Indifference, the second most powerful weapon against LGBTIQ+ people

We talk a lot about homophobia and transphobia being the first weapon against LGBTIQ persons. We rarely hear about the second most powerful weapon against LGBTIQ forcibly displaced people which is indifference. 

This week marked 40 days since Sarah Hegazy took her own life.  

Sarah Hegazi was kidnapped by Egyptian secret services charged with terrorism, placed in the solitary confinement, then with other prisoners where they beat and sexually assaulted her. Sarah Hegazi was tortured for three months. This happened only because she went to the concert  and waived a rainbow flag.

She loved her homeland. She loved her family.  In the interview to Sarah said:

“Home is not land and borders. It’s about people you love […] Here in Canada, I haven’t people, I haven’t family, I haven’t friends. So I’m not happy here.”

At the beginning of this week in Australia one LGBTIQ person seeking asylum made an attempt to take their own life. Luckily it was unsuccessful.

After the attempt the mental health unit came to talk to them (3 days after, after rescheduling once). The mental health unit suggested more social life, doing activities that they like, being busy, and more frequent visits to a refugee service would help. 

In reality, none of these suggestions would work. It shows a lack of training and competencies supporting LGBTIQ+ people who have experienced forced displacement.

The person supported was not asked if they’d feel safe in a refugee service among other (non-LGBTIQ+) refugees and in a service that does not have a specialist support group. Their financial situation, life on a bridging visa and employment precarity was not taken into account that would significantly limit ‘doing activities they like’. They are busy to survive in shared and unsafe housing and a wage below minimum. They were not referred to any of the LGBTIQ services. Their sexuality and any safety needs arising from it were completely disregarded. 

The indifference, silencing of one’s sexuality, treating it as private or irrelevant, omission of one’s sexuality when it is an integral part of what it means to be human, all of this kills LGBTIQ+ people. It is about time we as a society step up. 

When we find refuge in a new country, it is vital that we feel that we belong, that we have friends and a chosen family. It is life-saving that we feel we are home. 

Forcibly Displaced People Network offers training, meetings or resources to equip organisations and individuals how to support LGBTIQ+ people who have been forcibly displaced. Donate to help us create a home for LGBTIQ+ folks.

If you need to talk to someone, you can reach out for support: 
– for crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14;
– for LGBTI peer support and referral contact QLife on 1800 184 527 from 3pm to midnight 7 days a week for counseling about sexual assault, domestic and family violence call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), 24/7 phone and online services;
– for support and information for women with disabilities download Sunny app; 
– for family violence support for LGBTIQ people and families contact the w|Respect After Hours Helpline on 1800 LGBTIQ (1800 542 847), available on Wednesday 5pm to 11pm, and Saturdays – Sundays from 3pm to 10pm including public holidays;
– for support for children, teenagers and young people up to 25, content Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800;
– for support for men, contact Men’s line on 1300 78 99 78.