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You’re a lesbian? Prove it.


That’s what you have to do if you’re seeking asylum in the UK. Perhaps your family and your partner of 20 years have been killed. Perhaps you’re sentenced to stoning in your country of origin. Perhaps you jump through the necessary hoops and produce private, personal photographs and even a video of your sexual activities.

Is that good enough? Have you proven you’re a lesbian yet?

Apparently not to the government prosecutors of the UK.

Maybe you foolishly took measures to try and save your own life in Nigeria–tried to live undercover, married a man, even had kids (I mean, everybody knows lesbians can’t have kids, right? And real lesbians have never dated a man ever in their lives. Hey, maybe if you just explained you were bisexual, that sentence of stoning would be commuted!). Maybe you made the, um, “mistake” of “looking feminine” in Nigeria, either because you were femme or because you didn’t want to be killed. (Everybody knows lesbians never look feminine, right?)

A judge is ruling on Aderonke Apata’s case in weeks.

In my opinion, this is about the intersection of misogyny, homophobia, heterosexism (ever had a penis in your vagina? that penis is so powerful that it makes you straight no matter what else you’ve experienced.), anti-immigration sentiment, and yes, racism. It’s about the devaluing of a woman’s life, the dismissal of her trauma and of her identity because her lesbian experience doesn’t conform to some prosecutorial ideal, because she’s black, and because she’s an immigrant. Apata’s lesbianism is on trial, and 10 bucks says it’s not other lesbians who are ruling on it. (That wouldn’t make it OK, but there’s something particularly grotesque about a bunch of straight people sitting around passing judgment on whether or not somebody is a “real” lesbian and deciding that she doesn’t measure up to their bigoted white-centered stereotypes.)

Asylum for Aderonke Facebook page.

UK taxes are paying for these insults, just as my taxes go to the right-wing’s faith-based initiatives here in the US and the racist war on drugs and suchlike. And yet forced-birthers whine that they shouldn’t have to fund abortion because they “morally object” to it. Well, I morally object to any number of things in my own country, and what the UK is doing to Apata.

20 thoughts on You’re a lesbian? Prove it.

  1. Ironically if your goal is getting assaulted, the only way you have to prove you’re a lesbian is by refusing a (any) man’s sexual advances…or having short hair and walking down the street with another womsan.

    1. Except, neither of those are culturally any proof at all that one is a lesbian and it is ridiculous for the Home Office to consider them so.

      Short or close-cropped hair amongst black women living in west Africa isn’t exactly uncommon. It’s a way of wearing one’s hair that is generally attractive, low-maintenance, and sensible for a tropical climate. Skirts or dresses are a generally attractive, low-maintenance, and sensible clothing choice for a tropical climate. Men in west Africa will wear boubou and formal daishikis, both of which can pass for womens’ dresses in western countries, for the same reason.

      It’s as asinine and absurd to point at mode of dress without cultural and environmental context as proof that someone is or isn’t a lesbian, as it is to use the eight layers of clothing worn by a white woman standing outdoors in Saskatoon in January as evidence that she is A Good Pure Girl. Her clothing is undoubtedly very, very modest….but it is modesty borne of necessity (not freezing to death) and to conflate that with assumptions of her sexual behaviour makes no sense at all.

      1. I don’t think Fat Steve was being literal. I think he was trying to give examples of things that are “proof” enough to get someone gay-bashed, specifically to highlight the fact that homophobes’ obviously ridiculous idea of “acceptable proof” shifts whenever it’s convenient.

        1. I don’t think Fat Steve was being literal. I think he was trying to give examples of things that are “proof” enough to get someone gay-bashed, specifically to highlight the fact that homophobes’ obviously ridiculous idea of “acceptable proof” shifts whenever it’s convenient.

          I would have really worried about my powers of communication if no one had got that this was my point, so thank you, really, thank you.

          Having said that, Clytemnestra’s Sister made some good points so there was some value in her taking me literally.

        2. I got that, but the point that Steve picked up on was hanging there and needed to be made.

          Climate and environment shape us and what we do just as much as less tangible cultural factors. When people don’t take that into account it drives me bonkers.

