Stories from Rainbow Street
Rainbow Street stands in solidarity with exceptionally vulnerable LGBT people in the Middle East by providing resources for shelter, food, internet, health care, and other necessities. Local Rainbow Street field coordinators work with LGBT beneficiaries to help them move beyond survival and onto a path toward stability and independence.
Each beneficiary represents a unique story of betrayal and loss, coupled with determination and hope. Rainbow Street is doing all we can to support them. These are their stories.
Note that some names have been altered to protect anonymity.
Osama is Rainbow Street’s first beneficiary. When Osama was forcibly outed to his conservative family, he was suddenly in grave danger in a society that offered no protection.. Osama reached out to a small group of activists, and Rainbow Street was formed.
Rainbow Street scraped together the resources necessary for Osama to rent a room in a discreet apartment near his university. After graduating, Osama’s risks escalated and he was forced to flee to the United States.
Osama’s story is far from over, but he continues to make progress. With Rainbow Street’s support, Osama has established himself in the United States, and with the help of a pro bono immigration attorney, has filed for political asylum. After months of waiting, he now has a work permit and a rewarding job that allows him to support himself, pay taxes, and contribute to the community while he awaits a decision on his application for asylum.
Bader is a human rights activist who works with UNHCR to support fellow LGBT refugees. He’s also a powerful writer and poet who regularly shares his truth on his page Diary of a Queer Refugee. He wrote his own story below.
Bader is a trans person who fled to Lebanon over a year ago.
Bader’s family knew about him from the beginning. To protect the family reputation, they forced him to wear a headscarf and forbade him from enrolling in university. They beat him often.
After many years of abuse, Bader finally escaped his family. He remained in hiding and was forced to flee twice more as he traveled to different Middle Eastern countries. He was often homeless, sleeping on building rooftops and other makeshift shelters that didn’t protect him from the winter cold. He walked long distances on an empty stomach because he had no money for food or transportation.
Bader’s ID doesn’t match his appearance, which led to many hardships. No one will hire him, and he’s often detained at police checkpoints. He avoided hospitals for over a year because he was scared to present any identifying documents. Many people tried to exploit or harm him, so Bader tried his best to keep his trans identity to himself.
Today Bader lives in Lebanon. Having a safe place to live is essential for him. When he first got to Lebanon, he lost 22 lb. and started having health problems because he didn't have enough money to eat. For his safety, Bader can't live in the cheaper neighborhoods outside of Beirut. He tried to for a while, but he was stopped and almost detained twice by different religious groups.
With the support of Rainbow Street, Bader now lives in a relatively safe part of Beirut and can eat food whenever he feels hungry—no more depending on friends and strangers to share their food. Soon the winter is coming and there's even more need to live in a warm place, but Bader can live safely with Rainbow Street’s assistance until he's resettled by UNHCR.
Omar is a trans man currently living as a refugee in Beirut, Lebanon. Omar questioned his gender identity from an early age. But due to unbearable family pressure in his traditional community, he was forced to marry a man and bear a child. Omar’s husband abused him because of his refusal to conform to gender norms. After years of abuse and nowhere to turn, Omar fled to Beirut, where he lived in homelessness and food insecurity--common challenges for LGBT refugees awaiting resettlement.
Rainbow Street learned of Omar’s case soon after his arrival in Lebanon and leapt into action to get him off the street and into safe housing. Besides providing for Omar’s necessary expenses, Rainbow Street has been coordinating with multiple governmental and non-governmental organizations to help Omar permanently resettle in a safe country.
As a transgender woman from a small village in the Arabian Peninsula, Raghad has endured discrimination and abuse since her early days in a school system segregated by gender.
As a teenager, Raghad’s family subjected her to medical “tests” to determine her “true” gender. Bogus results gave them all the justification they needed to reject her identity as a woman. When Raghad began receiving death threats from armed groups, Raghad escaped her hometown to live with her aunt for a short time before eventually fleeing the country altogether.
Rainbow Street’s assistance provides the financial, moral, and institutional support necessary for Raghad to focus on her next steps. Currently, the Rainbow Street team is working with a network of organizations to help Raghad achieve her long-term goal of resettling permanently in a safe country where she can complete her gender realignment surgery and pursue a career in fashion.
Rainbow Street currently supports another individual who prefers to keep their name and story private.
Ayman is a young gay man from the Arabian peninsula. He became Rainbow Street’s first success story when he was permanently resettled in Ottawa, Canada with the help of UNHCR and a local guardian group. Congratulations, Ayman!
Rainbow Street learned of Ayman’s case when he was living as a refugee in Amman, Jordan. Unable to work legally, Ayman was vulnerable to exploitation and forced to engage in risky behavior to make ends meet. Rainbow Street’s sustained monthly assistance provided the stability that Ayman needed to focus on his future instead of his immediate survival.