TORONTO, ON: DECEMBER 2, 2013 

Abdulah reacts after his hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. He fled Uganda to Canada three days after he was imprisoned and tortured by local police because of his sexual orientation. Being gay in Ugand

Abdulah reacts after his hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. He fled Uganda to Canada three days after he was imprisoned and tortured by local police because of his sexual orientation.

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Homosexuality permeates all borders, religions and cultures yet it is one of the most consistently persecuted traits in the world. In over 75 countries homosexuality is outlawed. In at least five countries homosexual acts are punishable by death.

Most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) refugees have suffered immense psychological and physical abuse. These abuses come from members of their own community, often from their own family, and from the state and police forces.

Upon arriving in Canada, they must navigate our immigration system with minimal resources, language skills and support. The entire future of these refugees is dependant upon one person’s decision at a single hearing. In many cases, individuals have spent their entire lives hiding their sexuality and often have little proof or documentation to support their claims.

Their journeys are usually made alone and in secret. Even in Canada, many are afraid of approaching ethnic enclaves from their home countries because prejudice beliefs are often not left at the border.

This portrait series looks at the emotional struggle and the isolation endured by each individual as they struggle with issues of their own identity in a new liberal society and the uncertainty of their futures within it.

Soraya
TORONTO, ON: JANUARY 21, 2014

Soraya Hoggarth came to Canada on a tourist visa in an effort to temporarily escape the stress of hiding her sexuality from her loved ones – something that the Jamaican native, a lesbian, has been doing her whole life

Soraya Hoggarth came to Canada from Jamaica, where she felt she had to hide her sexuality from from her family and community for her own safety.

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Daniel
TORONTO, ON: APRIL 30, 2014

Daniel rides the subway to the file his refugee claim at Citizenship and Immigration Canada in Toronto, ON, on April 30, 2014.

Daniel came to Canada on a study visa to escape harassment he faced in Brazil for being gay

Daniel rides the subway to the file his refugee claim at Citizenship and Immigration Canada in Toronto. Daniel came to Canada on a study visa to escape harassment he faced in Brazil for being gay. He has been bullied since childhood and was violently assaulted multiple times before he fled to Canada. (His claim was accepted)

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Eugenia
TORONTO, ON: MARCH 25, 2014

Desperate to escape sexual and physical abuse from a former male partner and years of harassment from her community for being a lesbian, Eugenia Flavius used a dating website in St. Lucia to find someone who would pay

Desperate to escape sexual and physical abuse from a former male partner and years of harassment from her community for being a lesbian, Eugenia Flavius used a dating website in St. Lucia to find someone who would pay for her to come to Canada. She ended up in a Toronto women’s shelter after she was assaulted by a Canadian man who had agreed to help her with a visa extension. Female refugees travelling alone are an extremely vulnerable demographic and are often so afraid to return home that they enter into dangerous situations. (Eugenia Flavius finally received a hearing in October 2014 and her claim was accepted)

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Kate
VANCOUVER, BC: MAY 27, 2014

Kate (an alias), a male to female transgender refugee from South Korea, sits on her bed in a room she rents in Surrey, BC., on May 27, 2014.

Kate came to Canada from South Korea after being conscripted to the military. S

Kate (an alias), a male to female transgender refugee from South Korea, sits on her bed in a room she rents in Vancouver. Kate came to Canada from South Korea after being conscripted to the military. She identifies as female and was not comfortable living as a man, nor being forced to live and share showers with strange men for two years of service. She was told she had to get a sex change to avoid service, join the military or be imprisoned. Kate had a successful hearing in May 2014 and will eventually become a permanent resident.

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Rodney
TORONTO, ON: MARCH 28, 2014

Rodney de Roche, centre left, prays at Friday congregational prayers at the Toronto Unity Mosque, on March 28, 2014.

Rodney came to Canada from Trinidad and Tobago to escape a gang that was threatening his life an exto

Rodney de Roche, centre left, prays at Friday congregational prayers at the Toronto Unity Mosque. Rodney came to Canada from Trinidad and Tobago to escape a gang that was threatening his life an extorting him for money after discovering that he was gay.

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Benjamin
TORONTO,ON: FEBRUARY 2, 2014

Edgar Benjamin Buenrostro (Benjamin), left, eats lunch with his boyfriend Eric in their apartment in Toronto on February 2, 2014. Benjamin came to Canada as a refugee from Mexico because of the discrimination he face

Edgar Benjamin Buenrostro (Benjamin), left, came to Canada as a refugee from Mexico because of the discrimination he faced for being gay. Benjamin was harassed by members of his community and sexually assaulted by a police officer while walking home one day.

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Aketa
TORONTO, ON: JANUARY 9, 2014

Aketa Tonge laughs at the 519 Church Street community centre in Toronto on January 9, 2014. Tonge came to Canada from Antigua in 2011 after years of torment and death threats for being gay.

Aketa’s boyfriend came to Ca

Aketa Tonge came to Canada from Antigua in 2011 after years of torment and death threats for being gay. Aketa’s boyfriend came to Canada from Jamaica as a refugee for the same reason a year earlier. He bought a plane ticket for Aketa and helped him through the refugee process. "I used to have nightmares and it took me a while to really believe that I'm here," says Aketa.

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Justin
TORONTO, ON: MAY 15, 2014

Justin Romanov, an 18-year-old gay refugee from Russia, rests on a bed in the room he rents in Toronto, on May 15, 2014.

Romanov came to Canada on a study visa to get away from the harassment he faced for being gay. He h

Justin Romanov, an 18-year-old gay refugee from Russia, rests on a bed in the room he rents in Toronto. Romanov came to Canada on a study visa to get away from the harassment he faced for being gay. He has been arrested by police on three separate occasions for protesting the laws against LGBT people in Russia. (Romanov had a successful hearing and will remain in Canada.)

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