Middle Eastern man attracted to transgender women wins asylum after appeal
A Middle Eastern man fearful of being killed on account of his attraction to transgender women has been granted asylum in New Zealand.
The Immigration and Protection Tribunal upheld an appeal that his fears of being persecuted in his home country were well founded and accordingly granted him refugee status.
The man told the tribunal he feared that his conservative Sunni Muslim family would disavow or kill him if they learned of his sexual preference.
He said his interest in transgender women — in particular, those who were both Asian and "petite" — would be a "bigger shame" to his family than being gay.
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The man, who has name suppression, was initially denied refugee status in New Zealand but won an appeal against the decision in January.
In 2015 he visited a bar in central Auckland known to be frequented by members of the gay and transgender community.
He was hesitant about visiting it, however, as it was in close proximity to a number of Middle Eastern restaurants.
His anxiety about being seen approaching a known gay venue by fellow Middle Easterners forced him to find a shortcut that avoided the restaurants.
His experiences in New Zealand, including an "amazing" encounter with a transgender woman who was a prostitute, allowed him to find solace in Auckland's gay and transgender scene, having endured a history of sexual abuse and confusion during his upbringing in the Middle East.
He said those experiences, combined with teasing by school mates and religious lessons about the sinfulness of homosexuality, made him anxious and unhappy.
While homosexuality is not illegal in his home country, discrimination against gays is rife, and LGBT activists have reported honour killings in the Middle Eastern nation.
Anxiety about not fitting in with Middle Eastern norms, along with nights spent staying up to watch gay pornography, affected his later attempts to start a career, he told the tribunal.
The man got a work visa for New Zealand and found a job. . He said he still felt pressure to suppress his homosexual leanings and had a short-lived relationship with a woman.
He quit his job and moved to live with her, but said they broke up after a few weeks as neither party was sexually gratified.
A period of unemployment, depression, and problem-gambling — funded by money sent from his family — followed.
In 2015, he discovered New Zealand's transgender scene, which came as a revelation.
He told the tribunal that while he had been aroused by "lady-boys" when watching pornography in the Middle East, he had thought they were actors. He said he had not realised transgender women existed outside of the porn industry.
He also said the transgender scene was the only place he felt secure: mutual suffering and desire to change themselves led to a "shared understanding", he said.
He said he now knew he was sexually and emotionally attracted to transgender women — in particular those who were both Asian and "petite" — and sought someone to form a long-term relationship with.
Although in weekly contact with his family, he said his life could be in danger if he went back to his home country and they — or Middle Eastern society at large — learned of his sexuality.