By Henry W
My name is Henry, I am queer migrant living in South Africa, and I was born and raised in Cameroon. I realized I was different and identified as queer at around 18 years of age, although it took time to fully understand and accept my identity.
I left my home country due to the lack of acceptance and safety issues for LGBTQI individuals. The prevailing cultural norms and religious beliefs in my home country made it challenging for me to express my true self openly. I faced discrimination, prejudice, and even threats to my safety, mostly because I was never seen with a girl and this led me to seek refuge in a more accepting and inclusive environment, South Africa.
Getting to South Africa was not as easy a journey as I had imagined. I faced numerous hardships, including dangerous travel conditions and uncertainty about the future. However, I was determined to find a place where I could freely express my identity and be embraced for who I am.
As a queer refugee in South Africa, my experience has been a mix of challenges, emotions and moments of hope. While South Africa is known for its progressive laws protecting LGBTQI rights, the reality on the ground can be different. I have faced discrimination and prejudice from some members of society, and the struggle for survival and integration into a new culture has been difficult at times.
However, I have also found a sense of community and support within queer organizations in South Africa. These organizations played a crucial role in helping me navigate the complexities of seeking refuge and connecting with fellow LGBTQI migrants and refugees. Some of the organizations I got to know about The Fruit Basket, Holy Trinity LGBTI Ministry as well as the Rainbow Refuge Africa provided me with resources, legal assistance, and psychosocial support as well as shelter to get me going.
The assistance I received from these organizations has been invaluable. They offered a safe space for me to share my experiences, meet like-minded individuals, and receive guidance on how to access essential services. They have also provided me with information about my rights and legal avenues to seek protection as a queer refugee in South Africa.
As a queer black person, navigating the intersection of religion and cultural norms has been complex. In some cases, religion and cultural beliefs can be accepting and supportive of LGBTQI individuals, providing a sense of belonging and understanding. However, in other instances, these beliefs may perpetuate stigma and discrimination.
Personally, I have found solace in reconciling my queerness with my cultural heritage and spirituality. I believe that love and acceptance should extend to all aspects of one’s identity, including their sexuality and cultural background. It is crucial to challenge harmful stereotypes and seek understanding, empathy, and dialogue within our communities to promote inclusivity and break down the barriers that separate us.
Overall, my journey as African queer refugee have been marked by resilience, courage, and a search for acceptance. It is my hope that by sharing my voice and experiences, I can contribute to greater awareness and understanding of the unique challenges faced by LGBTQI migrants and refugees in South Africa and foster a more inclusive and compassionate society for all.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people in Cameroon face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same sex activity is legal in Cameroon and LGBT people face stigma among the broader population.