June is Pride month. Pride was and still is a protest, but this can sometimes be forgotten in countries like the UK where LGBTQI+ rights have advanced significantly. For many people, Pride is a celebration. But to view this as a mark of progress is to erase the experiences of those within our LGBTQI+ community who still face inequality and oppression.
Of course we should be celebrating the gains we’ve made. But while we celebrate Pride, it’s important to honour Pride’s history by centring it around those in our community who exist on the margins.
LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum are among the most marginalised of our community. Many of them end up in immigration detention in the UK. After fleeing persecution, they face bullying, abuse and even sexual assault right here in UK detention centres – with no legal limit on how long they can be held. They risk being sent back to countries where their lives are in danger.
Immigration detention can be a particularly dangerous place for LGBTQI+ people to be trapped in. Many face confined conditions with people from the countries they have fled – who often share the very homophobic, biphobic and transphobic views they are trying to escape.
Another difficulty that LGBTQI+ people fleeing persecution face is having to ‘prove’ they are LGBTQI+ from inside a detention centre. One of the biggest problems is that people are simply not believed. When they make an asylum claim based on sexual orientation or gender identity while in detention, their chances decrease even further. After often years of hiding, people are expected to open up and share their stories to ‘prove’ their claims while at the same time they are having to hide who they are in detention centres for fear of potential abuse.
As the LGBTQI+ community in the UK, we know how powerful collective action can be. We have campaigned, fought, protested, and over decades, achieved huge milestones towards equality. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating these. But as we move forward, we can’t leave people behind.
As Marsha P. Johnson famously said, “there’s no liberation for some of us without liberation for all of us”. The LGBTQI+ movement must put its people power behind the most marginalised groups within our community, such as those fleeing from oppression. Centring the experiences and voices of those who often go unheard is not an option, but essential to creating a future where all LGBTQI+ people will be liberated.
Senior Communications and Fundraising Officer, UKLGIG