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A Note From the Editors

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© Edafe Okporo via Ron Foster

essays

LGBTQ Life in Jamaica and Honduras

by Edafe Okporo
June 17, 2019

Edafe Okporo is a Public Speaker, Author and the Executive Director of RDJ Refugee Shelter in Harlem. He was born in Warri Delta state Nigeria and self identifies as a member of the LGBT+ community that led to his displacement in 2016. Edafe currently resides in New York City and is a refugee of the United States of America.

For more on why LGBT+ asylum seekers are forced to flee you can download Edafe Okporo’s book, Bed 26. Follow Edafe @EdafeOkporo, on Instagram, and on YouTube.

RDJ Refugee Shelter is located in New York City and provides holistic care for LGBT+ refugees and asylum seekers experiencing housing insecurity. The shelter provides temporary housing and connects each guest to supplementary services like legal and medical help and education. It is the only shelter in New York City to focus on LGBT+ guests, as members of this community can be in danger in other city shelters.

RDJ Refugee Shelter guests comes from different parts of the world. However, when we look into our present and previous shelter guest list, we saw an overwhelming majority from Jamaica and Honduras. This led us to do an inquiry into these countries, to understand whats happening and why our guests from these countries felt unsafe in their home country. Our guests from these countries have told us that they flee because of their sexual orientation, but we decided to follow up with some research on LGBT+ laws in these countries – from our research, both Honduras and Jamaica have strict laws specifically targeting the lives of their LGBT+ citizens, that restrict their ability to express fully their identities.

Jamaica’s LGBT+ people or persons can face up to ten years in jail doing hard labor for having sexual intercouse with the same sex.

This draconian law makes it difficult to be a member of the LGBT+ community in Jamaica. The law empowers police and private citizens to enact violence against members of the Jamaica LGBT+ community. One of our guests from Jamaica told us of his ordeal of getting robbed, beaten, and almost killed by anti gay people in Jamaica. In 2017 Dexter Pottinger, a well known LGBT+ activist in Jamaica and face of the Jamaica pride was killed because of his vocal activism for a safe Jamaica for all her citizens. Pottinger’s murder exemplified a level of violence that LGBT+ people in Jamaica face and could face, one that comes with the possibility of the death from their community members without protection. This has led to more people who are outed as gay to flee to places that are considered safer for LGBT+ people like the United States.

The level of violence against members of LGBT+ community in Honduras has been rising. In 2011 Erick Martínez Avila an LGBT activist and journalist, wrote in a blog post, “The history of the LGBT+ community has been written with blood, bravery, and suffering.” Avila’s later murder was one of almost 300 violent LGBT+ deaths reported over the last eight years in a country with just over nine million people, according to the Daily Xtra.

With these two cases and verbal testimonies from our shelter guests, we draw a conclusion that LGBT+ people in countries like Jamaica, Honduras, and 80+ countries have laws that persecute LGBT+ people and force them to flee their countries in search of a safer place. In many of these places, being a member of the LGBT+ community is a good enough reason for community members to call for your execution. We commend and support activists on the ground who are fighting these battles to change societal perceptions and perceived norms of the LGBT+ community in order to gain acceptance and stop violence. We, at RDJ Refugee Shelter, are committed to serving LGBT+ Asylum seekers who have reached out to us for direct service, referrals and social support.