Moe Sonko 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 he is from.
Moe 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 Moe’s heart because he was a refugee myself.
By participating in STRUT, he put his face on homosexuality for young kids growing up in The Gambia so they wouldn’t feel alone in this world like he did. It wasn’t until Moe moved to England that he learned about others like him in this world.
“If I can help one kid feel secure and not alone, that makes me happy.”
Moe arrived in Vancouver on a very cold/rainy day in October of 2012. He had never been here before and with no family or friends here he had nowhere to go and very little money. Moving here all by himself was the scariest thing he had ever done in his life.
He vividly remembers getting out of the train and thinking, “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 Moe wanted was to live in a country when he can be himself 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 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!
Moe often asks 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.