Coming out for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Authors: Psych. (M.Sc.) Lu Kenntner & M. Albarzawi

For refugees and asylum seekers, coming out has yet another meaning and challenges can be even greater.

In different life situations, disclosing one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity can be more or less necessary and can involve different consequences. The support network may be better able to cater to the needs of queer refugees if they speak openly about their identity. At the same time, it can lead to further experiences of discrimination and exclusion if people who are not sensitive to the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity or who hold biased and stereotypical views are involved.

It might help to look out for clues in the relevant environment, institution or organization that signal an open attitude towards these issues. This could take the form of brochures or flyers that include the rainbow flag. You can try to indirectly sense people’s views on sexual orientation and gender identity issues until you are sure as to who and when you can share your concerns. Try to find the right moment to take such steps, while also trying to involve groups and individuals who are generally accepting of sexual and gender diversity. Create positive relationships that can motivate you. You can find access to such people via LGBTQI*-specific advocacy centers.

Coming Out in the Support Network: 

Throughout the duration of the asylum seeking procedure and beyond, it may be necessary to contact various support functions, be it in refugee accommodation, in (psycho) social support centers or government authorities. Sometimes they may need to know about your sexual orientation or gender identity so that they can better cater to your needs, e.g. if you want to change your accommodation situation due to feeling uncomfortable or at risk, or if you need help in finding LGBTQI*-specific support services.

It is important to know that the majority of these people that you will talk to usually have a duty of confidentiality and are not allowed to pass on any information about you unless you personally give permission for them to do so. It is also usually recommended that you let these people know if you do not want to reveal your sexual orientation or gender identity to those around you.

Coming Out in the Asylum Seeking Procedure:

  • When being interviewed by the BAMF (German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees), it is important that you talk openly and credibly about your sexual orientation and/or gender identity, if you wish for this to be recognized as a reason for persecution.
  • You will have to talk about very personal matters and will have to credibly show that your sexual orientation or gender identity is the reason for your persecution. It should be noted here that although you may be asked private questions about your daily life and your feelings and experiences, questions relating to sexual practices or showing and requesting visual evidence of sexual practices is prohibited.
  • If a question is too personal, you do not have to answer it. Medical or psychological reports on sexual orientation may not be requested. If you have medical records that document hormone therapy or gender reassignment, these can be helpful if you want to be recognized as a trans or intersex person.
  • Photos or press reports that show you getting involved as an activist or taking part in LGBTQI* events can also help as evidence of your situation. Notices or documents regarding court proceedings against you can also serve as important pieces of evidence.
  • The meeting can be ended at any time and a new appointment requested, should you feel in any way uncomfortable or not respected, be it due to the person conducting the meeting or the language mediator.

Language Mediation

We have developed a handout on the subject of language mediation for people seeking advice, psychosocial specialists and language mediators when advising LGBTQI* persons. The handout is available for those seeking advice in GermanEnglish and Arabic


Last updated: 06/23/2021 - 11:36

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