Egypt… Russia… Nigeria… Uganda… It’s illegal to be gay in over a third of the world’s countries. So what do you do when it’s a crime to be yourself? What do you do when it's not safe to stay in your own country? For many gay and transgender people, asylum is the answer. But unfortunately, the answer isn't always so simple. Gay and transgender people are often met with immigration policies that demean, dehumanize, and discriminate - leaving many left wondering, "where is home?"
Not all transgender people want or have the opportunity to undergo gender-confirming surgery. Yet only 5 countries legally recognize transgender people's affirmed genders without requiring them to undergo surgery, making immigration impossible for many. And some countries even require asylum seekers to prove that they're gay in order to verify their request for asylum, making them subject to invasive tests and probing questions that do more to humiliate than help.
While US federal regulations guarantee a hearing within 45 days of applying for asylum, the actual turnaround isn’t always so quick. 40,000 people are currently stuck in the system, at risk of being deported. And when your home country outlaws being who you are, deportation can be a death-sentence.
But people are starting to give a damn. Since the defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, gay couples have been able to acquire US green cards through the same process as straight couples. If we want to keep seeing real change happen - if we want to keep families safe and together - we all need to get involved. We all need to give a damn.
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