Originally From Cameroon, Gertrude and Carine Seek Refuge in San Francisco

Story by Monica Campbell/PRI

Gertrude, Carine and their daughter are safe here in the United States.

Gertrude, Carine and their daughter are safe here in the United States.

Carine and Gertrude have been together for several years now. They’re in their 30s, with a daughter. They’re also from Cameroon, where it’s illegal to be gay. “[In Cameroon] you have to hide who you are. [People] can go and make a denunciation and the police will come and arrest you,” says Carine. For safety reasons, they’ve asked to only be identified by their first names.

Carine has friends in Cameroon who were jailed for being gay, so she and Gertrude hid their relationship. But Gertrude was an activist in Cameroon — raising awareness about HIV and AIDS in their country — and she made a bold move: she appeared in a documentary called “Born This Way.” It’s about Cameroon’s small gay rights community.

In one scene, Gertrude talks about how she was gang raped for being gay. The film wasn’t supposed to be seen in Cameroon. But bootleg copies were circulated throughout the country — just as anti-gay activists gained strength.

The two are lucky to have found asylum in the United Sates. Gertrude and Carine are happy that they are now able to “kiss in public. I take her hand, we walk together. That was impossible in Cameroon.”

The story was published earlier this year on March 6, 2014. Click here to listen to the 4-minute story on PRI’s website and learn how they came to California. 

At the time of the interview, Carine and Gertrude lived in a homeless shelter in San Francisco

At the time of the interview, Carine and Gertrude lived in a homeless shelter in San Francisco

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