Hearts Unspoken Poster Image
An image from the poster for new play ‘Hearts Unspoken’

We’ve become familiar with hearing of shocking stories from around the world of how gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are treated, with some being persecuted or even killed because of their sexuality.

In a ground-breaking new production, Glasgow-based arts company conFAB will stage ‘Hearts Unspoken’, a new drama based on real-life interviews with gay men who’ve sought refuge in Scotland from such persecution.

A new production at the Tron Theatre’s Changing House

The play will be staged at the Tron Theatre (Changing House) in Glasgow from Wednesday 7th September until Saturday 10th September, 8pm, with a special post-show discussion on the issues raised on Thursday 8th September.

A first for a Scottish production company, ‘Hearts Unspoken’ brings together testimonies of gay male asylum seekers and refugees to create a story of unimaginable adversity and perseverance. 

Developed in partnership with Scottish Refugee Council, these opinionated, angry, deeply moving and ultimately inspiring tales bring to light the lives of those caught out by the cruelties of global and sexual politics.

Moving accounts of overcoming fear

Hearts Unspoken director Sam Rowe explains: ‘These are not only tales of exclusion and persecution, but also incredibly moving accounts of over-coming personal situations for the right to self-expression, to live without fear and, of course, to love. 

‘In staging this production my motivation isn’t only to raise awareness of LGBT asylum rights. I hope ‘Hearts Unspoken’ will take people beyond the issues, and confront them with the very human heart of these dramatic stories. Stories, I believe, everyone can relate to.’ 

Better treatment of lesbian and gay people in asylum system

Belinda McElhinney, Arts and Cultural Development Officer for Scottish Refugee Council, who will be chairing the after-show discussion on Thursday 8th September, said: ‘Hearts Unspoken’ deserves to be seen. The process of seeking protection is complex and difficult for everyone, and research shows that in the past gay and lesbian people have been subject to homophobia from the agencies who are set up to protect them.

‘Since 2010, the Home Office has pledged to improve the way they treat lesbian and gay people in the asylum system, but recent news has shown that they still have no way to track how many cases made on the basis of sexuality are granted or refused.

‘There’s still a lot of work to do to make the system better, and this play gives us a glimpse of what lesbian and gay asylum seekers are up against, both during their claim and as they adjust to life in the UK.’  

Research for the play

The play was developed using extensive research, including two recent reports. ‘No Going Back’, by Stonewall, was released in 2010 and shows evidence of ‘systemic homophobia’ within the UK Border Agency. Since its publication, the Home Office has pledged to improve the system – a move helped by a Supreme Court judgement in 2010 which ruled against sending LGBT people back to their home countries on the grounds they could ‘act discreetly’.

In March 2011, the Equality Network, BEMIS and GRAMNet published ‘Sanctuary, Safety and Solidarity’, a report on LGBT asylum seekers in Scotland. It showed that despite new policy instructions from UKBA and the Supreme Court ruling, ‘a person fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity still faces many obstacles before they can qualify for protection’.

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Chris Pettigrew
Author: Chris Pettigrew