Metro Weekly

British judge rejects LGBTQ asylum seeker for lacking gay “demeanor”

Lawyer slams homophobic comparison with an "effeminate" claimant who "wore lipstick"

Victorian Civil Courtroom — Photo: Fayerollinson / Wiki Commons

A British immigration judge rejected an asylum application from a gay man because he lacked a homosexual “demeanor,” according to the man’s lawyer.

The asylum seeker, who reportedly comes from a country where homosexuality is illegal, was attending a first-tier immigration tribunal in London. Court findings are typically not published, but the man’s lawyer, Rehana Popal, disclosed them to The Guardian.

They reveal that the judge refused the man’s application after comparing him to a previous gay asylum applicant who “wore lipstick” and acted in an “effeminate” manner.

According to Popal, the judge wrote that he had “seen [the claimant’s] demeanor,” but said that a previous gay applicant was more believably gay, noting that it was “not just that he wore lipstick and had an effeminate way of looking around the room and speaking but he is also a member of a gay community organisation.”

Popal said the judge’s comments were “from the 16th century” and based on “a stereotype embedded in prejudice.”

“He has taken a stereotype, used it as a benchmark and compared my client to it,” Popal told the Guardian. “That is totally wrong. You do not need to dress a certain way, carry yourself a certain way or look a certain way to be homosexual. The only thing that makes a person gay is if they are attracted to someone of the same gender.”

The judge also referred to the age difference between the claimant and his older male partner, whose application for asylum was approved by a different immigration judge the previous month.

“I understand that on the gay scene younger men are highly valued,” the judge wrote in discussing their relationship, something Popal called homophobic and akin to comparing homosexuality with pedophilia.

Popal successfully appealed the decision, with a subsequent tribunal ruling that the initial judge’s decision was incorrect and returning the case to court to be examined again.

A government spokesperson told the Guardian that the United Kingdom “has a proud record of providing protection for asylum seekers fleeing persecution” and that each case is “considered on its individual merits by experienced caseworker.”

However, they also noted guidelines that require decision-makers to “not stereotype the behavior or characteristics of gay or bisexual persons.”

Asylum seekers and immigrants have to contend with anti-LGBTQ attitudes from immigration officials worldwide.

Last month, it was revealed that Australian immigration officers asked a gay couple seeking asylum if they liked “drinking cum,” in addition to a number of “intrusive” and highly personal questions about their sex life.

The Australian government then spent 18 months trying to prevent details of the interview from being released, fearing negative media reaction.

Also in July, CNN obtained emails showing that border agents in Texas forced a Honduran migrant to hold a sign reading “I like men” in an attempt to humiliate him.

The man was told to walk in front of other migrants in the detention center, while Customs and Border Patrol agents laughed at him.

And last year, an autopsy revealed that a transgender woman who died while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody had likely been physically abused prior to her death.

Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez fled gang violence and persecution in Central American, but died May 25, most likely from “severe complications of dehydration superimposed upon HIV infection.”

A second autopsy also found evidence of bruises, hemorrhaging, and blunt-force trauma, though ICE rejected the suggestion that she had been abused while in custody.

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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