LGBTI refugees Ali Khoie and Subhi Nahas had the great opportunity to answer kids questions about what it was like being gay and fleeing their homeland to the U.S. recently.
“I was blown away and very moved by the presentation, as was my son,” said Sharon Goldstone, whose son Aiden, was one of the students in the class that heard Ali and Subhi’s stories about being gay refugees.
“It was a great conversation, really appropriate [and] didn’t dumb it down at all. [They were] very honest about what was going on,” she continued expressing that she hopes Ali and Subhi go and speak at other schools.
“I think that he was really touched by it,” she said about her son’s response to the talk. “I said to my son, ‘I hope you are an advocate for them.’”
Ali and Subhi, along with ORAM’s new director of the San Francisco office, Peter Altman spoke to an estimated 40 seventh graders at the Brandeis School in San Francisco on Monday, November 30.
Ali talked about what it was like growing up gay in Iran and finally, as an only child, why he had to leave his family and the life he once knew to start anew in San Francisco.
The kids were inquisitive asking Ali, Subhi, and Peter very smart questions about what it was like living in Iran and Syria, the refugee process, living in Turkey, and coming to San Francisco.
Kids asked Ali and Subhi what it was like to move from a place where he couldn’t express who he is publicly or even to be out to his own parents to a place where he was free to be openly gay on a daily basis.
In a particularly illustrative moment, Ali asked the kids to, “Imagine if you are in a closet with the doors closed. It’s dark in there. You are all alone and sometimes you are so far into the darkness you don’t even know your own self.”
“Then imagine, coming to a place where the doors are thrown wide open and the light comes in,” he continued. “It takes time to adjust.”
Both Ali and Subhi told the kids about knowing people who were tortured and in Subhi’s case being tortured himself by militias and his father. They both talked about their fears of leaving their homes venturing alone on a journey where they didn’t know where they would end up or if they would be killed in the process by other refugees or authorities in the countries they traveled and stayed in.
Ali and Subhi told the kids they were grateful for coming to the U.S. and to San Francisco in particular.
“It was powerful to hear their experiences of what people have suffered and gone through being LGBT,” Goldstone continued, expressing her surprise how Ali and Subhi “Told their stories without great anger or resentment.”