Henrik, a 35-year-old Salvadoran, waited to turn 27 before announcing to his family that he was a
. “My family is Catholic, conservative, and I didn't know if they were going to accept me. First, I wanted to have my financial independence to support myself if they rejected me, but I also waited to have the strength of what was going to hurt me if that happened to me, ”he explains today. His mother had no problems, but she did imagine them. "He told me: 'I love you, but I'm afraid of the consequences." He was right. The gangs that rule certain communities in El Salvador harassed and extorted money until, in 2019, he had to leave. “It is very strong because… there was part of society that did accept me. My family loved me at work as I was, ”laments Henrik today, his voice shaking, sitting in an office in Madrid. “But these criminals come who have taken root in prejudices, who have us as abominations, which is what they call us, abominations, and it is something very strong.Having to get away from the family for that kind of thing. "
Henrik is an archetypal case of the type of refugee that has grown the most in Spain in recent years: the LGTBIQ refugee (acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, intersex and
. “It is a double trauma: the one that involves the flight from your country, which unites all the refugees, plus the suffering of their persecution for their identity or sexual orientation. Various forms of xenophobia and racism come together. Their burden is greater, ”explains Cristina Bermejo, director of the NGO Rescate, which has been operating in Spain since 1960 and is one of the few to expressly address the needs of LGTBIQ refugees. In a world where belonging to this group is a crime in 69 UN countries, punishable by death in 6; where 14 nations openly persecute
and 42 States restrict LGTBIQ freedom, the group is alarmingly unprotected. “The Geneva Convention dictates that you can request asylum because you belong to a specific social group. It was made in 1951, it does not specifically mention LGTBIQ people! There are countries that have modified their laws to include them, but not many ”.
Henrik (El Salvador, 35 years old) and Tania (El Salvador, 24 years old). All this couple did was go out for a drink. "Some guys came to the bar," he recalls. Gang members, the fourth estate in El Salvador. They started messing with her, cis straight. They saw that he was trans. "There they started to catch her with us," she says. They harassed her in the supermarket. They asked for money, 200 euros a week, to let them live. “A friend had ignored them. He appeared at his house, in a bloodbath, a bag tied to his head and his genitals in his mouth, ”he recalls. They fled. “Here I am free, but I came with the pain that they did accept me there. My mom accepted me. My worst nightmare was to leave and never see her again. In October they called me: I had just died. ”Gorka Postigo
Spain did, in 2001. Since then, it has sheltered countless lives that could not continue in their countries. In the last year and a half, Rescate has helped bring in and insert a young Ugandan man whose bisexuality cost him not the political project he was developing, but his own African roots. Or several transsexual women from Latin America, who were forced into prostitution due to lack of employment alternatives, which led them to live with the pandas in their countries and to a life of violence (and who in fact live in Spain with physical scars firearms or skin burns). Or a non-binary person from Casablanca (Morocco) who risked his life every time he set foot on the street because of his way of walking and expressing himself. Countless stories with the power to remember the importance of protecting and protecting,but not only. They can also help people in similar situations to find a way out.
"I can't change my story, but I do want to tell it," announces Alex, a 20-year-old Cameroonian who suffered all kinds of abuse, inside and outside the home, when he confessed his homosexuality to his aunt, the woman in charge of raising him. “I lost his trust, and mine in myself. If my own aunt, the person closest to me, can do this to me: hit me, cut me with knives and put pepper in my blood to cleanse my homosexuality ... But maybe, if this is seen by someone else, she can react as I have reacted . Which is not taking your own life, which I have tried several times myself. There is a way. What interests me the most is that, helping ”.
