Creating a safe space for Queensland’s queer refugees


Trans queer refugee Miguel wears a pink outfits on a neutral background as part of Third Queer Culture in Brisbane Queensland
Miguel from Third Queer Culture

Third Queer Culture is a group of Brisbane’s LGBTQIA+ refugees creating much-needed social connections and support for each other. 

There is a small Brisbane group providing safety and security to some of the most vulnerable LGBTQIA+ people in our community. 

Each year many queer people come to Australia seeking safety because of persecution and discrimination in their home countries. 

They may flee a country where they face the threat of death or severe violence or they may have left for war or other reasons and just happen to be from the LGBTQIA+ community.

Once here it can be a lonely experience as they may not be connected to the local queer community and may face discrimination from their cultural one. 

Third Queer Culture in Brisbane was created in 2021 to try and change that. 

It’s an independent peer support and advocacy group of around 30 active members. 

Peer Leader Edwin said that the group had humble beginnings. 

“The group was relatively small when we started with only about five members. We did mostly simple gatherings like lunch, go to galleries and get to know each other,” he said. 

But as time went on the needs of members became apparent and advocacy for each other became key. 

“Some of the LGBTQIA+ refugees were allocated accommodation that was in very poor condition. They have to sleep next to the toilet bowl with no wardrobe or ventilation,” he said. 

“So we help them to file a complaint and get proper accommodation.”

“Slowly over time, we have developed more advocacy and raising awareness activities. In October last year, we had a film screening, and invited the general public to come to know more about the group and to know more about our stories.”

Miguel’s story

One member of the group is Miguel Valencia from Colombia.

Miguel explains that although their nation looks progressive on paper, the reality as a non-binary person is far different. 

“I was still dressing up and behaving as a man in Colombia because I was way too scared of what could happen to me,” they said. 

“If you go to the streets wearing makeup, or wearing a dress or things like that, they can kill you just because you look different.”

Miguel arrived in Australia in 2020 and found the experience very isolating. 

After a move to Brisbane, they discovered the Third Queer Culture peer group where they felt they could celebrate both his LGBTQIA+ and cultural background. 

“You can show who you really are. It’s so important, to be able to feel like you belong to that cultural background still. Because usually you have to choose.”

“Many refugees don’t feel like they belong to their own ethnic community. And I think the group is important because you can disclose your identity here and not be judged.

How the group can help

Edwin said new members are welcomed and the group is there to help. 

“We want to provide a sense of belonging, and friendship here in Australia and help them to navigate systems and the language barrier.”

 

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Edwin also explains that members also feel intimidated or not welcomed by some in the local LGBTQIA+ community. 

“Most of us are considered as a second-class citizen. It’s very challenging for them to get a friend or romantic partner here. On top of that, some don’t go out as they are worried about being seen by their cultural communities but also because they felt like it’s not their place.”

For Miguel, they have been lucky enough to find connections both inside and outside the group. 

They have joined a circus group and have found happiness with a partner and dog. 

It’s a life of freedom that Miguel wants to keep living. 

“I hope I can stay here. I guess I feel something that I never had before.“

You can reach out to find more information about the group by contacting thirdqueerculture@gmail.com

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Dale Roberts

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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