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Unique Issues Additionally Faced By LGBTQI Refugees

Sarah Schneider
90.5 WESA

LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers face additional challenges once they get to the United States. A panel of refugee experts, hosted by the Peduto administration’s Welcoming Pittsburgh initiative, addressed those issues Wednesday.

Beni Dedieu Luzau said for many refugees or asylum seekers, being LGBTQI means scrutiny and isolation from their own community, and in some communities could even mean death. He said they come to the U.S. for freedom, but then fear for survival if they come out.

“In their own community, people still remind them of the very people they feared back home,” he said.

Didieu Luzau is the Maryland representative for the United Nations’ Refugee Congress. He came to the United States in 2009 as a Congolese refugee.

Two years later, the UN established the Refugee Congress for refugees to advocate for refugee issues by, “Drawing on their experiences and sharing their views on how to address issues of most concern to refugees.”

Panelists agreed, telling stories of refugees they had worked with who, in addition to trying to find work and a place to live, faced challenges like telling their families they didn’t want an arranged marriage.

Dawn Brubacker, lead service coordinator of refugee and immigrant services for Jewish Family and Children Services, said many refugees deny their sexual orientation because of the stigma.

“A refugee might have to give up their community to be themselves,” she said.

Credit Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Beni Dedieu Luzau listens during the panel discussion on LGBTQI refugee issues.

Kheir Mugwaneza, director of the community assistance and refugee resettlement northern area multi-service center, said Pittsburgh, in particular, has a long way to go to have the resources necessary for LGBTQI refugees. 

Sarah Schneider is WESA's education reporter. From early learning to higher education, Sarah is interested in students and educators working to create more equitable systems. Sarah previously worked with news outlets in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Idaho. She is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she worked for the school newspaper, the Daily Egyptian.