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Digital Subscriptions > DIVA Magazine > October 2019 > HOW DO YOU PROVE YOUR SEXUALITY? DIVA MEETS SIX WOMEN WHO HAVE BEEN FORCED TO DO JUST THAT

HOW DO YOU PROVE YOUR SEXUALITY? DIVA MEETS SIX WOMEN WHO HAVE BEEN FORCED TO DO JUST THAT

WORDS DANIELLE MUSTARDE, PHOTOGRAPHY ELAINEA EMMOTT, MAKEUP @CEECEE-MUA ON A VOLUNTARY BASIS

Imagine for a moment you’re in a courtroom. It’s not the first time you’ve been here. All eyes are on you. “Are you a lesbian?” the judge asks, in a language that is not your mother tongue. “Yes,” you respond. “Prove it.”

Rainbow Sisters is a London-based support group for lesbians and bisexual asylum seekers who have gone through – or are facing – such an experience. Part of the charity Women For Refugee Women, having recently met six of its current members, I can tell you, its existence is crucial.

Each of those women’s stories are thick with fear, violence, exploitation, bravery, resilience… and hope. But for many of these women, that hope hangs by an ever-thinning thread, as over and over again the UK Home Office rejects their applications for asylum on the basis that they do not believe they are members of the LGBTQI community. How do you “prove” your sexuality? How would you prove yours?

They’re not alone – The Guardian recently reported that the Home Office has refused “at least 3,100 asylum claims from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender nationals from countries where consensual same-sex acts are criminalised”.

Here, we meet the women behind the statistics. These women exist, and are waiting for their lives to begin. These are their stories, in their words.

Please be aware, these stories contain references to experiences of sexual violence. Some names* have been changed. Interviews have been edited for clarity. Rainbow Sisters is part of the charity Women For Refugee Women, which supports women seeking asylum. The group was formed in 2018 and meets weekly. If you need support or would like to volunteer your time, please visit refugeewomen.co.uk

“I came to this country from Pakistan in 2010. In the beginning, I was in denial [about my sexuality], but then I fell in love. When I’m with my partner, I’m the happiest person in the world. Just looking at her brings a smile to my face. I belong to the Muslim faith – but you only live once. I have made up my mind.

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About DIVA Magazine

Actor Maisie Richardson-Sellers looks stunning on the cover of this month’s DIVA magazine. In this issue – a celebration of queer women of colour – the Legends of Tomorrow star talks about growing up mixed race and embracing her sexuality, and tells us why she’s sick of “straight, cis, white people” telling LGBTQI stories. Also in this issue… How to be 100% that bitch: Life lessons from the legendary Lizzo The stars of POSE on trans representation and ball culture YouTube star Elle Mills on growing up in front of the camera Could you prove your sexuality? Seven asylum seekers share their stories Queer and Muslim: Exploring the relationship between sexuality and faith PLUS Homotopia, Iris Prize and much, much more!