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LGBTQ and cultural communities: “Stay isolated so as not to put yourself in danger”


Originally from Haiti, Georgelie Berry is a lesbian. Persecuted in her country because of her sexual orientation since she was 15, she arrived in Canada in 2019. For several months, however, she preferred to remain isolated rather than expose herself.

I didn’t even look for the Haitian community in Windsor. From their mentality, I didn’t want to be judged, I didn’t want to be badly perceived. We know that they will point the finger at usexplains the young woman.

Even if, in Canada, we know that we can live our sexuality, we are always careful, because we know that there are people who do not accept and who do not understand. It pushes us to stay away, either from family, friends or colleagues. »

A quote from Georgelie Berry

For Georgelie Berry, a member of the LGBTQ community, a return to Haiti is not an option until the rights of LGTBQ people are respected there.

Photo: Courtesy of Georgelie Berry

Four months after her arrival, she still revealed her sexual identity to her two best friends in Windsor. She later moved to Toronto.

In many countries, including Haiti, homosexuality is not yet decriminalized. The same is true in Burundi and Rwanda, two countries in Central Africa.

Generally speaking, public discussion of sexuality is taboo in most African cultures. Homosexuality is even more so.

And yet, explains Georgelie Berry, there are many LGBTQ members within immigrant communities, especially in Windsor.

Some people I had the chance to meet online or in person, I could tell that they kept their sexual orientation silent because of their family or their community.she says.

Overcome fear and open up to the community of origin

According to the president of the Burundian community of Windsor, Audace Ndayishimiye, LGBTQ members with an immigrant background should be able to feel comfortable and come out of isolation in a country of rights and freedoms like Canada.

Audace Ndayishimiye, president of the Burundian community of Windsor, calls on its members to respect everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Photo: Courtesy of Audace Ndayishimiye

As human beings, we have the right and the freedom to choose to show ourselves. It’s my opinionhe explains.

The principle is freedom. It’s Pride Month: let people take advantage of this time to open up to the world and affirm their identity. »

A quote from Audacity Ndayishimiye

Hiram Gahima, a Canadian of Rwandan origin, agrees.

They should feel free here, but in Africa, in Rwanda, in some countries, it’s not possible for a boy to walk hand in hand with another boyexplains Mr. Gahima.

Here in North America, it’s their choice [de vivre au grand jour] : they have nothing to fear. »

A quote from Hiram Gahima

Sensitize community leaders

For Mr. Gahima, the path to respect for LGBTQ people should go through the sensitization of community leaders.

Hiram Gahima thinks LGBTQ people of diversity should come out in public without worry.

Photo: Elvis Nouemsi Njike

If, in the Rwandan community, we see that there are people who are on the sidelines because they are designated in such and such a way [c’est-à-dire LGBTQ], you have to get in touch with them, talk to them. The doors must open for these peopledoes he think.

The president of the Burundian community of Windsor, Audace Ndayishimiye, is ready to initiate a constructive debate as soon as possible in the event that one or more LGBTQ people come forward within his community.

I am ready to organize a meeting to sensitize the members of my community. The door is wide open to welcome anyone who feels wronged.says Mr. Ndayishimiye.

Double disqualification

Another handicap for LGBTQ people from diversity: they must be accepted by the gay community as a whole, which is far from obvious. Indeed, according to Arnaud Baudry, executive director of the FrancoQueer organization in Toronto, these people experience a double exclusion.

There is an exclusion from the black community or communities because these people do not necessarily feel accepted […]they do not feel safe […]he explains.

Nor are they welcomed with open arms into welcoming LGBTQ communities.

Many of these people also do not feel fully included in the host LGBTQ community because of the experience of racism and discrimination.he continues.

Arnaud Baudry, CEO of FrancoQueer

Photo: /TurnedNews.com / Marie-Helene Ratel

The FrancoQueer organization in Toronto decided to tackle the problem head-on and created the program Inclusive partner. Focused on issues of sexual and gender diversity, this project invites all Francophone community partners in Ontario to reflect.

The objective of the program is to make our partners aware of issues of sexual and gender diversity, to deconstruct the stereotypes, prejudices and myths that may be associated with LGBTQ people and to support these people. »

A quote from Arnaud Baudry, CEO of FrancoQueer

An online meeting will take place on June 15.

For her part, Georgelie Berry now lives in Toronto. She also continues her fight from a distance for her native country to unlock the space of freedom for the LGBTQ community.

I can always continue to lead the fight for the Haitian community to understand the situation of people in the LGBTQ community. We need love, we need to be respected, our rights must be respectedshe explains.

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