Growing up in a country where same-sex relationship is illegal and attracts a 14-year prison sentence was a traumatic and lonely experience for me. I always felt like an outcast because of my sexuality. I wanted to be myself, but I was ashamed and had to hide it from my friends and family. I hoped and prayed that my feelings would go away because I feared rejection, the possibility of people treating me differently and even worse, prosecution if they found out.
As a result, I suppressed my feelings and hid that part of myself, even from myself. My self-denial and fear led to anxiety, depression and it negatively affected my self-esteem. I couldn’t express, explore, and embrace my full self. I was withdrawn and created a mental bubble which felt like a safe place for me.
Through therapy, I was made aware that one of my first steps towards healing is self-acceptance and by surrounding myself with other supportive LGBTQ+ people. The healing process of self-acceptance for me is a continuous process, given that I have been wired to reject my sexuality for as long as I can remember.
During my therapy sessions, I was referred Say it Loud Club, a charity that supports LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers. I was able to surround myself with other LGBTQ people in a safe space where I could celebrate my sexuality and build a collective sense of solidarity. I reached a point where I had to choose to either remain in the closet for the rest of my life or come out to my family. I feel very lucky I had the courage and support to come out to the people who are dear to me. It was the hardest but best decision I have ever had to make as they have been very supportive.
My advice for the LGBTQ+ refugees in the UK is to learn to love yourself first. This is such an important part of our journey as we are unaware of how much we take self-rejection as the norm.