Last summer, Belsica and Yasmina fled together from Honduras in the middle of the night after receiving death threats for being discovered as partners. They didn’t notify their families of their departure until they arrived in Mexico. Their journey was long and traumatic, compiled with the feelings of exile and rejection they faced in their hometown and country. “We left Honduras because of the delinquency, discrimination, a lot of bullying due to our preferences,”said Belsica.
Belsica and Yasmina led parallel lives as a consequence of homophobia. From a young age both women disguised their sexual orientations in order to fit in at home and in school. Yet, both were severely bullied in their communities and rejected by their families. Both women ran away from home during their teenage years, Belsica at fifteen and Yasmina at thirteen. Belsica painfully recounts her exile, “At one point, my entire family rejected me. I fell into a deep depression, to the point where I wanted to take my own life. I felt the whole world was against me. That no one loved me. In school, the kids would bully me. I would try to hide who I was. But deep inside, I knew I was like this. I was a lesbian.”
Amid the hardship and social marginalization, they survived and found love. Belsica made ends meet working at a bakery. Yasmina worked at a general store. They both met at a local soccer match, where Belsica was playing and Yasmina came to cheer on a friend on the same team. They eventually exchanged phone numbers. “We have sweet memories from those early days,” said Yasmina. “We’ve been together for over two years, close to three,” Belsica said smiling as she looked over at Yasmina.
After secretly dating for some time, one man who was interested in Yasmina, discovered that they were together. He directly threatened to kill them both. Belsica and Yasmina made the tough decision to forever flee their country to save their lives.
They faced multiple layers of prejudice along their harrowing journey. Belsica recalls, “We experienced a lot of harassment on the way to the border. Simply for being women, for being Honduran, and most of all, for being lesbians.” She continues, “Others [migrants] would reject us and say, ‘Get out of here’ because of our sexual orientation. It’s unfortunate that people treat you that way. People think that because we are this way that we are going to disrespect them. But it’s not like that.” The women experienced sexual orientation discrimination and gender based violence in their migration; including harrassment, robbery and repeated attempts of sexual assaults as they journeyed through Guatemala and Mexico.
The women believed that arriving in Nogales they would gain a brief reprieve from the continuous exposure to threat and trauma, but the stress never ceased. Like many migrants, Belsica and Yasmina faced discrimination when in came to housing and work. “We found work selling shoes at a store,” said Yasmina. Belsica continues, “They laughed at the way we spoke. Maybe we didn’t express ourselves in the best way. I felt isolated. My coworkers would say to others, ‘Don’t get near her. She’s a lesbian. Honestly, sometimes, it made me want to cry. Because you feel so alone.” Eventually, they both quit. The managers tried to convince them to stay because they were hard workers, great with customers and top earners. But the bullying was unbearable.
Belsica and Yasmina have hopes for the future. “Our hope is that the U.S. government will grant us asylum. We could live better over there and feel more secure and safe. Hopefully, we can live with more calm and peace,” said Belsica. They have been waiting for close to a year now for an opportunity to seek these protections. Over time, they have grown close with a few of the staff members in Kino to whom they are very thankful for. Belsica said, “They treat us with warmth and care. With a smile. We feel it. Come as you are. There is no preference…No matter your color [of skin], or where you come from. That is the most beautiful part.” Yasmina shares, “We don’t have the words to thank Kino for all that they have done for us. I thank God and I thank Kino…It’s like a house of God. A house of God that helps migrants.”