Alex (Cameroon, 20 years old). The parents of this non-binary person died soon and he went to live with his beloved aunt. One day, she asked him about the girls; He replied that the boys better: “He took me out of school and made me sell juice on the street. Everything changed ”, he remembers. "At 13, my uncle raped me." He left home to work at a restaurant. There he met a boy, who offered to protect him and share expenses to flee together to Europe. They were in Algeria when they argued. “My mother appeared to me in a dream. He told me to stay, that the sea was dangerous. I told my boy. He left without me. After two weeks without news, I found out that he had died on the trip. ”Gorka Postigo
Lali (Colombia, 26 years old). Adolescence in Villavicencio, southeast of Bogotá, brought immediate consequences to this young woman: “In itself, because you are a woman, you are already an object of desire. When you are an openly lesbian woman, it is as if you put a candy on them. You become like a challenge and the harassment begins ... I did not feel safe in my environment. I don't have something wrong, I don't need a man to fix me. Make me a woman. All of this triggered self-rejection and I isolated myself. I had a girlfriend, at a distance, and I started to push her away until she left me. He did not want to have contact with anyone. At some point they told me: 'You don't leave the house, your room, you have to do something.' Then the universe aligned and I came to Spain. ”Gorka Postigo
Daniel (Uganda, 28 years old). “Some African traditions say that homosexuality is a curse that comes from a demon and is washed with blood. I learned as a child that being bisexual in Uganda meant living in hiding. Your family, your community, your government were going to reject you. You couldn't trust your secrets to close people either: when I was young I went to a party and the police were called. A little older, I entered politics. The warnings began, some even from my family, that something was going to happen to me. Sure enough, they attacked me. To clean my blood. I fled to Nairobi, but the communities are very well connected. It was a matter of time before they found me. He had read that in Europe there were rights for homosexuals. It is very difficult to be homosexual in Uganda. ”Gorka Postigo
Francesca (El Salvador, 30 years old). She is well aware of the problems of being a woman and trans in El Salvador. Prostitution as the only way out: “They didn't accept me at home. At the university they excluded me. In the interviews they wanted me to cut my hair, to be a man, not to be me ”. The attacks: “One day I was going with my partner to a cultural event and some kids threw burning cloth at us. Our clothes and skin were burned. I have those scars on my skin and in my spirit ”. And impunity: “When you go to report, they tell you: 'You asked for it for being a fag, for being who you are.' And they do not investigate. In addition, it is scary because that information is leaked. Anyone could come and kill you at your house. Then the media will say that it was a reckoning. ”Gorka Postigo
José Antonio (Venezuela, 21 years old). "When you're gay and you're black, people want to see you less." That is the summary of his 19 years in Cabimas, Venezuela, where he lived in the closet but, at the same time, harassed by his pen. Being yelled at in the street, or thrown raw eggs, was his routine. At home he said nothing: they were not going to accept him. He stopped going out. “Only to my friend's house, going and coming back, 200 meters between the two. He came back late, at two in the morning, so as not to see anyone. Still, they yelled at me. A man stopped me and told me: 'I'm going to rape you to make you become a man.' I ran away". He has not looked back.Gorka Postigo
Taira (Colombia, 29 years old). Everything changed one morning in 2016. “I was in a grocery store, buying deodorant, when a man started insulting me. I said, 'Shoot me, huh? And, without further words, he did. I looked in the mirror. The bullet entered the cheek, did not break anything. I called the ambulance myself. Suddenly, I was living in horrible fear in my country: that man was not the only one who could hurt me. The law would not protect me, ”he recalls. Fled. “Being trans is difficult. You have to have balls. It is going out and showing the world who you are. You know very well that many people, most of them, have a double life. I prefer to be like that and get hit and kicked, but be what I am. ”Gorka Postigo
Hamza (Casablanca, 24 years old). Morocco, where a homosexual act is a crime punishable by up to three years in prison, can be a jail for people like this non-binary person who is attracted to men and to wearing heels. “Every day there is a war. In September 2019 I was physically attacked. About 10, 15 people surrounded me, calling me zamel, zamel (fag, fag), and recording it on video. I took a taxi and went home, where I couldn't tell anyone. Mental health is another taboo: if you have a problem, you are crazy. I was a stewardess in an airline and my colleagues leaked about my sexuality to the bosses, who offered me psychiatric help. I never felt safe there. I can't be the person I want to be there. ”Gorka Postigo
Nonardo (Cuba, 48 years old). He is a rebel. He had to be to survive 1970s Havana as a gay kid. “As I was effeminate, my family, who beat me, put me in a rural school. I was 13 years old, but they put me in the only class that had a hole, the 19-year-old class. I suffered sexual, mental and psychological abuse every night. And I rebelled. I became a difficult student. I started to run away. I dropped out of school shortly ". He became an artist. Rebel, of course, against the Government. "In 2018, a new law gave the government the right to enter my house and take my works." He began to suffer harassment. One day in February two years ago he left for Europe. He never returned.Gorka Postigo
Photo: Gorka Postigo. Styling: Carla Paucar. Set: Sofia Alazraki. Makeup: Miki Vallés. Acknowledgments: CAP, Pelonio, Camera Studio, Perfecto Madrid.