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I moved to Canada in 2012 to seek protection as a refugee because homosexuality is not only illegal; but also punishable by 14 years to life in prison where I am from.

I was born and raised in The Gambia, a very small West African country. Walking a mile in pink high heels to help raise funds and awareness for LGBT+ refugees was a big deal and something very close to my heart because I am a refugee myself.

By participating in STRUT, I put my face on homosexuality for young kids growing up in The Gambia so they wouldn’t feel alone in this world like I did. It wasn’t until I moved to England that I learned about others like me in this world.

If I can help one kid feel secure and not alone, that makes me happy.

I arrived in Vancouver on a very cold/rainy day in October of 2012. I had never been here before and with no family or friends here I had nowhere to go and very little money. Moving here all by myself was the scariest thing I have ever done in my life.

I vividly remember getting out of the train and thinking to myself, “I have no idea what I am doing or if I will even survive this mentally and emotionally, but I am ready to make this chapter in my life a good one.”

All I wanted was to live in a country when I can be who I am without the fear of persecution.

I feel very lucky to have the support of my family and to be living in a country like Canada where I can be my authentic self and express myself however I want. That’s not the case for so many LGBT+ men and women around the world, who are prosecuted or even killed for being who they truly are.

I feel it is my duty to be the voice for the voiceless, to help bring awareness.

The freedom of expression is what STRUT represents to me and that includes non-gender conformity: men in dresses, wearing makeup or heels, and vice versa for women. People should be free to express themselves however they please and without any fear of persecution!

I often ask people “Have you ever had your heart broken?” Imagine the things you have known as a child—the food, the people, your childhood home, your neighbors, playgrounds, the smell of the air… Then imagine having all of that taken away from you forever and to never have it back.

That is the heartbreaking reality of being an LGBT+ refugee and it really identifies what STRUT is all about.


Chad Wilkinson

Chad Wilkinson

Co-founder and a Director of Grants.

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