On Dec 11, 2016 Edmonton Journal reported: Adebayo Katiiti believes returning home to Uganda is tantamount to a death sentence.
The 22-year-old Ugandan, who identifies as a transgender man, has qualified for refugee status in Edmonton. He arrived in August to compete at the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics Championships before returning home. But in the midst of the competition, Katiiti started to receive threatening text messages from his own family.
“My family called me evil,” he said. In Uganda, same-sex relationships are illegal and can lead to lengthy prison sentences. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as well as their allies face discrimination and assault.
Days before his trip to Canada, Katiiti was arrested when police stormed the Mr. and Miss Pride Pageant during a private celebration in Kampala. His family saw a video of the event that circulated in the media and effectively outed him.
“I know what it means to be gay back home,” he said. “I was undressed. I was humiliated … pulling out your hair, beating you up, treating you like a non-citizen in your own country … forcefully taking pictures of you. All those things I went through with the police.”
Katiiti said his decision to seek asylum in Canada was unpopular with his teammates because they were concerned it could hinder their ability to re-apply for visitor visas.
“It was a really hard decision,” he said. “I don’t regret it.”
Coach Nate Freeman, who formed the team, said visas were valid until January. He’s hopeful the situation won’t affect future athletes.
“This was an extraordinary circumstance,” he said. “Everyone wants what is best for Adebayo … even if status is granted, the road can be really hard.”