Event honors LGBT refugees

By junior Mayema,

http://www.ktvu.com/web/ktvu/news/29508638-story

– KTVU — Being killed, for being gay.

It’s a reality in more than a half-dozen nations around the world.

Eighty others imprison people for same sex conduct.

“I was stopped at a government checkpoint, targeting me because I was different,” Subhi Nahas, a 28 year old Syrian told a sold-out San Francisco audience Saturday night.

Nahas was one of fourteen LGBT refugees and asylees honored by the Horizons Foundation, a leading philanthropic organization, at its annual gala.

The crowd, packed into the grand ballroom at the Fairmont Hotel, heard Nahas describe ISIL coming to mosques in his hometown, and threatening to “cleanse” the city.

He fled to Lebanon, then Turkey, and finally to the United States, grateful he escaped, and marveling at being out.

“You could be killed, you could be harrassed on the streets, so many horrible things can happen to you because you’re gay or perceived as gay,” Nahas told KTVU.

He now works with as an activist with the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration.

Nahas made it to the Bay Area in June, and was able to take in the celebration, as the Supreme Court made gay marriage the law of the land. But as equality comes to the LGBT community in the U.S., some refugees say there is a growing backlash in repressive countries.

“It’s getting bad, it’s getting worse, ” Junior Mayema told KTVU, after fleeing the Republic of the Congo, and later, South Africa.

“It’s because people read the news and they see how people are celebrating being gay, in North America and Western Europe, and people are becoming more conservative. It’s getting bad.”

The honorees were recognized with Courage Awards from the Horizons Foundation, which raises and grants tens of millions of dollars for LGBT causes and programs.

“I was wondering what would become of my daughter and my partner,” shared refugee Gertrude Metsilegan, from the stage.

She is from Cameroon, and in time, her family was able to join her in the Bay Area.

Agencies that help with resettlement say unlike traditional political refugees, LGBT refugees often arrive with nothing, and knowing no one.

“Because they’re alone, finding them housing hosts is the best model for them,” Holly White of Jewish Families and Child Services of the East Bay.

“We have people who open up their homes, and that’s amazing for the refugees, they get a supportive community from the very beginning,” explained White.

Metsilegan spoke for the assembled recipients, expressing gratitude for the guidance she has received.

“We feel helped, your advice, your support, and your warmth made the impossible, possible, thank you!” she said to applause.

An estimated 3,500 LGBT refugees arrive in the U.S. every year.

Another 1500 come in, granted asylum.

And many remain understandably skittish.

Some honorees declined to be identified on the program, or didn’t want their full name used, or home country listed.

An abundance of caution, that doesn’t just go away.

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