“Only be who you want to be”

A number of people coming to the UK in search of refuge and asylum do so because they may be persecuted for their sexuality in their home countries.  Here, former guest Faraj describes his experiences as a gay man seeking asylum and hosting.

When someone asks me, “how do you feel about being an Arab and a gay man?” it is not an easy question to answer.

We all have different experiences about being gay depending on our environment, culture, faith, background, country and family. But, even if we come from a place that is more accepting of gays, let’s be clear about the pressures that are imposed on us – from school, family – as we are a minority.

In the culture I come from, gays are forced to hide a large part of their identity. In my culture, people do not understand that being gay is more than sexual desire.

… being gay is not an easy thing, you have to go through a lot. However, remember you are a human being who carries a lot inside you – Faraj

I remember at the beginning of my discovery of my homosexuality, I felt pressure and confusion because there was no one I could talk to or discuss my feeling with. I didn’t know if I was the only one or whether there were other people who felt like me. This caused me to feel afraid, anxious and unstable. I felt that my society was forcing me to be ‘normal’, forcing me to be someone else. But, I did not succeed. I felt that I had to carry two characters; Faraj, the ‘natural’ man and Faraj, the gay ‘unnatural ‘man. The outside me did not match the inside me.

After the war in Syria and moving from one country to another for years, I ended up in the UK in 2015 at the age of 19. After a year of unstable life up north and no English language, I was lucky enough to find an English-Jewish family in Cambridge with the help of Refugees at Home. That year, I decided to try to break free from the restrictions and fears that I felt, and tell some people about my homosexuality.

I remember when I told my host mother about my homosexuality, I was very worried about her reaction, but I saw a smile had drawn on her face and she said to me, ‘wonderful’. Then I felt that I was closer to my reality with such a relief and that I could breathe.

The importance of being with this family was not only having a safe place to live in, but feeling like I was on a new adventure, being able to express my feelings to someone who would listen to me with love and support. We watch gay movies together. I tell them about my unsuccessful dates and the good ones too. I invited a boyfriend home so that they could tell me what they thought of him. We have so much fun and as they say, ‘we cannot imagine Faraj not being gay.’

Today I can talk about Faraj, the gay young man, with open feelings. But being gay is not an easy thing, you have to go through a lot. However, remember you are a human being who carries a lot inside you and that you have the right to live like everyone else and that your difference is the secret of your beauty. Only be who you love to be and gays are the best.