“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” – Galatians 3:27-29
As immigrants, we view the world differently. We often forget that our unique history, culture, traditions, and especially our beliefs play a big role in our view of the world. It is no different when it came to our view of the LGBTQ communities. For most people, home is a place that represents tradition, safety, and belonging. However, for many LGBTQ immigrants and refugees it is the opposite. They will face isolation, discrimination, dangerous and sometimes deadly circumstances, especially under common cultural or religious influence, even at home.
Though the United States is definitely not the world leader in the fight for gender and sexual equality, LGBTQ people in the United States experience ever-growing freedom as compared to other communities overseas. For instance, in our home country of Myanmar (Burma,) being LGBTQ is illegal. If the governments or police find out about it, LGBTQ people will be imprisoned for ten to twenty years. LGBTQ persons in Myanmar also face difficulties in other areas of society. They will often face bullying in school or discrimination in the workplace, and harassment is very common. They might face violence or inequality because of their beliefs, their physical appearance and who and how they chose to be.
Some people might assume that moving to the United States is a happy ending for immigrants and refugees who have fled their countries. However, there are many situations that are much more complicated in reality. Many immigrants and refugees face continued challenges like finding stable jobs and learning English. Very often immigrants and refugees face discrimination at the workplace or outside their homes. In addition, some have major problems you might not expect. You can imagine how being LGBTQ is even harder: not just facing isolation or discrimination by other communities, but also by your own families and community.
Unfortunately, in some immigrant and refugee communities, the issue of LGBTQ rights is not in the forefront of most people’s mind. Imagine having to flee your homeland because of being persecuted and discriminated against for who you are, who you chose to be, and what you chose to believe. Imagine having to restart your life in another country all over again without speaking the language, not knowing the cultures, and facing additional challenges. As immigrants and refugees, you are mostly worried about putting food on the table for your family or providing your family’s daily needs. So it’s no surprise that this issue is not a priority for many in our community.
However, we believe that it’s an important issue for our community to discuss.