The Decision to Stay or Leave Home as an LGBT* Person




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May 15, 2017
by Oscar Tollast
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The Decision to Stay or Leave Home as an LGBT* Person

Fifth Salzburg Global LGBT Forum on Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging begins Klaus Mueller speaking on Day 1 of the fifth Salzburg Global LGBT Forum

“It’s a human instinct to find a safe space.” This argument was one of several made as the fifth annual Salzburg Global LGBT Forum started on Sunday afternoon. It featured as part of a broader discussion on a core question for some LGBT** people: should I stay or should I go?

Legislative discrimination, social alienation, and hate speech remain in areas which affect the safety of LGBT* people and prevent them from feeling “at home” in their countries. On Sunday afternoon, a panel discussion took place where participants shared personal anecdotes and their thoughts on the subject. This discussion kickstarted a five-day program which will involve sixty participants from all regions of the world tackling interconnected issues such as LGBT* rights, family, migration, and safety.

During this opening discussion, participants revealed what home meant to them. One participant, who resides in the United States, described “home” as a complicated thing. The participant revealed she and her partner considered moving to another country following last year’s presidential election, as there was “a lot of fear” what would happen next. She affirmed, “I think home is where they can’t kick you out.”

Another panelist, who’s in the process of moving to another country to live with her partner, told participants how she developed a high profile after becoming involved with LGBT* activism. It led her to wonder how much information people had on her. She considered, “Am I being paranoid or am I being careful and sensible?” Participants learned about the stress LGBT* activists felt in their communities and how one activist felt he had to “look strong every minute,” even when he was under attack.

Participants considered the significance of having a support network but questioned how many people could afford it. A panelist said, “To stay or not to stay is a big sacrifice, to leave your home and everything you’ve known all your life.” The same panelist said she did not want people to feel guilty for leaving, as they can continue to support the movement and provide a platform elsewhere. The point was noted, however, that people aren’t always in a position to move, even if they want to. A panelist concluded, “Safety is fragile. Even in a country where you think there’s a lot of freedom, things can change very quickly.

Angeline Jackson, executive director of Quality of Citizenship, Jamaica, moderated the discussion. She said, “I’m happy with what came out of the panelists while we were talking.

“There’s not one specific issue I want to highlight. We covered all of the things we wanted to cover. I believe the way we structured the entire session was perfect for the points to speak for themselves.”

Before this panel discussion, participants were officially welcomed by Salzburg Global Vice President and Chief Program Officer Clare Shine, and Salzburg Global LGBT Forum Founder and Chair Klaus Mueller.

Clare said it was “wonderful” to see many familiar faces, and the location participants would be staying in was a “place with heart, soul, and an incredible history.” While Salzburg Global nears its 70th anniversary, Clare said the institution’s core values hadn’t changed. A connective tissue which runs through Salzburg Global’s work has been its commitment to the protection of human rights. Clare asked participants to abide by one rule during the session: be tough on the issues but kind on each other.

In his introductory remarks, Mueller thanked Salzburg Global for “embracing LGBT* human rights as a topic of global significance.” He told participants to consider the Forum as a “safe space” and not as a conference. Mueller said, “We are here to listen, to learn, and to build these connections.”

Discussing this year’s theme, Mueller said being part of a family is a fundamental human condition and a fundamental human right. A lot of progress has been made to embed LGBT** rights as a significant part of the global human rights agenda, but being “at home” still remains unfeasible for many LGBT** individuals.

Mueller said everyone has the right to be safe in the families they grow up with, but also in the cultures and countries in which they find themselves. This week’s conversations are guided by three larger themes: family, LGBT* migration and refugees, and wellbeing.

The discussions will focus on what needs to take place to ensure “home” can be a place of safety, and how countries can better support LGBT* refugees. The need to protect the safety, health, and wellbeing of changemakers will also be reaffirmed.

The outcomes of this session will involve listening to each other and turning findings into resources which can be shared with others. Mueller said this meeting would be a chance to take stock of what has been achieved and how the network can be extended further.

The session continues.

*LGBT: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. We are using this term as it is currently widely used in human rights conversations on sexual orientation and gender identity in many parts of the world, but we would not wish it to be read as exclusive of other cultural concepts, contemporary or historical, to express sexuality and gender, intersex and gender-nonconforming identities.

The fifth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum - Home: Safety, Wellness, and Belonging is taking place at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg. It is being held in partnership with the German Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women & Youth. It is being supported by the Government of Canada. The Forum is a network of expertise through which conversations are facilitated to advance equal rights for LGBT people across the world. You can follow the event on Twitter, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #SGSlgbt. For more information, please visit