LGBT Asylum is a charity supporting and advocating for LGBT asylum seekers in Denmark. While celebrating pride and LGBT life in Denmark, it is important to look beyond parades and colourful flags and consider the lives of this marginalised community.
Photographs: LGBT Asylum
Text: Heather Storgaard
Many LGBT asylum seekers have taken a long, challenging journey to arrive here, fleeing violence, persecution and, in many cases, having always lacked the freedom to express their gender identity and sexuality. Upon arriving in Denmark, they become a minority within a minority, with their gender identity and/or sexuality and race, meaning that they stand out. Sadly, this also makes them particularly vulnerable to violence and loneliness. Indeed, while Denmark may be among one of the most LGBT-friendly in the world, a majority of the LGBT community still report feeling loneliness and experiencing discrimination. This number rises in the Trans and Bisexual community and those from minority ethnic backgrounds. Furthermore, reports have highlighted that the asylum centres, where applicants wait for their claims to be processed, are often dangerous places.
Asylum centres in Denmark are typically located in the countryside in Jutland. While I often talk about the countryside with fondness, it is undeniably a challenging place to live when vulnerable, with a lack of services in all areas, from regular buses to access to mental health care. And, for the LGBT community, these asylum centres are typically far from any cities with LGBT populations that could offer a sense of community. Even upon an asylum claim being accepted, people get placed all over the country, often again in remote communities with little in the way of their communities. That’s where LGBT Asylum comes in, with advice services and meetup events designed to foster the fælesskab (community) that Danes highly value. These include meetup dinners and attendance at pride and camps.
Beyond practical support directly with those requiring support, LGBT Asylum also lobbies and works with government agencies to improve the welfare of the LGBT community through the asylum system. Without employees in the various state bodies having or enjoying access to specialist knowledge, asylum seekers are more likely to be assessed incorrectly or judged with unconscious prejudice. External education, events and presentations are organised and held by the Coordination Group for External Communication.
"Asylum centres in Denmark are typically located in the countryside in Jutland."
Our meetups are a space where you can meet other LGBT+ people who share some of the same experiences as you. It's a safe space with queer-to-queer counselling and social bonding.
LGBT+ persons who live in asylum centres are often isolated and feel unsafe. Finding friends and meeting new people who feel the same way you do can be challenging.
Almost every month, LGBT Asylum hosts social events called 'the Saturday meeting.'
The Saturday meeting takes place in Copenhagen or Aarhus, an opportunity to meet LGBT+ persons in the same situation as you.
Our whole group gathers – asylum seekers, refugees and contact persons. The Saturday meetings have different themes: we meet at Aarhus Pride, Copenhagen Pride, MIX film festival and Winter Pride.
We have a holiday meeting in December, a meeting about sexual health with the AIDS Foundation and an annual fundraiser party. Asylum activists, refugees and contact persons join in planning and hosting the events.
Weekend trip for LGBT+ refugees
We try to host three-weekend trips a year in the refugee group. We call them 'camps.' We usually rent a big cabin for the weekend and do different activities together.
We have so far done yoga, and had talks and debates about different themes like sexual health, the Danish integration programme and the possibilities for education for refugees in Denmark. We also cook together, hang out and party together.
If you are inspired to learn more about how you could contribute, LGBT Asylum is always looking for volunteers sensitive to LGBT issues to help with their vital work, whatever your sexual orientation or background. If you can speak Danish as well as another language and have a good understanding of LGBT issues, it is also possible to volunteer as an interpreter.