2 min

Facing an uncertain future

Xtra speaks with four gay asylum seekers in Paris

Credit: Barbara Laborde

Name: Artem
Age: 24
Birthplace: Russia

Artem fled to Paris after it became unbearable to live as a gay man in Russia. He was attacked in the street there and says he finally told his family he wanted to study in France. He has been with his boyfriend for three years, but his boyfriend currently lives in the United States. They want to find a way to live together.

Artem registered with OFPRA and has been waiting nine months for an answer. He finds life in Paris “really tough” and is currently living in an apartment provided by a local association.


Age: 24
Birthplace: Mali

Mohamed fled his country via Senegal after his father discovered he is gay and tried to kill him. When Mohamed refused to marry a woman, his brother followed him; he soon found out about Mohamed’s sexuality and denounced him to the rest of the family. His father set fire to Mohamed’s home and business, and Mohamed escaped through a window.

His mother was more supportive but warned him to be careful. She had a heart attack and died a few days after he escaped.

Mohamed first fled to relatives in Paris, but his father threatened them and he had to leave. He no longer has contact with his family.


Name: Awa
Age: 28
Birthplace: Guinea

Awa says she became a lesbian so she could have “proper sexuality.” She was circumcised twice by her grandmother, who judged that the first operation hadn’t worked when she saw Awa with a lot of men.

Awa ran away from home after her father found out that she was in a relationship with a woman and beat her up. She has scars on her face from the beating and she lost several teeth. Her teeth were replaced in Paris.

Awa currently lives in a hotel and is waiting for an appointment with OFPRA. She has been in France since 2010.


I met JS through the the gay Muslim association (he did not want to be identified for this story). He used to work in a government ministry, which paid well and afforded him a comfortable life. When he came to France for a conference, an ex-boyfriend sent pictures of their sexual life to the government and JS’s family. The story appeared on the covers of magazines, and he could not return to Palestine. He sold all his personal belongings to survive and now works as a sex worker. JS says he feels “like a machine without a soul.” He lives at his clients’ homes or at a space provided by a local sex work association. His sister was threatened by his family when she tried to send him money. He tried to commit suicide a few weeks ago.