        3. And also, the person in question is seeking refugee status. It therefore directly follows that she is unlikely to be from a cultural like the UK, and as a result, using cultural “tells” that are common in the UK is also asinine and absurd and, in this case, potentially fatal!

    2. I agree, although I’m sure a great majority of gay men and women have never done anything sexual with someone of the opposite sex, and they obviously never will; it still seems ridiculous that these huge stereotypes still exist to determine who is gay and who isn’t. No doubt they would do the same thing to a gay man seeking asylum, if he was married to a woman, had sex with and dated other women and had children, etc. the whole thing is just sickening. Let her have peace!

  2. The barrister continued, saying: “You can’t be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day. Just as you can’t change your race.”

    Actually, in a way that’s how every lesbian comes into being. Because heterosexism. So yeah, buddy, today is a brand new gay day. This guy is a slimy wart cookie.

    1. Well no, MOST gay men and women are gay because they truly are born that way, I mean sure there are men and women who choose to be gay for many different reasons. And of course this story could also apply to gay men, since there of course are gay men who have dated and had sex with women, and had kids, etc. But for many gays and lesbians, being a homosexual is part of who they are, and they can never change that.

      1. I think that what Broseidon means is that due to homophobia and heterosexism, many, many gay men and lesbians try to live straight lives before coming out, and that having done that doesn’t make them less gay.

      2. MOST gay men and women are gay because they truly are born that way

        I’m gay, and have been pretty aware of it or something like it my whole life, but I have no basis for claiming that I was born that way. And I won’t, not even if it makes homophobes feel better, because I refuse to say something like that for which I have absolutely zero evidence.

        It’s a false binary to say you’re either born gay or choose to be gay.

        Straight and gay are false binaries themselves. I feel fairly certain that there is a vast invisible bisexual population that is far more upsetting to heterosexism than the Kinsey Sixers.

  3. I have to admit I don’t even understand why she has to prove a damn thing, aside from “I am under sentence of death in my home country for something that is not a crime here.” She could be as straight as a Euclidean line, and if she was thought to be gay in her homeland and placed under sentence of death, she should still get asylum. The point ought to not be is she gay enough to be allowed to stay, but is she a human being who will face death and torture if she is not allowed to stay? How is that not a no-brainer?

    1. I think their terrified people will pretend to be gay for Asylum. With some disgusting logic about if people can hide aka be bisexual they should be able to deal.

      1. @Asia; I agree, I think terrified people can be whatever they have to be, to remove themselves from a life threatening situation.

        1. I don’t think the idea of pretending to be gay to get help is a real threat. It would increase your danger if your rejected, isolate you from your home community, require rejecting your own homophobia/worldview and I’m sure the immigrant community knows the odds of acceptance.

    2. It’s only a no-brainer if you see your task as to protect people who are being persecuted.

      However, it’s pretty obvious that he sees his job as to keep “not like us” people as far from his sacred soil as possible while maintaining the pretense that they are concerned for the “truly oppressed.” In this respect, he’s not all that different from his counterparts in the other first-world countries I’m familiar with (USA, Germany, Australia.) If you recognize that his line of questioning is about creating a pretext for throwing her back to the wolves, it makes sense.

      In the USA, at least, there’s also the aspect that you can only be considered to be oppressed if you’re from a country whose government the US opposes. So, for instance, top artists from the USSR were pretty much guarranteed asylum, while refugees from Central American countries whose genocidal policies were approved of if not orchestrated by the USA were virtually never recognized as being in any danger. I don’t know enough about UK-Nigerian relations to say whether that’s a factor here.

  4. This story is just horrifying! She’s a human being regardless of her sexuality! Let her be safe! It’s so frightening because this story could apply to any homosexual person. Gay men have also dated and sex with women and had children, etc. (although I’m sure a great majority of gays and lesbians have never had sex with someone of the opposite sex and they never will). But of course the point is that everyone is different.

  5. (ever had a penis in your vagina? that penis is so powerful that it makes you straight no matter what else you’ve experienced.)

    Incidentally, the flip side of this is “Guys, ever had a penis in your butt or mouth? Then you are gay, gay, ever so gay, no matter what else you’ve experience.”

    Penises ARE oddly powerful, indeed.

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