“I Am Not Ashamed of Who I Truly Am”: Speaking up for Others in a Foreign Land
Dieumerci is a young migrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and a proud gay man. As he walks through the crowded streets of downtown Oslo,he is unafraid of the prejudices that people around him may have about his appearance and the way he dresses.
“Here I can be myself, I can work, live my life without fear of being persecuted”, he says recalling the challenges he faced before embarking on his journey from Uganda four years ago.
For many lesbians, gay, bi, trans, queer and intersex (LGBTIQ+) people, leaving their communities for a safer and more welcoming place is the only way to find a job, get access to healthcare or escape family rejection, criminalization, threats and violence.
Notwithstanding the stigma and discrimination he has experienced in DRC and Uganda, Dieumerci has kept his positive outlook on life. “I hope to achieve my full potential by having migrated to a country where I face less discrimination.”
Upon his arrival in Norway in 2019, Dieumerci took cultural orientation and hands-on training sessions provided by International Organization for Migration (IOM)´s Norwegian Cultural Orientation Program (NORCO) and funded by the Norwegian Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi). The inclusion of LGBTIQ+ rights in the curriculum made him feel seen and free. For the first time, he found courage and experienced hope that he could put the challenges he went through due to his sexual orientation behind him. Lesson by lesson, Dieumerci built up his self-confidence during the initial stages of his resettlement and integration into Norwegian society.
Although he learned about the core legal obligations of European States to protect LGBTIQ+ people, he confides that integrating in Oslo still has its obstacles. “I realized that discrimination against us doesn’t fully stop, and even here people tend to look for reasons not to include you.,.
I am not ashamed of who I truly am. I will join my fellow brothers and sisters to celebrate Pride united and proud.
This is why it is important to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia, and Intersexphobia (IDAHOBIT) according to Dieumerci, a day to raise awareness of LGBTIQ+ rights violations and work for their rights worldwide.
“People need to know that we exist, and we don’t ask much, just attention from the host communities. Our existence and reasons to migrate should be known by everybody”, he emphasizes reflecting upon the lives of those persecuted and killed due to their sexual orientation.
Despite the hardships Dieumerci has endured, he expresses his hope for the future using a Congolese expression, “'molo-molo' (little by little), we will get there. I am not ashamed of who I truly am. I will join my fellow brothers and sisters to celebrate Pride united and proud”, he says with a smile.