by Madalina Olteanu, Bucharest

by Madalina Olteanu, Bucharest

U.K. judge claims gay immigrant's behavior is not "effeminate" enough for asylum

23 Aug, 2019

by Madalina Olteanu, Bucharest

It’s true that LGBT+ members worldwide have to suffer from prejudice on a regular basis, especially in countries where homosexuality is illegal – in such cases, stating your gender or sexual orientation is enough to be discriminated. However, absurdly enough, there are situations in which you have to prove your gender or sexual orientation in order to receive help.

This was also the case of an immigrant seeking for asylum in the U.K. – a judge in London has recently rejected his asylum claim, even though homosexuality is illegal in his native country. Why? Because his “demeanor” did not seem gay. Yes, you read that correctly – the judge compared his appearance to that of a witness who “wore lipstick” and is a member of a gay community organization, and reportedly said that he was not effeminate enough to need help.

Naturally, the man appealed against his decision to a higher court, where it was decided that the judge had, indeed, been wrong. The Home Office stated that this judge’s decisions were independent of government – even their guidance defines sexual orientation as a “profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction”, and not as something that is related to appearance or behavior.

The man’s barrister, Rehana Popal, has stated that the initial decision is the result of “a stereotype embedded in prejudice", and that such a thing is “totally wrong. You do not need to dress a certain way, carry yourself a certain way or look a certain way to be homosexual”. Similarly, a spokesperson of the Home Office said that “The UK has a proud record of providing protection for asylum seekers fleeing persecution. Each case is considered on its individual merits by experienced caseworkers, with all available evidence carefully and sensitively considered in light of published country information."
Such a scenario really proves how deeply rooted stereotypes linked to the LGBT+ community are, regardless of how inclusive a country may seem. Sexual orientation does not have specific criteria which need to be met in terms of appearance, especially when it comes to a person’s fundamental rights. It is rather something that comes from the inherent traits of a person, and it is exclusively related to one’s feelings, desires, and needs.

It is quite discouraging to observe that some of these stereotypes can be encountered even within the LGBT+ community – it is not enough that people have to demand their rights publicly in most parts of the world, but they also have to prove themselves within the group where they belong. Something that people need to understand is that no one would be willing to falsely claim they belong to a certain community, as long as the mere statement can put them in danger. Being gay, trans, or bisexual is not “cool” – it’s something that has existed ever since the beginnings of humanity, and it’s more common than it seems.

If we want to truly improve the world we live in, we have to be good to each other – asking people to prove themselves when they already have a hard time admitting their gender or sexual orientation will only lead to more stagnation, and we don’t need it.