No Rainbow, No Integration: LGBTQI+ Refugees in Hiding

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This paper is relevant to humanitarian practitioners because it details the particular vulnerabilities of LGBTQI+ Syrian refugees living in Lebanon. These findings can be used to develop better and more responsive and attentive programs, and can be taken to other refugee contexts.

The LGBTQI+ Syrian refugee community in Lebanon faces multiple forms of oppression and discrimination as a result of their refugee status, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Through conversations with the LGBTQI+ Syrian refugee community in Beirut, the author (a member of the LGBTQI+ refugee community) details the challenges this cohort faces as a result of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. It should be noted that the authors do not consistently nor accurately represent their interviewees’ gender identities.

The report provides an overview of the challenges Syrian refugees face in general, including legal obstacles that have caused Syrians to lose legal status in Beirut; education challenges associated with linguistic, transportation and administrative barriers; security concerns around Syrians being barred entry to Lebanon and an increase in violent attacks on refugees; and health care challenges. These challenges are applicable to all Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

The author then explores the barriers that are specific to or experienced more severely by LGBTQI+ Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The author profiles several individual refugees who belong to the LGBTQI+ community in Beirut, highlighting their pre-refugee experience as well as experiences as refugees in Beirut. Many LGBTQI+ refugees experience violence or threats of violence from their friends and family in Syria and escaped to Lebanon out of fear for their safety and security. The profiles highlight the precarity of employment and shelter for LGBTQI+ refugees, especially those for whom possess identification that does not match their gender identity or expression, and the challenges of seeking employment while registered as a refugee. Survival sex and marriage for security are recurrent themes.

The author summarises the emergent themes: Syrian refugees are, in general, exploited or taken advantage of because they lack legal protection and face discrimination from their host communities. LGBTQI+ Syrian refugees feel this discrimination acutely, and are even more vulnerable to exploitation. All refugees with whom the author spoke have lost all contact with their families, a usually vital source of support for refugees. Finally, all LGBTQI+ refugees interviewed for this report view their gender identity and expression or/and sexual orientation as a ‘barrier to wellbeing and integration,’ and none of the respondents had positive or sustainable solutions to life in Lebanon. Survival sex and associated psychological and psychical illnesses were common. The centrality of NGOs and small, socially progressive communities where LGBTQI+ refugees can access services was the only bright spot for many of these refugees.

[Quote]

"[T]o be a refugee is hard enough, but to be a LGBTQI+ refugee with no family support is even harder and more dangerous."

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The LGBTQI+ Syrian refugee community in Lebanon faces multiple forms of oppression and discrimination as a result of their refugee status, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Through conversations with the LGBTQI+ Syrian refugee community in Beirut, the author (a member of the LGBTQI+ refugee community) details the challenges this cohort faces as a result of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. It should be noted that the authors do not consistently nor accurately represent their interviewees’ gender identities.

The report provides an overview of the challenges Syrian refugees face in general, including legal obstacles that have caused Syrians to lose legal status in Beirut; education challenges associated with linguistic, transportation and administrative barriers; security concerns around Syrians being barred entry to Lebanon and an increase in violent attacks on refugees; and health care challenges. These challenges are applicable to all Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

The author then explores the barriers that are specific to or experienced more severely by LGBTQI+ Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The author profiles several individual refugees who belong to the LGBTQI+ community in Beirut, highlighting their pre-refugee experience as well as experiences as refugees in Beirut. Many LGBTQI+ refugees experience violence or threats of violence from their friends and family in Syria and escaped to Lebanon out of fear for their safety and security. The profiles highlight the precarity of employment and shelter for LGBTQI+ refugees, especially those for whom possess identification that does not match their gender identity or expression, and the challenges of seeking employment while registered as a refugee. Survival sex and marriage for security are recurrent themes.

The author summarises the emergent themes: Syrian refugees are, in general, exploited or taken advantage of because they lack legal protection and face discrimination from their host communities. LGBTQI+ Syrian refugees feel this discrimination acutely, and are even more vulnerable to exploitation. All refugees with whom the author spoke have lost all contact with their families, a usually vital source of support for refugees. Finally, all LGBTQI+ refugees interviewed for this report view their gender identity and expression or/and sexual orientation as a ‘barrier to wellbeing and integration,’ and none of the respondents had positive or sustainable solutions to life in Lebanon. Survival sex and associated psychological and psychical illnesses were common. The centrality of NGOs and small, socially progressive communities where LGBTQI+ refugees can access services was the only bright spot for many of these refugees.