A (possibly) TMI response to UKBA questions...
In my letter to Stonewall's new (acting) CEO, I talked about the need for Stonewall to act more intersectionally and included an example of not awarding employer of the year to the Home Office which is acting in a very different way with Asylum Seekers and other immigrants. Today, Free Movement released a set of questions gleaned from an interview in October 2013 with an Asylum Seeker claiming biphobic and homophobic persecution in his home country.
So, here are those questions and my snark (with possibly TMI from me):
Can you explain to me in detail what you mean by bisexual?
Can you explain to me what you mean by man to man?
What do you mean by “something”?
What does that mean to you?
These seem pretty innocuous, but remember that there may be some huge language and cultural barriers which need to be overcome.
How many boyfriends did you have in [country]?
What was the name of your friend?
What is his date of birth?
Do you know his date of birth?
How did you meet him?
Does he have any brothers or sisters?
What is her name?
People seeking Asylum are, typically, running from a state persecuting them. Now an agent of (another) state is asking about "collaborators" including family members... is this really an appropriate line of questioning? Is the boyfriend safe? Is the family safe?
How old were you when you discovered you had an attraction for boys?
What about before you were 18?
Can you explain how you realised your sexuality?
Go on. How did you realise your sexuality? Here's the TMI version which I have written for another blog post (still being drafted, but the blog post is going all over the place):
As the young proto-queer Alex, I had fantasies. About girls obviously because that's who you're meant to fantasise about if you're a guy. Except it was a girl's attention to my (very idealised) body. Then other guys' bodies. Then it was other guys with each other.
At this point I was probably starting to get an inkling that there was something a little different going on, but I wasn't involved so... Yeah, I still can be this dense by the way.
Then, I was 15-and-a-most. And I saw trailers for Queer as Folk and, although nothing had quite clicked for me yet, Nathan was damn hot. Is damn hot. So I watched it.
That was me. Well, it wasn't. But it was.
That barely answers the question for my own satisfaction.
Now, filter some of that through language and cultural barriers. Filter that through an interrogation. Filter that through a history of being persecuted for these feelings.
How did you realise your sexuality?
Tell me what you did?
What did you do with x?
Did you do anything other than kissing x?
What did you do?
Where did this happen?
How often did you have intercourse together?
Is that every day?
Did you put your penis into x’s backside?
When x was penetrating you did you have an erection?
Did you ejaculate?
Did x ejaculate inside you?
Why did you use a condom?
How did you feel when having sex?
What the fuck do those questions have to do with anything? Am I any less gay/queer because I have not had anal sex? Because I have not had my boyfriend's penis "in my backside"? Because I've not put my penis in another guy's backside? Because the thought of anal sex is a turn off?
But the most incongruous question there, can you spot it? "Why did you use a condom?" Seriously, a state official is questioning the use of a condom in same-sex anal sex - WTAF?!?
Did you have feelings for other boys?
Did you have physical relationships with other boys in [city]?
Did you love x?
When was his birthday?
Did you buy him presents?
Did he buy you presents?
How could you afford to buy him presents if you were studying?
In [city] did you have sex with other men?
How is the seriousness of a relationship any relevance to whether you are being persecuted for your sexuality? Do we only grant asylum to those who have developed "deep meaningful relationships" but not those who have a different partner every night?
What do you find attractive about men?
Tell me what you like about men that turns you on?
Chests, slight definition, definitely not overmuscled. Nipples. [Oh, and it's much more complex than that very shallow answer implies... not even sure I could articulate it fully]
What is it about the way men walk that turns you on?
[substitute question based on previous answers] Errr...
What is it about men’s backsides that attracts you?
Errr...Seriously, I don't know, they just do.
How did you get found out?
Oooh... Classic victim blaming...
In [country] how many relationships have you had with women?
How did you meet y?
What did you find attractive about y?
On the night you met her what attracted you to her?
Did you have a sexual relationship with her?
How often did you see y?
How were your feelings for her different to x?
Were you and x lovers at this time?
Did you tell x about your affair with y?
What was x’s response when you told him about y?
Did you tell y about x as well?
What do you like about women?
More victim blaming and biphobia of the "just go be straight" variety.
How do you show your sexuality when you are in the UK?
How does that display you are bisexual?
Where do you go when going out?
Which pub do you go to?
Oh, the "What magazines do you subscribe to" type questions...
How do I show my sexuality? Well, at the moment, I blog/tweet a lot about queer issues, I subscribe to Attitude (although I do keep re-considering that and doing nothing about it), I errrr... The truth is, I don't go to gay bars. I hang around with my (I believe mostly) straight highschool friends group. I go to local bars, none of which are gay bars. I go to gigs (but not the typical gay icons) and theatre (moreso on the stereotype there).
This person has come from a different country where they have been persecuted for their sexuality... don't expect a fucking overnight change in how they act... Don't expect them to become walking gay stereotypes either.
Why have you got to behave as a bisexual in [country]?
That was with x only and he initiated the contact you claim. Why can’t you return and live a full life there?
Ah... and there is the final biphobic victim blaming to pull together the earlier strands: Why don't you fuck off home and pretend you're straight?
People, I give you The UK Borders Agency, part of The Home Office, Stonewall's Employer of the Year runner up in 2012.