From Where I Stand: “Being part of the LGBTI community in Timor-Leste..”

“It was full of pressure in the past, but now I’m comfortable about my identity and want to help others to feel the same way. I see more Timorese are now moving toward accepting diversity.”


Author: Helio Miguel

Photo: UN Women/Helio Miguel
Joker da Silva, a coordinator at Arcoiris, a community organization based in Dili. Photo: UN Women/Helio Miguel

I hated to look at myself in the mirror because I was a pretty girl but had a male attitude. Then I decided to devote myself to the church to change. I asked a pastor: Have I committed a sin in behaving as a man? He said no, it’s because of the chromosome. Then I went to ask a doctor at a clinic, and he told me the same answer. Then I stopped blaming myself.

Before, my eldest brother kept threatening to lock me in my room and let a man come violate me. Dad also begged me to bring home a man after high school. If not, he said he would treat me like an animal. I never felt secure at home. No one liked me except my mom.

I left the house in 2010 to join friends who also had run away from the same situation and we survived together. I found a job at a restaurant, but they forced me to wear a skirt and I rejected it. Then I was accepted for a security job, after three months being away from home.

I never blamed my family. I knew things will get better in time. When I had my first-month salary, I brought home food. Seeing me become economically independent, my parents finally accepted me. They started to love me more than ever. Since then, my dad would protect me from my older brother and anybody who questioned my sexual orientation. In 2015, when he passed away, I felt a big loss. Luckily, by then my whole family had accepted me.

Now I hope to see everyone respect and treat each other the same way. No one should be left behind in their own family and in society.”

SDG 10: Reduced inequalities

Joker da Silva, 27, is a coordinator at Arcoiris, a community organization based in Dili that supports the LBT community and advocates for the rights of LGBTI people in Timor-Leste. Joker’s efforts contribute to achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities.