Too many LGTBQ kids have to weather a storm of fear and rejection when they come out, facing discrimination from their nearest and dearest, or worse total abandonment, tossed onto the streets for the crime of simply being themselves.
In France, acceptance awaits in the open arms of Le Refuge. For the last 16 years, the organisation has helped victims of homophobia and transphobia, aged 18-25, to rebuild their lives, from offering emotional and psychological support, to providing job guidance and temporary accommodation.
However, a house isn’t a home without the beating hearts of the people inside it, and this is where Le Refuge has made a real difference.
These at-risk, sometimes suicidal youngsters may have been neglected by their biological families, but they’ve gone on to forge new bonds with their LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.
This summer, Levi’s® continued their long-running fight for queer rights when they collaborated with Le Refuge on a campaign (picture above), celebrating this idea of the chosen family, and the journey that these young LGBTQ+ adults have been on since being taken in.
Like Nathan for example. He was just 15 when he was cast out after opening up about his sexuality. “My mother abandoned me three years ago and I haven’t heard from my father in a year,” he explains.
Nathan’s fortunes changed when his friends told him about Le Refuge, who have 19 delegations across the country. “It was chaos. I didn’t have anywhere to stay, no food… I had no more reason to live,” he continues.
“Le Refuge gave me a goal in life. They are my chosen family. We are there for each other. There is always someone there to talk to.”
Encouraging other members of the community who are struggling to keep their heads held high, Nathan, now 18, says: “If you fall seven times, you stand up eight times.”
Fellow Le Refuge comrade Raphael escaped Cameroon for Montpellier, where the association’s headquarters is based, after being injured in a homophobic attack in a local bar.
“I got stabbed in the arm by people who came into the bar with machetes, yelling: ‘We don’t want faggots in the country. We are going to kill you all,’” he recalls.
Aspiring footballer Raphael, 26, fled to France to move in with his brother – “But he told me, ‘If I’d known you were gay, I wouldn’t have welcomed you in my house’” – and ended up sleeping rough for several months before reaching out to Le Refuge.
“They gave me back faith in life, the will to live and to move on having gone through several suicide attempts,” he adds.
“I found a family who loves and accepts me as I am. After rain comes sunshine."