Note: this article contains references to violence.
I am a bisexual woman from an East African country. I was born and raised by a religious family in the capital city. I lived with both my father and mother under the same roof throughout my childhood. We were a middle-income family and had the basic needs of life. Growing up, we were a family of 12 children, all from one birth mum. Our parents were hard-working, and we were a little more privileged in comparison to other large families around us. Growing up and being the firstborn, I believe I was my parents’ favorite and they nurtured me into being a responsible child. Whenever they were not around, I would be the “deputy” parent at home. This was coupled with being responsible at school, earning various roles such as “school prefect.” My discipline was reflected in my academic performance.
At the age of eight years, one sad memory I have is the loss of the sister who followed me. She was seven and this depressed my family to a large extent because it happened so suddenly. And I was left with no playmate, and instead had to be a mature girl because the next younger child was just four years old. The most interesting event of my childhood before age 10 was when one day at school the head teacher was talking to us during the school assembly. The pupils around me were talking and I raised my voice to them to keep quiet and—boom—the headteacher noticed and I was immediately given a junior prefect role. That was a major turning point for me.
Growing up, I imagined the best thing about being an adult would be to be able to have the final word on everything in the home. I grew up thinking adults talk to God and he opens up future things to them and they practically know everything that would happen in the present and future. Professionally, I wanted to be an engineer.
What is interesting about me is that I can speak up when I want, and I can also keep my opinions to myself. I am a very friendly person, and I am funny. I come from a very conservative background about certain issues especially sexuality and gender identity. I like to uplift others and I will always give others my best self no matter what, but don’t get in my bad books—all that will vanish!
Searching online for resources and LGBTQ+ groups in the United States, I came across a church and emailed their pastor. I wrote to her about what I was going through, and she told me what they could offer at an LGBT asylum organization. She linked me up with two East African lesbians who were in the task force at the time and later to the ministry head, and I kept in contact with him until I arrived here.
I had a long-time girlfriend who was a lesbian and we stayed together in the same house. I had met her during high school at a single-sex school. We went to school together at University. We had both been disowned by our families due to our sexual orientation and had really gone through ups and downs together as is life’s journey. We graduated from University and started working at different companies. A few years ago, I was invited as a keynote speaker in Europe. There I met people who were outspoken about their gender and sexual identities—something I had never seen before. I went back home and told her about it but we both knew the rules of the country and we knew what the consequences could be. That same year there was an international music festival. We went to it since most of our queer friends were attending and that’s where trouble began: one news outlet reported that the festival was for LGBTQ+ people and that was enough to trigger turmoil for most of us, especially those who were known for frequenting the festival. That left us shifting from one place to another, one part of the country to another, leaving our jobs and being constantly on the run for fear of being taken into custody because that would mean decades years in cold cells for engaging in queer behavior.
One evening, when we were in an apartment that we had just moved into in a neighborhood we thought was safe, we were ambushed by police sirens, taken into custody, and spent two hours being interrogated. We were put into the same police station but different interrogation rooms. During my interrogation I kept denying having an affair with a fellow female as we had agreed with each other for safety. Later, at around 9:00 the following morning, I was set free and went directly home covered in a hood and with a blanket over my face to avoid media cameras. When I arrived home, my partner was not yet there. I tried calling her phone and when she picked up, she said,“It’s high time we broke up,” adding, “after all, you are even interested in men, and you denied our relationship in front of the police officer.” I explained to her that was the deal we had made, but it all fell on deaf ears. I tried getting her to meet with me and she became adamant.
After the lockdown in 2020, I got involved with a male partner who had been vibing me for some time. He persuaded me to move in with him. Two months down the road I got pregnant and that’s when hell broke loose. He claimed he didn’t want to have a child born by someone who is “confused” (I had told him about myself at the start of the relationship). I suggested that we separate and that I have an abortion. He called me a murderer and I asked him, “What do you want?”
He started locking me up into the house, abusing and beating me for no reason, taking away my phones, and leaving me with what I can refer to as a home prison. He resorted to raping me whenever he wanted, even though I was carrying his child. One time I even bled, which led me to think that the child was coming out. He didn’t allow me to go to the hospital. I contemplated suicide and he later commanded me to give him the child after its birth. He said, “Give it to me and I will leave you alone, or else I will take you to the police.” I knew he could because his family has strong political control, so I knew he had the power to make me vanish.
When I went into labor, I experienced severe back pain. I had never given birth before, and I didn’t realize I was in labor because I thought it would involve stomach pain. I showed up at the hospital well-guarded by his people. I failed to deliver, and it turned into a c-section. Four days later I was discharged from the hospital. At the gate of the hospital, he took the baby away from me and drove away.
I became depressed, even heartbroken because I had started bonding with my child. I started having panic attacks. I was stranded with nowhere to go and very afraid. One of the nurses at the hospital found me in despair and crying and she asked, “What’s wrong?” I explained to her what had happened. She said, “You need to get on your feet and also work with a lawyer.”
I was moving around like a headless chicken. I called a gay friend on a public pay phone and he picked me up and took me to his gay group place but the fact is that even the gay community treats me as not equal to them: they think I am just in transition from gay to straight and that I might even go back to being straight.
Fast forward three weeks: through a lawyer, I filed a complaint with the police, attempting to get my child back. I feared going to the police because I knew that would mean my whole story would come out and I would be incarcerated for my sexual orientation would be out there. After several meetings, the police sided with my ex, and I lost custody of my child. After getting this bombshell news, I decided to walk home and, on the way, a motorcycle taxi offered me a ride back home, but he ended up dumping me in a den of other men and I ended up being raped just three months after giving birth, on the same day I lost custody of my baby.
I just wanted not to see any other day after that and that’s when I decided to re-contact the pastor in the U.S. to ask if I could come and find a safe place anywhere in the world. I already had a U.S. visa I had gotten in 2020 for a conference.
The pastor linked me up with the LGBT asylum ministry head but I had to work on COVID vaccinations and figure out how to get an air ticket. I sold off my assets and arrived in the U.S. early in the morning, though I ended up missing two flights beforehand. I found the ministry head waiting for me in the cold night, and he ushered me to the LGBT asylum organization.
As a bi person I have not been accepted by gay or straight societies. You feel like you are not a part of them and are seen as polygamous even though you can be bi and monogamous.
Sincerely, the LGBT asylum organization has helped with accommodation and a monthly stipend of $500, and the rest I am still trying to figure out. I’m excited that a bi women’s group might be helpful. I will need help in transitioning into this new like-minded society.