Finding a Home in the Bronx After Fleeing Anti-Gay Violence in Haiti

On Dec 1, 2016 The New York Times reported: The party was like many others in Delmas, a neighborhood in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, with a vibrant gay community — an evening of men in colorful dresses and revealing attire, laughing and catching up.

They sipped Prestige beer and 7-Up, as Beyoncé and Rihanna played in the background. The party stretched into the early morning hours with no end in sight.

Then someone knocked on the door.

On that March night in 2012, a group of men dressed in black and wearing ski masks forced their way into the apartment. Wilkenson Joseph, then 35, was the closest to the front door. Wearing a red sequin dress, a dark wig, red lipstick and high heels, he was a prime target for the group looking to attack gay men.

One of the men stabbed Mr. Joseph in the gut with a knife. His friends picked him up off the floor, blood pouring from his mouth and his side, and rushed him to a hospital.

But a doctor demanded $2,000 before he would provide any care, Mr. Joseph said. For an hour and a half, his friends negotiated a lower rate as he continued to bleed, eventually persuading the doctor to accept $1,000. Mr. Joseph survived, but he lost his appendix.

In a Manhattan office last month, Mr. Joseph recalled his stories of anti-gay violence slowly, softly and in French.

“After the party,” Mr. Joseph said before trailing off, his eyes closing. There was silence as he summoned the months after that party more than four years ago.

He stopped attending parties and dressing up. “It was too traumatic,” he said. “I recoiled from the party scene. I was no longer me.”

Mr. Joseph said it was not the first time he had been attacked because of his sexuality in Haiti, where homosexuality is not a crime, but gay men often hide their orientation to avoid being targeted.

A makeup artist for eight years, he had worked at “Journal de Loisirs,” a celebrity talk show, and often carried a purse and makeup bag to the office. Seven months before the stabbing, Mr. Joseph said, he was kidnapped from his workplace, hooded and taken to an abandoned home, where he was chained to a pole and beaten. Three men threatened to kill him, he said, and called him an embarrassment to his country. They later let him go.

“I always felt threatened,” he said. “And I never said anything back to these people. I was afraid of a violent response. There was always a fear.”

After the 2012 attack, Mr. Joseph applied for a tourist visa to the United States, hoping the country would be as welcoming as it was portrayed on the television shows he had watched as a child, he said.

“It was always my dream country,” Mr. Joseph said. “America is where you can make happen the dreams you envision for yourself.”

He arrived in April 2013 on a tourist visa and settled in New York City. A few weeks later, he attended his first party since the attack, at the Monster, a piano bar in the West Village. Feeling safe, he took the stage to sing “Lumane Casimir,” a well-known Haitian song.

He applied for asylum shortly after moving to the United States, describing in his application the anti-gay abuse he endured in Haiti and his fear of returning there.

“I feel a lot more comfortable expressing myself here,” he said. “I’ve never feared for my safety here.”

Read more at: Finding a Home in the Bronx After Fleeing Anti-Gay Violence in Haiti – The New York Times

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