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.

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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62 year-old, white, gay man Bob Smedley at his home in Orlando. Bob is a retired domestic violence advocate. 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

Bob Smedley/


“I clearly heard the manager tell the assistant manager that they would never promote a ‘fag’ in this department.”

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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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A posed portrait of 23 year old Ugandans Ashiraf (left) & Kajjan (right) in Nairobi. Ashiraf identifies as a transgender woman and Kajjan as gay. While same sex marriage is not legal in Uganda, in 2015 the pair conducted a marriage ceremony in a hotel to celebrate their relationship. “We had happiness at the party” says Ashiraf, and then adds “and that was the day.” That was the day their new married life began, and also the day their lives changed for the worse. A friend took photos of the wedding and posted them on social media. Local newspapers got hold of the photos and published them. Two weeks later their neighbors recognized them in the newspaper and went to the police. They locked their door when they heard the mob with the police coming, and hid inside. They could hear them trying to enter and talking together: “They said a lot of stuff, that we are sons of evil, we need to go to hell, we shall kill them direct if we get them.” That night they packed their bags and left for Kenya. But life in Kenya was not what they had hoped. They struggled to be registered by the United Nations refugee agency, and struggled even more to find a place to settle down: “After three months in Kenya, our life was not good at all, as we kept on migrating from one place to another because Kenya is like Uganda they don’t allow us in here. We were beaten, abused, tortured on the way when we were moving,” says Ashiraf. “My boyfriend is HIV positive and I am negative but I have (high blood) pressure. Life is hard because we don’t have money to eat yet we have to take our medicine. The landlord is chasing us out of the house because we don’t have money. I tried to look for jobs but couldn’t get because I naturally look like a transgender. Whenever I go to look for jobs I am abused that I am a lady, sometimes beaten.” Kajjan reiterates the sentiments expressed by his wife: “Up to present time, we are still suffering because I am HIV positive though my boyfriend isn’t, we have nothing to eat, nor food.” Kenya, October 2017.
Nature Network is a Nairobi based organization providing LGBTQI+ refugees in Kenya with support through safe temporary housing, health services, food and security. Nature Network has advocated to police over 50 times, responding to hate crimes, and runs a WhatsApp group of safety tips. Refugees supported have come from Uganda, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan. 
While in many places, there has been great progress in recent years in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTQI+) rights, including an increasing recognition of same-sex marriage, nearly 2.8 billion people live in countries where identifying as LGBTI is subject to rampant discrimination, criminalization, and even death. Same-sex acts are illegal in 76 countries; in some countries, this can result in being sentenced to death. Behind these statistics, there individuals with unique, often harrowing stories. Where Love Is Illegal was created to tell those stories. 
Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change

Ashiraf & Kajjan/

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“Then our family got to know about it through the social media and newspapers. So we were ashamed in the community”

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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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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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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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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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@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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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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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-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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Jojo/


“I never really come out, because it’s too dangerous in my country. My country’s acceptance of homosexual is the lowest in the region.”

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Nude/

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“I tried my best to have a more accurate representation of myself in that country by wearing makeup and unisex clothing….but that had consequences.”

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18 year-old, black/African-American, bisexual girl Arbrene Ellison with her 20 year-old African-American, Transgender Male bisexual boyfriend Kaiden M. Corbin. Both are homeless in New York City. 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. 04 April 2019

Kaiden M. Corbin/


“Free. I’m finally free. I don’t have to walk around and pretend anymore. I’m free.”

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wlii-c-191223-StVincent-N

N/


“I have had joy and pain in my life but the most painful thing was having to live a lie, to hide the fact that I was gay. I still hide it for the most part as I live in a homophobic part of the world.”

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31 year old, African American, transgender woman Chyna Gibson was shot dead on Saturday 25 February 2017 outside a New Orleans shopping center. Photographed at their home in New Orleans are ChynaÕs 54 year old aunt, Lolita Gibson (in white t-shirt), and cousins, 25 year old Sylvia Gibson (wearing hat) and 30 year-old Donika Jackson. 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. 10 March 2019

Chyna/


“Her death is a wound that is gone unhealed and 2 years and 14 days later we still have no justice, only heartbreak and memories.”

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wlii-c-191211-usa-Carmelo

Carmelo/


“My purpose by coming out to you today as a survivor of childhood sexual violence is to tell my story with the hope that no child in your life or mine ever experiences the sexual abuse that I and countless of other people in this world have experienced.”

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Avery/


“Just like the National Geographic photo encouraged a lot of trans people and let them feel like they could transition, video games did that for me.”

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