In 2016 various activists addressing women’s and human rights issues highlighted the non-visibility of the LBT community in the anyway very limited support network in the LGBTIQ+ sector in Timor-Leste (TL). These concerns were shared with the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, who offered to support any action taken to better understand the livelihoods of LBT in TL. It was clear that the issue is sensitive and must be dealt with very carefully in a patriarchal society, a concept note for a participatory research study was drafted and the research was conducted in 2017 (Findings were released at the ASEAN Women’s Summit, Manila October 2017 and the study is published in English and Tetun). The report reveals hidden lives and some of the most unheard shocking incidents faced by LBT members mostly inflicted by their own families doing their ‘best’ to ‘correct’ them. Alarmingly high rates of physical and emotional violence i.e., beating, assault, sexual violence (corrective rape), isolation and mental trauma have been reported. Many participants have been kicked out of their homes by their families, often had no place to go and ended up in risky situations. These young people are mostly school drop outs or have been denied an education by their families, don’t have a stable income, surviving through petty work or help from friends. Due to prevailing societal and cultural norms and expectations they often have to live in disguise and only through the ground-breaking research and work of Bella Galhos and Iram Saeed this vulnerable and marginalised group of people has become more visible in Timorese society.
Initiated by Santana Unipessaol Lda, Arcoiris Timor-Leste was born and with the generous monetary support from DFAT Australia from June 2018 to March 2019, it was possible to establish a centre where the community can connect in a non-judgemental environment, share their concerns, seek possible help from peers and where emergency accommodation is provided. Currently the organisation receives no financial support from donors and we only can keep our centre and safe house open due to the generosity of our landlords who let us stay without paying rent since March 2019.