By Kate McNeely, GAIN Director of Development
As Pride Month draws to a close, I wanted to share this update with you because, like many, I didn’t realize the work GAIN does with LGBTQ+ individuals when I came to work here. It’s a story we don’t always tell, and I have come to see it from the perspective our GAIN team brings to so much of our work with specific and underserved communities — this may not be the issue we have been best known for, but for years we have been quietly doing the work with the compassion and cultural humility that our clients deserve.
So as an immigration legal services nonprofit, what is GAIN’s connection to the LGBTQ+ community? First, let’s begin with a few of the reasons that LGBTQ+ immigrants need our services.
In our Asylum program, we empower people who are fleeing persecution abroad, and for many of our clients, that persecution is directly related to who they are. According to a recent report from ILGA World (The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), there are 69 UN-member countries that have laws that criminalize homosexuality, and in over 30 of these countries, the laws are actively enforced, resulting in sentences of jail, public flogging, or even death for gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, transgender, and gender-nonconforming people around the world. The decision to leave your home country and seek refuge in the U.S. is not one that any of our clients take lightly, and yet after arriving in the U.S., many asylum-seekers struggle to access legal representation and/or fear disclosing their identity in order to support their case.
In our Victims of Violence program, we serve immigrant survivors, regardless of their gender identity or expression. Yet we know that transgender individuals face unique obstacles, including widespread mistreatment and violence, and are at higher risk of being targeted by traffickers. We also know that domestic violence is not limited to heterosexual partners and that undocumented transgender individuals are more likely to face severe economic hardship and violence. In fact, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that an overwhelming 68% of undocumented respondents had faced intimate partner violence.
Despite these obstacles, we have seen incredible bravery, resilience, and strength from the LGBTQ+ survivors we have had the privilege to support. In our 15-year history, GAIN has been proud to honor our humanitarian commitment to provide legal services to survivors of all sexual orientations and gender identities/expressions, and we have seen many of our clients go on to help their communities as advocates.
We are steadfast in our promise to stand with our LGBTQ+ clients, staff, and community. Now, as we continue to shift towards a more holistic view of our clients to inform our work, our road ahead is clear — at GAIN, we are committed to seeing our clients for who they are, respecting them, offering them refuge. This commitment is more than a promise made in June; it’s a critical part of our mission and our vision of a world with safety, freedom, and opportunity for all.
Happy Pride Month, y’all,
Director of Development