The Trump administration has proposed a new regulation that would gut the asylum laws in the United States; excluding those who are applying because of the violence they face as LGBTQIA+ people, survivors of domestic violence, and many others. Even as a relatively recent resident of the United States, this goes against the very values I came to this country to experience.
I am a 26 year-old lesbian woman and a citizen of a county in Central Asia — a country with zero tolerance of LGBTQIA+ people and with a strong patriarchal culture. I am here in the United States as an asylum seeker because my country refused to accept me and threatened me with violence if I didn’t change, which is impossible.
The proposed new rule may block me from getting the asylum protection I need, and force me to return to a country where my life is in danger.
As a child, I was abused by my parents due to the fact that I was “different” — non-conforming to cultural and religious expectations. This included sending me to physically and mentally abusive “religious” retreats to rid me of the “evil” inside of me. As a teenager, I was threatened by the police and forced to pay them a bribe when they found me in a car with a female classmate. Into my adult years, I was forced to endure a severely physically, sexually and emotionally abusive relationship with a man who coerced me into a relationship with him by threatening to reveal my sexual orientation to others, including my parents.
If I were to return to my home country, I believe I would continue to be subject to violence from my family and a forced marriage. I would not be able to have relationships with other women or even wear short hair and unisex clothing, because to do so would put me at risk of violence from my family and the public. Similarly, I would not be able to continue my activism without threat of violence from ultra-right groups. The only way to guarantee my survival in my home country would be to change my appearance, stop participating in feminist and LGBTQ activism, and live as a lesbian secretly. The years I spent doing this before coming to the United States made me deeply depressed and suicidal.
The government of the country where gay marriage is legal in all of its 50 states should know how important it is to have the basic freedom to love anybody you want. The years of LGBTQIA+ activism and struggle that won those freedoms for Americans make it clear how tough it is to gain that freedom, without getting abused or killed.
Humanity is when people take care of each other globally. Humanity is when one country opens its doors to suffering people from other countries. While the commenting period is closed for the rule that would affect LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, the government is still collecting public comments for another asylum rule that would affect all asylum seekers — trying to use public health as an excuse to keep others out. The LGBTQ+ community knows too well how governments can weaponize health to discriminate against us. It’s not too late to speak out against this rule, and to make the United States a safe place for everyone.