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The guide to the lesbian refugee: How to pass the dildo test

In the United Kingdom, the ‘Anne Frank’ principle makes way for even more creative methods to reject homosexual asylum seekers. 

When Oscar Wild wrote his in essay, “The Truth of Masks,” about the metaphysical significance of costumes and props in Shakespeare’s plays, he likely didn’t imagine that lesbians seeking asylum in the United Kingdom would need to familiarize themselves with his writing and with props of a different type (which were likely not used in Shakespeare’s plays). But it turns out that a lack of knowledge of his work, or of the use of dildos, could send lesbians to their deaths.

Let’s take a few of steps back. The UK asylum system is considered quite strict, relatively to many others in the “West.” (It goes without saying, of course, that compared with the State of Israel’s asylum system, it is an asylum seeker’s dream – last year, the refugee recognition rate in the UK was 25.1 percent, or 5,461 in absolute numbers, as opposed to less than 0.1 percent in Israel.) In contrast with Israel, where not one person, to date, as been recognized as a refugee on the grounds of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity, quite a few asylum seekers were recognized on those grounds in the UK. However, until 2010, asylum seekers who claimed persecution on sexual orientation or gender identity grounds were forced to pass tests with utterly arbitrary results. Asylum seekers who claimed persecution on the grounds of their sexual orientation had to prove that concealing their orientation in their country of origin, if it meant evading persecution, was “unreasonable” in their case. Only in cases where this concealment was unreasonable would the state authorities grant asylum. The test was dubbed by many the “Anne Frank principle” – i.e. in which circumstances would it have been reasonable or unreasonable to require that Anne Frank hide in an attic to avoid persecution?

All that changed in 2010, when the UK’s supreme court struck down that test. In a ruling in the case of an Iranian and a Cameroonian asylum seeker, it was determined that asylum seekers should not be obligated to hide their sexual orientation in order to evade persecution. The court also ruled that an asylum application should not be rejected even if the applicant, upon being deported, could be expected to avoid persecution through living “discretely.”

The new standard established by the supreme court for determining asylum requests on sexual orientation grounds has its own problems, but we can’t go into that here and will have to deal with it in a separate post. Let’s just say that even the new standard swings between the dichotomy of “closet” and “out,” and between “discretion” rooted in persecution and “discretion” rooted in “other social or family grounds.” It makes additional distinctions that probably don’t represent the experiences of persecuted sexual minorities or those doing the persecuting. But we’ll deal with all that another time (maybe).

Despite the difficulties that the new standard presents, the ruling significantly improved the lots of those seeking asylum on sexual orientation or gender identity grounds, and neutralized the idea that a person who can avoid persecution through concealment should do so, and isn’t eligible for asylum. One of the amusing parts of Lord Hope’s ruling was the paragraph where he wrote:

…just as male heterosexuals are free to enjoy themselves playing rugby, drinking beer and talking about girls with their mates, so male homosexuals are to be free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts, drinking exotically coloured cocktails and talking about boys with their straight female mates.

Other more humorless writers criticized the “Kylie Minogue principle” as stereotypical and irreconcilable with rational refugee law (for example, the unbearably serious article by James Hathaway, “Queer Cases Make Bad Law”). But it’s clear that this is about the illustration of the right the ruling addresses – the right to live openly and freely and to act in a way that may not correspond with what is considered heteronormative behavior. Beyond that, it’s clear that at least some of the cases of persecution are not a result of a person’s sexual acts, but rather social behavior that does not fit in with the gender role assigned to him or her.

But now it seems that after the supreme court expanded the rights of LGBTQ individuals to asylum, the British authorities are seeing new ways to reduce the numbers of those eligible. The “discretion principle,” which was replaced by the “Kylie Minogue principle,” has now been replaced by the “dildo principle.”

A study based on interviews with lesbian asylum seekers, published recently by Claire Bennett of the University of Southampton in Britain, suggest that the “dildo standard” is achieving new heights of popularity. In order to prove that they are lesbians, women asylum seekers are asked by an immigration officer and an immigration judge to describe which sex toys they use. An asylum seeker from Pakistan was asked by an immigration judge to tell him which nightclubs she frequents, and he even expressed doubt she was a lesbian after she said that she does not participate in the gay pride parade. An asylum seeker from Uganda was asked questions about Oscar Wilde, an asylum seeker from Jamaica was told that she doesn’t “look like a lesbian” – and it doesn’t end there.

Speaking of creative ways to test sexual orientation, until recently, the Czech Republic tended to assess the credibility of asylum seekers who claimed they were homosexual through phallometric testing – by attaching their sex organs to instruments that measure changes in blood flow in reaction to pornographic pictures of men and women.

Here’s a cat.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. directrob

      Never read the diary, but is “to require that Anne Frank hide in an attic” correct? According to the web site of the Anne Frank house, she was hiding in the second floor of the “achterhuis” (the annex).

      ” Via Peter’s room, the people in hiding can reach the attic, where the food supplies are stored. Anne and Peter often go to the attic so they can talk in private. The Frank family live in two rooms on the second floor.”

      See:
      http://www.annefrank.org/en/Anne-Frank/Not-outside-for-2-years/Hiding/

      Reply to Comment
      • Carl

        You might be splitting hairs there Rob.

        But whilst we’re splitting them, it’s the UK, not England. Well until Scotland secedes next year, anyhow.

        And yes, our government’s (and largely the population’s) attitude to asylum seekers is foul. Vindictive, dumb, and pointedly spiteful sums it up.

        Reply to Comment

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