“We are loud, we are proud, and we are here!”

This week (22-28 April) is Lesbian Visibility Week – a week to celebrate the sisterhood, unity and power of LGBTQIA+ women.  

To mark the week, we’re highlighting stories from the Rainbow Sisters – our solidarity group for LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people seeking safety.

Rainbow Sisters

Rainbow Sisters, our solidarity group for LGBTQ+ women and non-binary individuals, is a supportive, welcoming and confidential group open to lesbian, bisexual and trans women, and non-binary people seeking asylum in the UK.

The group comes together weekly and meets a real need for a safe space for LGBTQ+ women to understand and celebrate their sexuality and who they are.

Many of our Rainbow Sisters have fled gender-based and sexual violence, and homophobic or transphobic persecution. Yet, the asylum process is extremely gruelling, with the Home Office often accusing people of ‘lying’ or asking people to ‘prove’ their sexuality.

At Rainbow Sisters, women can build friendships and community, and find a much-needed source of support, solidarity and hope.

This week, and every week, we are proud to celebrate our Rainbow Sisters.

“I found a community… friends who I talk to every day. I don’t have to hide anything from them.”

“Love knows no boundaries, and neither does my resilience.” – Ange

Growing up in Cameroon, where same-sex activity is illegal, Ange found it extremely difficult to understand and accept who she is.

Fearing for her safety and unable to live her life authentically, Ange claimed asylum in the UK. However, like many LGBTQ+ people seeking safety, Ange’s process was long and extremely difficult.

Ange was in limbo for over three years before receiving her refugee status. “The waiting was so stressful. I was cut off from all opportunities to grow and learn.”

As well as the long wait, Ange repeatedly felt pressure to ‘prove’ her sexuality. “How is that fair? How can I prove who I am? You would never accuse a straight person of not being straight, just because they’re single.”

Despite the difficulties of claiming asylum, Ange found joy too. For the first time ever, in 2022, Ange attended Pride: “It was liberating, I felt proud of being lesbian!”

Ange has an important message for others who are still waiting for their refugee status:

“Be who you are! Do not hide yourself. I hid myself all my life because I was afraid. But I am no longer afraid. I am loud. I am proud. I am lesbian!”

Read more about the experience’s of LGBTQ+ women seeking safety:

Read Anu’s full story
Read Faith’s story
Read Ange’s full story

“I wish the Home Office would treat us as human beings… that they would try to understand our trauma.” – Anu

Anu was born and raised in Nigeria. As a teenager, Anu began a relationship with a girl. The day her family found out was the day the extreme violence started. Anu experienced escalating violence due to her sexuality, including a forced circumcision. 

When Anu was sent by her parents to the UK to study, she knew this was also a chance to escape the violence and abuse. “I couldn’t go back to Nigeria because I feared for my life, so I stayed here where I at least felt some safety.” But after Anu’s student visa ran out, the Home Office detained her at Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Anu was detained for over 6 months, causing huge harm to her physical and mental health. “I saw several women attempt to take their own lives at Yarl’s Wood… I had suicidal thoughts as well.” 

Anu was scared to come out whilst in detention. “No one knew I was a lesbian, I didn’t dare tell anyone… I was terrified about being attacked.” Anu was refused by the Home Office but with help from her solicitor, she was finally released from detention.

Once Anu was released from Yarl’s Wood, she joined Rainbow Sisters.

found a community… friends who I talk to every day. I didn’t have to hide anything from them. So many of them have gone through the same issues as me… They are like family to me.” 

After five years of waiting in limbo, Anu was granted her refugee status and is rebuilding her life as a proud lesbian woman: from attending university to pursuing her dream career as a science researcher. 

However, the grueling asylum process has had a lasting impact on Anu: years of waiting, threats of deportation, detention and disbelief.

This must change. 

We need an asylum system based on belief, community and compassion!

Everyone deserves to live in safety as their true self.

Take action to support women like Anu and Ange: 

Write to your MP to End DetentionSign our pledge to Welcome Every WomanDonate to support our Rainbow Sisters