Bio: Junior Mayema February 02, 2015 Advance ESL My Journey to Freedom and Safety I was born in Kinshasa, which is the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo; I was born into a Christian fundamentalist family and my mom is a pastor. I realized that I was gay at a very young age, so I faced extreme bullying and assaults by other pupils. When I was in primary school, they would call me offensive names such as pédé, in French, which translates to “faggot” in English, and the boys did not want to play or associate themselves with me because they thought that I was different and The discrimination continued even after I got to university. I witnessed professors publicly inciting attacks on LGBT people in auditoriums filled with thousands and thousands of students. So as I started being more openly gay, I lost all of my friends in university because other students were telling them that being near me is very contagious and that they could catch the so-called mental illness called homosexuality or that I was spreading it, so they were warned to look out and avoid being near me. Junior Mayema February 02, 2015 Advance ESL Then I started being harassed. After receiving death threats from my own biological family, I decided to leave Congo completely. Even though I finished law studies, who would seek service from a homosexual lawyer? Besides, I could not even think about I made up my mind to move to an LGBT-friendly country, and since I did not know people or have direct relatives in Western Europe or North America, I decided to move to South Africa because my cousin was there, I lied to him that I was coming for the holiday and i would go back to Congo, He didn’t know that I was fleeing homophobia from Congo because if I had told tell him about my migration to South Africa, he wouldn’t have come to fetch me at the airport or welcome me to his house in the first Arriving in South Africa with feelings of freedom, safety, and security, I was astounded while walking on the streets of Cape Town to hear some random South Africans yelling “Hey you moffie” at me. Moffie is the Afrikaans name that translates to “faggot” in English. I did not know the meaning then because I do not know or speak South African native languages fluently. Therefore, they insisted: “We are talking to you – are you a man or woman?” I was so embarrassed and shocked. This experience made me realize that the rights to equality and the right to be free from discrimination that are enshrined in the South African Bill of Rights in the Constitution were and are only on paper. Junior Mayema February 02, 2015 Advance ESL From that day on, I realized that I was still in danger. I started facing severe and systematic discrimination even in order to get access to asylum on the grounds of sexual orientation. I even had problems finding housing and employment because of While in South Africa, I stayed with my cousin for a few months but then he kicked me out when he found out that I was gay. This is how I became homeless on the streets of Cape Town, South Africa at the hands of homophobic criminals and gangsters in South Africa roaming around like roaring lions seeking for vulnerable people in society to Finding employment was very difficult in South Africa because the majority of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people in South Africa are considered disabled people in South Africa, which means they are not able to work, face employment I started volunteering with PASSOP (People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty), an NGO that advocates for the rights of immigrants and refugees in South Africa with Junior Mayema February 02, 2015 Advance ESL I went through extreme homophobic and xenophobic attacks when living in South Africa that left me wounded most of the time, almost killed. Verbal abuse was the order of the day so it was happening on a daily basis but physical attacks were happening after weeks or months, I remember being physically attacked by some random guys who yelled anti- gay slurs at me and when i tried to defend myself and claim my human rights space, they came to get me and beat me up. I was left wounded and went to report to the police station but police officers made fun of me and asked me to go to the hospital. ORAM which is an organization here in the United States that monitors and advocates for LGBT refugees’ human rights access to asylum and resettlement, in partnership with UNHCR ( United Nations High Commission for Refugees), reached out to PASSOP in order to start the process of resettling the most vulnerable LGBT refugees and Asylum-seekers in countries with lack of protection such as South Africa to countries like most parts of the USA, Canada, Western Europe and Australia where there are laws that protect LGBT people and where people abide by those legal protections. I was among the chosen LGBT refugees following all the attacks that I encountered with impunity while in South Africa, so ORAM lobbied the UNHCR to urge the South African government to grant me refugee status and I got my refugee status in November 2013 and started my resettlement process by being registering with UNHCR for Junior Mayema February 02, 2015 Advance ESL The resettlement process to the USA usually takes a minimum of two years or even more to be able to get into the United States, but my case was expedited after South Africa police officers assaulted me inside of the police station in Cape Town. I had goneto report unfair discrimination and infringement of my rights to privacy that was perpetrated by my landlord. Instead of assisting me, those officers chose to abuse me, so the UNHCR decided to move me from Cape Town to Johannesburg in September 2014 for my interview with the US consulate. I got my conditional refugee status, which means I had to undergo some medical checks and security checks in order to be able to enter the USA. I got final approval of my refugee status for the USA at the end of October 2014. On But as I arrived in the USA, I heard about protests across the country calling for accountability for the endemic reality of killings and murders of black people, especially men, at the hands of white supremacist police officers, and recently I read in the news about the stabbing of a transgender woman here in San Francisco while she was on the bus. She got attacked by some random homophobic criminals that made me think again about my safety. But the question still remains: “where do I have to flee again?” The USA is a capitalist country with fewer benefits for resettled refugees that last only a few months and can be cut off anytime. As soon as the benefits expire, you are left on your own, so now my worries are about me being attacked again because of who I am as Junior Mayema February 02, 2015 Advance ESL a gay black person and I am also afraid about the possibility of being homeless again if I can’t find a job because housing is not affordable in this city of millionaires.