The safe house was a blessing for me: John’s story

Read John's story about living in Micro Rainbow safe housing and how it helped him thrive.
John website

Micro Rainbow’s safe housing programme was created to provide secure and welcoming accommodation for LGBTQI people seeking asylum. LGBTQI people seeking asylum in the UK often find that they experience the same homo- transphobia they fled in their home countries in their UK accommodation. Some would abandon their accommodation because of the abuse they were suffering.

A solution to this problem was needed, and in 2017, Micro Rainbow created the first safe house for LGBTQI asylum seekers. Now, Micro Rainbow has twenty-two safe houses across England. In the piece that follows, John, a gay man from Zimbabwe, explains what it means to be able to live in safe and welcoming Micro Rainbow housing.

Fleeing home and claiming asylum

My name is John, and I am a gay man from Zimbabwe. I was forced to leave my home country in November 2022 because being gay is a criminal offence in Zimbabwe. Something happened that meant the police were aware of my sexuality, and there was a warrant for my arrest. I had to flee because I was scared for my life, and the possibility of being imprisoned for up to 10 years in jail.

I claimed asylum as soon as I reached the UK. When I first arrived, I was overwhelmed with fear and loneliness. I did know some people, but as soon as you tell them why you are here, why you had to leave Zimbabwe, people start to shun you. I had no friends.

Hotel accommodation

I was placed in hotel accommodation at first, but it was difficult. I lived with some roommates who were quite homophobic and there was a language barrier which was quite a challenge. I could not understand what they were saying but I could sense that they were talking about me and saying homophobic things.

Then I moved into other accommodation that was dirty and messy, quite unhygienic. It wasn’t anywhere you would want to invite someone round. And the other people didn’t speak English so we couldn’t communicate. By this point, I had heard about Micro Rainbow and been put on the waiting list for housing.

Micro Rainbow housing

In May 2023, I moved into Micro Rainbow housing in Dudley. I find Dudley peaceful and beautiful, and it’s quite close to Birmingham and there are lots of activities to do there. Unlike my previous accommodation, the environment was really welcoming. The house was clean, and I was blessed with my flatmates. They were so friendly – they welcomed me very well. I felt safe and was really happy.

I think living in the house made a real difference to my journey as a gay asylum seeker in the UK. I was no longer worried about hiding. I had spent my whole life in Zimbabwe hiding who I was. Everyone in the house was LGBT and no-one had to hide who they were. Even after reaching the UK, in other asylum accommodation, if you want to attend an LGBTQI social event or group, you have to hide what you are doing and where you are going. You could never wear a branded t-shirt or anything that shows you are LGBT. But in the house, with my housemates, I didn’t need to worry about that anymore.

Freedom to come and go

In the Micro Rainbow safe house, I didn’t have to sign in and out every day – I was free to come and go as I pleased. I could also cook my own food. You’re not restricted to whatever is provided and I think it gives you a little sense of freedom being able to go shop for your food and choose what you want to eat. I miss the food back home, and being able to eat my own food is comforting.

Adapting to the UK

One thing that I realised in the UK is that there is so much freedom. Much more than in my home country. No one really cares what you do. You aren’t judged in the same way. People respect each other and people’s privacy.

I found an inclusive church to go to – you would not get that in my country. I used to struggle to reconcile my faith as a Christian and being gay. Every time you would go to church in Zimbabwe, there would always be anti-LGBT messages. It felt like they were aimed directly at me. You end up asking yourself – why am I supporting this?  But now I have found a community where you can be who you are and still believe in God.

John’s first Pride with Micro Rainbow

I attended my first Pride with Micro Rainbow in 2023. It was amazing for me to join others, just feeling free. I have also gone to lots of the body and movement sessions in Birmingham too, and the creative intensive was one of my most memorable events. I got to design a shirt and wrote a piece which was published on the on the website.

Moving on

I have now moved out of Micro Rainbow accommodation, and into a house near Birmingham University. I have started studying for a master’s in advanced engineering – I already have my bachelor’s degree. I have made some new friends on my course already and joined clubs and societies.

I think moving into the Micro Rainbow house was a blessing. It is what I needed. I got to live my life, and now I am studying again. I am passionate about engineering and business, and I want to work in academia. I hope that in the future, I can build a stable life for myself and eventually start a family.

Help us continue supporting LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers

Help other people like John, who are forced to flee their home countries because of the persecution they face. Become a Micro Rainbow ally and support our safe housing programme.

Do you have a housing enquiry?

Related

Lesbian Visibility Week 2023

Lesbian Visibility Week

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

Lady with a gold lamp

June’s story

This is the story of June, a lesbian from China who was trafficked into the UK and is now hoping to gain asylum.