Too Butch For Asylum
American immigration officials examining the cases of gays seeking asylum here are often denying such requests if the applicants "don't look gay enough" to be persecuted in their home countries.
“Judges and immigration officials are adding a new hurdle in gay asylum cases that an applicant’s homosexuality must be socially visible,” said Lori Adams, a lawyer at Human Rights First, a nonprofit group, who advises people seeking asylum based on sexuality. “The rationale is that if you don’t look obviously gay, you can go home and hide your sexuality and don’t need to be worried about being persecuted.” Jhuan Marrero, 18, who was born in Venezuela but has lived — illegally — in New York since he was 4, said the immigration officer at his asylum interview last week challenged him about his macho demeanor. “I was brought up by my parents to walk and talk like a man,” said Mr. Marrero, who volunteers at the Queens Pride House, a gay and lesbian center in Jackson Heights. “The officer said: ‘You’re not a transsexual. You don’t look gay. How are you at risk?’ I insisted that if I was sent back to Venezuela, I would speak out about being gay and suffer the consequences.”Some asylum attorneys have advised their clients to appear as flamboyant as possible during their hearings. Adding to the problem is a surge in applicants falsely claiming to be gay in order to escape economic problems in their home countries.