Angela’s story of success
Angela joined Micro Rainbow International’s “Weather the Storm” group in February 2018. This peer support group is part of our social inclusion work which helps to tackle the isolation felt by many lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) asylum seekers and refugees in the UK.
Angela identifies as a lesbian. She fled her home country of St. Lucia where homosexuality is illegal and carries a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.
Raised by her grandmother, Angela from a very young age was always treated differently than other members of her family. At the age of 14, Angela became romantically involved with another girl. When her grandmother found out, Angela was told she could not live indoors and was forced to sleep outside with just a mango tree for shelter.
As an adult living in St. Lucia, Angela was never able to open up about her sexuality. Although she did not talk about her sexuality, she was accused on many occasions of being lesbian – she was subjected to insults, abuse and numerous rapes by men in her community who believed their actions would ‘cure’ her.
Coming to the UK
Unable to bear her life any longer, in 2005 Angela fled to the UK. Coming to a foreign country was difficult for her in many ways and not having any support from family or friends made the struggle even harder. Angela had no knowledge of the asylum process, or that she could seek protection on the grounds of her sexuality. She kept her identity hidden because her years of trauma and abuse lead to her believing she was responsible for her ordeal.
Weathering the Storm
Angela made a claim for asylum in January 2018. As with many who seek asylum because of their sexual or gender identity, she struggled to find services that support LGBTI asylum seekers and migrants.
Angela’s solicitor recognised how lonely and isolated she was and referred her to MRI’s peer support group.
MRI’s social inclusion project adopts a holistic approach whereby participants heal trauma through creativity.
Angela, shy and tentative on first attending the group, very soon began introducing herself to members and listened to shared experiences and life stories.
“Ever since I’ve been coming to MRI I feel different. Being with like-minded people…when you are on your own you begin to internalise your problems and feel shame. Coming to MRI opened up my eyes and showed me that I am not alone, that all of us are here because we have been persecuted for who we are. Together we are able to support each other” – Angela
Since first coming to MRI, Angela has a newfound confidence and has a beaming attitude which she attributes to her involvement with MRI.
She enjoys the monthly theatre and drama workshop hosted by Ice and Fire Theatre. These use drama and acting as a form of expression working towards being fully open and comfortable with our identities.
“I am able to express myself in a space where I am not being judged. I feel free and liberated. It’s like I am literally jumping out of the closet showing people THIS IS WHO I AM” – Angela
Angela’s story is one of success but also a testament to the need for social inclusion among LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers.
Too often, they lack the support network needed to navigate the tough asylum process. Being isolated and not able to work can cause or even exacerbate existing mental health issues. Integration, fellowship and a sense of belonging to a community area key to MRI’s social inclusion work. Members of peer support groups say they feel as if they’ve been adopted into the family they wish they had.
The group meets every Monday from 6PM to 8PM at Micro Rainbow International Offices.