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COMMENTARY: LGBT Asylum Support Task Force can use your help

My name is Pastor Judy Hanlon and I am the co-founder of the LGBT Asylum Support Task Force that physically resides in Worcester, Mass, but helps anyone who contacts us.

You have recently read about Juan in San Diego Gay & Lesbian News. He came from El Salvador to San Diego but contacted me in Worcester via the Internet. We were able to get pastors, drivers, housing, social support, legal support and transportation so that he could thrive in your beautiful state.

Did you know that there are almost 80 countries in which it is illegal to be gay? Our Task Force has helped nearly 30 people from El Salvador, Iraq, Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Lebanon and Palestine.

Some have found us through our website, www.lgbtasylum.org. Others have friends that made it here and their gay friends told them about this Task Force. Folks we have supported live in Texas, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Canada!

Through my own connections with the United Church of Christ’s LGBT Coalition and other denominations’ “OUT” groups, I have been able (usually) to find a pastor or a church or an AA group or SOMEONE, who they can connect with safely.

We are NOT a Christian organization, though religious abuse from both fundamentalist Muslims and Christians is something from which all asylum seekers must heal. I can provide exegetical work on the EIGHT Christian “clobber texts” and will simply pray to the God of our flamboyant universe with our Muslim friends.

One Jamaican man said that a herd of deacons prayed over him for eight hours that the demon of homosexuality would come OUT OF HIM! For months after being safe in America, he had night terrors about that event!

We would love to come and tell you how to replicate what we are doing, especially since San Diego is said to have the best weather in the entire world! Until then, if you could find a way to financially help us, that would be absolutely amazing.

At this moment, we are supporting nine asylum seekers to the tune of about $4,000 per month. We have exhausted all grants and simply do fundraisers, from spaghetti suppers to yard sales, from “cocktails for cash” amid our wealthier supporters to letters of desperate appeals!
Your tax deductible contribution could be mailed to Hadwen Park Church, 6 Clover St., Worcester, Mass, 01603. Write in the MEMO: LGBT fund.

I will close with a short story of a woman whose name I will not divulge. She is living, closeted right now, and is experiencing harassment by her Ugandan landlord. She needs housing now. It would be wonderful if you could help Jane.

Jane’s story

My name is Jane. I am from Uganda and am a lesbian.

My family tried to have me marry, but I resisted. I decided to have a baby so that I could have a “cover.” Plus, I always dreamed of motherhood and couldn't figure how that would happen with a woman. I met what I thought was a suitable man. I got pregnant. Then, he began to beat me and sell me for sex.

I was kept locked up. He would bring multiple men to me daily during my pregnancy. I had the baby; it was a girl. I had two weeks off before he began to sell me for sex again. I tried to run, he caught me and brought me back. When I ran away again, I could not take my baby.

My story after that is very sad and long. Finally, I got to America. I found the Task Force and could not believe that a minister said that being gay was God’s gift. I now have friends and others who have gone through what I have gone through. I don't have asylum yet, but I can see hope and with hope, I will continue to fight for my freedom.

When I am safe and can speak, I will advocate for all the children of Uganda who are starving for food, for hope and just to be accepted for who they were created to be. Until then, I hope that you can advocate on our behalf! Thank you, America.

How to help

LGBT Asylum Support Task Force, based in Worcester, Mass., provides financial and social support to LGBT persons seeking political asylum in the United States, while educating people about the treatment of LGBT persons worldwide in an effort to make it safe for all people. The task force welcomes charitable contributions for their life-saving work, which is resourced and/or supported in part by Lutheran Social Services, the E. Rhodes & Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and other sources. Financial gifts can be mailed to: Hadwen Park Church, LGBT Fund, 6 Clover St., Worcester, MA 01603. To contact the Rev. Judith K. Hanlon, send email to gracelift@aol.com.