“On 30th March 2020, I was ambushed by a homophobic gang and questioned me… why am I homosexual,” Paul Canary, LGBTQIA advocate and refugee in Kakuma Refugee Camp shares. “I was then beaten and pushed into a long ditch. My bones in my right leg got broken and dislocated. I have never received adequate treatment, nor justice. I’m now partly disabled. I will never forget that day.”
I have previously shared some of the horrors like this that the LGBTQIA refugees of Kakuma face, and while they are indeed despicable, there is so much more to the story than tragedy.
There is love, there is motivation, and there is bravery.
Brave, a 17-year-old boy in Kakuma, certainly lives up to his name. He films and photographs the injustices committed against LGBTQIA folks in Kakuma on his phone and shares them, as well as other advocacy posts, on social media. Brave tells me, “We would love to be free and be addressed the way we want to be addressed! We need safety.”
Identity is something denied to LGBTQIA folks of Kenya and neighboring countries who are forced to behave in a straight, conforming fashion or they are shunned, abused, or even killed. In Kakuma, they are still in danger, but they have a community to embrace and confirm their identities.
Jaime, an outspoken transgender man in the camp, has shared with me the difficulty of living in a place where his gender identity will not be recognized and the pain this causes. He has also suffered a terrible beating recently from which he cannot properly heal due to lack of proper medical care from UNHCR and local doctors, but he has not let this tragedy stop his efforts to help the community.
“I am hoping to start a project with chickens, ducks, and broilers to help us generate income for our lives in Kakuma,” Jaime shares. He is highly focused on helping his fellow refugees, but his dreams do not stop there. “My dreams are, I would like to be a manager … because I have professional business studies. I have a dream to make a company that I manage myself, and I would like to help other people, like in an orphanage home, and help homeless mothers.” While he does not yet have a location or official company, Jaime is working hard to make good on those dreams for the people in his community at Kakuma and to support them however he can.
Jaime is not the only one with such a noble heart at Kakuma. Cythia Joel, a 19-year-old transgender girl, shared, “My dream is to become a lawyer so that I can defend my fellow transgenders in the world and make them feel comfortable and accepted in the African countries.” Prior to her arrival at Kakuma, Cynthia was arrested due to her identity and spent two months in prison where she was horribly abused. “I have no family,” she shares. “Only my family at Kakuma.”
The community is, indeed, a real family. They share all that they have, nurse each other, support each other, and help raise the children. The community is strong and the bonds created, stronger still.
Over the last several months, since my original Live with a few members of the group, several of the refugees in Kakuma and I have made friends. It is remarkable and inspiring to me that these lovely people do so much not only to lift each other up, but to show love and kindness to other humans around the world. Not a day goes by that I do not get a good morning message from several of the refugees. They ask about my speeches, my conventions, my pets, my health. They wish my husband a happy birthday. Despite the hate they are shown and the dire situation they face, they consistently show love and kindness to others. This is why I write about them, why I share their stories. Their love is beautiful, these people are beautiful, and they deserve safety, opportunity, and, above all, love.
My friends in the community share with me that they believe their only chance for safety is to be relocated to a safer location in which being LGBTQIA is not viewed as a crime, a place where they can get jobs and medical care.
Please, raise your voices for them by posting, sharing, creating petitions, and if you can, please consider donating to help them survive.
Support the love found with the LGBTQIA people of the Kakuma Refugee Camp.