Lesbian Visibility Week

For Lesbian Visibility Week 2023 we spoke to Grace, a lesbian from Cameroon living in a Micro Rainbow safe house.
Lesbian Visibility Week 2023

Lesbian Visibility Week aims to show solidarity with all LGBTQI women and non-binary people in the community, as well as celebrate lesbians. Lesbian Visibility Week is a voice for unity and intends to lift up all women, especially those who come from marginalised communities.

Safe housing for LGBTQI migrants


For Lesbian Visibility Week, we spoke to Grace, a lesbian from Cameroon who lives in one of Micro Rainbow’s safe houses for LGBTQI asylum seekers. Micro Rainbow’s innovative safe housing programme was created in 2017 to provide safety and stability for LGBTQI asylum seekers. All too often, when LGBTQI people come to the UK to claim asylum they are placed in accommodation where they face abuse and discrimination because of being LGBTQI. Their sexuality, gender expression or intersex status can put them at risk of further abuse in their accommodation if they are housed with asylum seekers from the same country of origin.

Micro Rainbow’s safe houses provide accommodation for LGBTQI asylum seekers, so that they can be free of discrimination and safe to express themselves. The houses provide welcoming and temporary shelter for LGBTQI asylum seekers awaiting the outcomes of their claims. They are located in the London area, in the North West and in the West Midlands.

Grace’s story


Grace is a lesbian from Cameroon, and she first came to the UK in the autumn of 2020. In Cameroon, same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Penal Code 2016, which criminalises acts of ‘homosexuality’. Both men and women are criminalised under this law, and the maximum penalty is five years’ imprisonment and a fine.

After reaching the UK, Grace was initially placed in accommodation in the north of England, before being uprooted without notice and moved 50 miles away. Like most LGBTQI refugees, she did not feel like she could be her true self when she was in Home Office Accommodation. She concealed the fact she was a lesbian for her own safety.

“When in Home Office initial accommodation, you can’t truly be yourself. You can’t talk about yourself. I felt scared and isolated.”

After being put in contact with Micro Rainbow, she was eventually placed in Micro Rainbow housing, where she has now lived for more than a year.


Stability and support


Moving to Micro Rainbow housing has made Grace feel much safer. She has two housemates who are also LGBTQI. She can be herself and talk about her life without fear of discrimination. The stability of the Micro Rainbow safehouse has meant that Grace has been able to build links with and integrate into the local community.


She regularly attends a local inclusive church, where she has been able to make connections with other LGBTQI people and refugees in the area. Many refugees and asylum seekers are unable to access support from religious groups because of discriminatory attitudes, and face further isolation as a result. Before joining the inclusive church, Grace had no idea that churches could be so welcoming to LGBTQI people.


Gaining confidence and giving back


The confidence she found in through living in Micro Rainbow housing has meant that she is now able to help other refugees and asylum seekers. She volunteers with a local asylum group; through this group she is a befriender to other local asylum seekers and refugees in need of support.


She met a close friend through volunteering in the group:


“I met her when I was at the lowest period of my life. She held my hand for the journey. She has always been there for me. She is like my mum. She is very empathic and she’s very perceptive”.


Like most LGBTQI refugees, Grace left everyone and everything behind when she left Cameroon. Living in the community, attending church and volunteering through local organisations has enabled her to meet new people and build a supportive network. She is able to live out and proud as a lesbian and find belonging:


“When I went to my first Pride, I felt belonging that I haven’t ever felt before. It felt really good. I’ve never found myself in the milieu with other people like myself”.


Help more people like Grace live proudly and safely


Micro Rainbow’s vision is to create a world where LGBTQI people are safe, free from discrimination, persecution and have equal opportunities in life, including in accessing employment, training, financial services and housing. We want them to be able to live proudly and confidently and to give back to their communities, like Grace is doing.


Help Micro Rainbow help more lesbians and LGBTQI people like Grace – become an ally today!


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