-Njiriru

Njiriru/


“My story is a story of hope, that the 17-year old me is gonna get through the trauma, the stigma, the hate, the name-calling, the anxiety of not knowing what turn my life would take…”

READ THE STORY
Venezuela-Khinverly

Khinverly Marrero/


“When she arrived, she greeted me with a kiss on the cheek and hugged me. A military man who was at the fair, I think high-ranking, saw us and immediately grabbed her phone to make a call.”

READ THE STORY
alpha

Alpha/


“The society expects us to fit into the sex and or gender binary created by it, if it is neither male of female, then it’s an abomination.”

READ THE STORY
Venezuela-Fernando

Fernando Azpurua/


“Between 2010 and 2014 I studied communications at the Monteavila University (a private institution in Caracas founded by members of Opus Dei), where I was taught homosexuality in anthropology classes as a mental illness…”

READ THE STORY
JessicaEva

Jessica "Jessie" Eva/


“They took me to a nearby door that seemed to lead to a warehouse, and they told me they had to do a ‘body search.’”

READ THE STORY
Drew_Kenya

Drew Gachagua/


“I discovered writing when I was 14. It began with a couple random notebooks where I would pour everything that went through my mind onto the pages, and go on to burn them or tear the paper to shreds. It was euphoric.”

READ THE STORY
Black Virus

Black Virus/


“It is difficult to live here because it is illegal to be gay. If you are caught you will be beaten by a mob or the community. If your family finds out, they will not identify you as their kin.”

READ THE STORY
MundiaPeter

Mundia Peter/


“Slowly, I started to conceptualize we are all divine beings and that the divine is within all of us. I came to believe that the divine has no gender, it is neither male or female, it just is. If I am a part of the divine, then why should I limit myself to an expression of only the male gender.”

READ THE STORY
Pinky_Kenya

Pinky/


“In high school, I attempted suicide 48 times, using pills, jumping from a bridge, cutting and carbon monoxide. I wanted to change myself but I couldn’t and that made me depressed. So, I thought I should not go on living.”

READ THE STORY
Nigeria-EdafeOkporo

Edafe Okporo/

,


“In the wider community, I am Black, to the blacks, I am African, to the community, I am gay, to the gay community, I am a refugee.”

READ THE STORY
Kamau

Kamau Njoroge/


“Realization that who you are is an illegal unnatural crime…punishable by law..an abomination in the eyes of religious people was just overwhelming…”

READ THE STORY
EM

EM/


“I grew up in a very religious environment and I felt very guilty and I always denied myself. It was night after night asking God to change me.”

READ THE STORY
Jazmine_Kris

Jazmine and Kristopher/


“Me and Kris like to remind the next generation that there is indeed someone out there who will look at you as the most beautiful/handsome person in the world, someone who will share with you all their friends and family, someone who will understand you and your past without holding it against you.”

READ THE STORY
wlii-c-210831-Brazil-Ni

Ni/


“Brazil is one of the Most deAdly places yo be if youre Lgbtqai+, even if its not against the law.”

READ THE STORY
wlii-Ntwari

Ntwari/


“Am finally out to both of my parents and I should say that wasn’t easy.”

READ THE STORY
SardarSingh

Sardar Singh/


“After being outed in 2013 all I heard was ‘if you want to be gay, go do it somewhere else.’ So, I did just that…”

READ THE STORY
Ryan Tran

Ryan Tran/


“Now it doesn’t matter if I am too Asian or too feminine. I am comforted to know that attraction is not rigid, but expansive.”

READ THE STORY
Sahira Q

Sahira Q/


“As an adult, I’ve come to the realization that I no longer have time to put on masks that make other people comfortable.”

READ THE STORY
Canada-Abby

Abby Schmetterling/


“Once my egg cracked (when I realized that I was trans), it hit me so hard that it was truly a matter of life and death, of transition or die.”

READ THE STORY
Canada-Jazmine

Jazmine Carter/

,


“It is important for me to thank the trans people that fought before my time so that young trans kids like me could live in a more inclusive world.”

READ THE STORY
Canada-NudePacifico

Nude Pacifico/


“Explain to me how the vanguard of the queer movement were black and brown, trans souls, yet we ended up with cis, white homosexual impositions of queer culture.”

READ THE STORY