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‘After surviving torture and escaping my home country, I finally came to terms with my queerness’ – Tamil asylum seeker

(Photo Credit: Pink News)

Commemorating International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Pink News has interviewed a Tamil refugee and dancer who shared with them his experience of recovering from trauma, surviving as a refugee, and discovering his sexuality.

 

Escaping Sri Lanka

Aadiv (not his real name) details the difficulties he faced during his childhood as he displaced his home due to war. He had four siblings and during the war lost two of his older brothers.

Remarking on the war he notes the long history of state discrimination against Tamil and how “kidnappings and violence towards Tamils were common”. He notes, “they remain missing to this day” and whilst the war ended in 2009, “harassment by military forces, torturing and discrimination didn’t stop there”.

Aadiv first came to the UK in 2011 on a student visa to study English. He notes that Tamils continued to face persecution during this period.

“They were checking and catching Tamils everywhere. Our leader wanted everyone that undermined him to be finished. Along with other Tamils fleeing the country, I knew I had to leave. If I stayed there, they would kill me”.

He returned to Sri Lanka in 2013, to visit his father who was suffering from serious health issues. Once he arrived, he was detained by Sri Lankan security officials and tortured for suspected links with the LTTE in the UK.

He notes that he was held for two weeks and tortured each day. They had accused him of conspiring against the government and was only released after a family member bribed the guards. He fled back to the UK following this.

 

Therapy

Aadiv also spoke of how therapy helped him to recover and come to terms with his sexuality.

Aadiv’s story details how his depression leads him to a dark place:

“I fell into a deep depression and felt that I was out of options. Before the torture, I used to be a fighter – I fought for everything in life.

But without a roof over my head or any family here, the trauma defeated me. I was always scared and crying. I was homeless, staying at places that were dirty, or sleeping in the street or the park. I attempted suicide twice”.

In 2016, he was appointed a therapist, Emily, through the help of Freedom from Torture. He notes that he “didn’t feel like a human being” and that he was living and sleeping in a friend’s car.

He met with his therapist, Emily, twice a week and his mental health began to improve as he met with other Tamils who had also survived torture.

 

Coming to terms with my sexuality

Aadiv notes that the difficulties that came with a gay Tamil refugee. He details that it took him three gruelling years to secure refugee status. The meagre allowance provided by the government made it difficult for him to buy clothes or food and language proved a strong barrier for him.

“My English was a barrier, but it was improving every day. But I still felt low and suicidal. I didn’t recognise myself for a long time” he told Pink News.

He further said:

“It took me a long time to open up about what happened. For a long time, I couldn’t talk about my sexuality and didn’t think of myself as gay in Sri Lanka. I found it really complicated. I didn’t trust anyone. I felt very uncomfortable when talking about conflict and life for us Tamils”.

Whilst at first feeling saddened by his sexuality, he became more confident.

“At first, I felt really sad. I thought: ‘Oh my god, why am I like this?’ […] And then I talked more and more. I’m very confident now and ready for myself. This is my sexuality and I can express it here, in my new home”.

“If someone asks me if I’m gay, I say: “Yes, I am gay.” A very long journey of survival and pain has taken place for me to arrive at these words”.

 

Dance

Aadiv spends a lot of time performing traditional Bharatanatyam dancing with a group of Tamil dancers in London.

He notes that whilst he has finished therapy, his trauma won’t be resolved overnight but he feels that he is strong enough to face it.

He concludes his interview stating that he is hopeful for the future and grateful for the therapy he has received:

“I have hopes for the future and I am very ambitious. When I think back and see the difference that people like Emily made along my journey, I want to give something back. I would like to study and become a nurse. I like to look after people.

Torture took away my voice. But support and care made me regain my identity and better understand who I am.

The message here is a simple one: be patient and look after each other”.

Read the full interview with Pink News.