Jonathan’s Story: Pride and healing paths for LGTBIQ+ Venezuelan migrants and refugees
June is Pride month, an opportunity to celebrate all forms of love and diversity. It is also a reminder of all the challenges the LGTBIQ+ community faces worldwide, especially for those individuals in the context of human mobility. June has also been the month where two main events around the Venezuelan migration in Latin America and the Caribbean occurred: The High-level Meeting with Civil Society in Solidarity with Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants, co-hosted on 14 June by the Coalition for the Defense of the Rights of Refugees, Migrants, and Displaced People in LAC (Coalition LAC RMD), the Government of Canada, and the European Commission for Crisis Management; side-event of the International Donors’ Conference in Solidarity with Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants, on 17 June, hosted by the Government of Canada.
Jonathan, a Venezuelan participant from RET’s Psychosocial Support Program in Costa Rica, gave his testimony as a speaker in the High-Level Meeting with Civil Society, as a member of the LGTBIQ+ community and Venezuelan Migrant to share the challenges and development needs his community is facing.
During his speech, Jonathan talked about his experience and how the stigmatization and discrimination make access to services more difficult or reduces the opportunities to find a job.
“It is like coming out of the closet again… you not only present yourself as a foreigner, but you also have to present yourself as gay because people are going to ask… do you have a wife? And then you explain again, perhaps with shame, with insecurities,” Jonathan said.
“There is still a lot of discrimination, for being trans, for being a lesbian, for being bisexual … there is also a sensitive issue, and is having HIV.” He explained migrants and refugees with HIV are the most vulnerable; they travel for opportunities to access treatment and arrive at the host countries with the hope of starting a new life. By the testimony of a friend, he said this kind of journey is not easy; there are barriers to access to health services, and being without the support of their families makes it more challenging. There is also the fear of not finding a job or losing it because of the stigma.
Jonathan would like to become a psychologist to help other members of the LGBTQI+ community in their process of integration. He has received psychosocial support through the UNCHR program “Responding to the specific needs of refugees and asylum seekers in Costa Rica,” in which RET, as implementing partner, works to empower individuals to access their rights in society; enabling a participatory platform for social integration and strengthening their emotional and mental health through psychosocial support and attention.
In his words, this experience helps him understand his situation from another perspective, “Fortunately, here in Costa Rica I have met wonderful people and incredible organizations such as RET, who help me obtain and understand all these tools and all these complex thoughts and situations… that makes us understand that we are human beings and we all are different, and we must accept ourselves and others.”
“At least, I dream of studying psychology and helping each of the members of the LGBT community who have gone through all these situations because it is a career that I feel enables you to connect with people and with feelings.”
At the end of his speech, he made a call to International Cooperation and INGOs to support the education of young Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees from the LGTBIQ+ community, and to make more efforts to reduce barriers to access treatments and health services for migrants and refugees with HIV in the host countries in Latin America.
The stories of participants like Jonathan stand witness to their achievements and RET’s key role in their lives. RET would like to thank UNCHR for its support and response to the needs of refugees and asylum seekers in Costa Rica.
The LAC RMD Coalition issues a call to action in the framework of the International Donors’ Conference in Solidarity with Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants
The LAC RDM Coalition salutes and thanks the Government of Canada and the R4V Platform for convening the International Donors’ Conference, as well as the European Union and the international donor community for their commitment to the more than 5.6 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela, 4.6 million of whom are in Latin America and the Caribbean.
According to the 2021 Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan for Venezuela (RMRP) there are 7.2 million people with humanitarian need: 3.4 million Venezuelans settled in host countries, and the rest returnees, in transit and/or in pendular movement, a population that in 2020 particularly suffered the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The challenges for Venezuelan migrants and refugees are manifold: evictions, lack of safe shelter, gender-based violence, inability for children and adolescents to access or remain in education, violation of health and reproductive rights, the resurgence of sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and girls, the lack of access to regular and adequate food and nutrients, loss of sources of income, including people with disabilities often engaged in informal work, difficulties in accessing treatment for people with chronic illnesses, discrimination and violence, particularly towards the LGBTQI+ population, the lack of opportunities for young people and lack of responses for people with disabilities. These factors, among other affectations, have had a serious impact on the physical and psychological integrity of the population.