Juan, from El Salvador


Map of El Salvador

“I want the stories out — they will change hearts,” Juan told the LGBT Asylum Support Taskforce.

I was born in San Salvador, El Salvador.  My life growing up was horrible.  I was sexually, physically and verbally abused my entire life due to my sexual orientation.

My mother worked in my father’s house as a maid.  She was raped by my father and I was born.  For that reason, I do not believe that my mother ever loved me.  I finally met my father in 2005.  Publicly, in his presence, I was called a faggot by neighbor boys.  He turned to me with disgust and asked, “Is this true. “ I said yes and he said, “I don’t want a faggot for a son.  Pretend I never met you.”   That was the last time that I saw my father.

My mother was an alcoholic and beat me constantly.  She was embarrassed because the neighbor children called me a faggot.  She would beat me with her hands or with her belt.  Sometimes she would grab pieces of wood to hit me on the legs with them.  Other times, she would tell me to take off my shoes and socks and make me stand out on the hot sun barefoot.  She would tell me that she was doing this so I would not walk and behave like a faggot.  She told me to walk like a man.   I was a child.   The pain was unbearable.

Next to my grandparents’ home was my aunt’s home and her three sons.  They physically abused me my entire growing up years.  Their father told them that I was a faggot and that meant that they could torture me whenever they wanted to.  I was so alone.  I spent most of the time reading old newspapers.

My grandparents weren’t very tender to me, either.  On several occasions my grandmother asked me why I behaved like a faggot.  I never answered her because I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong, just being myself.

My mother was so embarrassed and angry that finally, when I was thirteen she just left.   She left me and my two younger sisters to be raised by my grandparents.  One day she was there and the next day she wasn’t.   We didn’t hear from her for many years.

For money, I carried water because no one had running water in their homes.  It was my grandmother’s business, but I did the work.  The water source was about ten minutes from my home.   A man from our neighborhood told me he would pay for my service, but the day that I went to deliver the first bucket he made me take it inside his house.  He then, pushed me against a wall with a knife and raped me. Remembering brings back terrible memories

At school, things were terrible too.  The other kids were cruel.  No one wanted me near them so I was alone. When I started high school, my physical education teacher humiliated me constantly because I was not good at sports. From high school I went to the University but the abuse continued. So, I left University and looked for work.

I found a job at the bank.   Things seemed better, I was earning money and I was determined to make something of myself.  But there was a security guard who abused me too.  I knew that I couldn’t speak to my boss because she was homophobic and I needed a job.  Eventually, I was transferred and the torment stopped.  At the new bank branch, I met another gay man and it was through him that I met other gay people.  As sad as it was to hear their stories, I knew I wasn’t alone.

I went back to school and in 2003 I graduated with a degree in Business Administration.  In 2009, I was able to buy a little home.  I was so proud as it is not easy in my country to buy a home.

Then, the worst event in my life happened.  One day my friend and I were stopped by the police in a remote area.  I was tortured and raped by the policeman.  I can still hear the other policemen who were watching laughing and jeering. The pain was like none other I had ever experienced.   I went to the hospital.  I didn’t report to work for days.  When I did go back to work, I quit my job. I was too terrified to step out of my house.

I tried to report this attack, but the police officer who took the report, laughed in my face.   The very next day, the policeman who had tortured me came to my house and shouted, “Open up!  We already know who you are and we are going to kill you.”

So I left my beautiful country.  I left my job, my home, my belongings, my studies.  Two friends helped me get out.  I came to California and stayed with some relatives, but soon, after realizing that I was gay, they  kicked me out and I was homeless.

I went to the public library and found the website of the LGBT Asylum Task Force.   There was no other such organization in the country.  I sent a desperate email for help.  In the subject line it only said, AYUDA.  Pastor Judy and Sean Martin tried to keep tabs on me and worried constantly that I had been killed when I didn’t answer emails.  So, Pastor Judy found a United Church of Christ Church in Riverside California and sent Pastor Jane Quad a cell phone to give me.  I went to that UCC church and was helped.  Attorney Lisa Weinberg in Worcester helped me find an attorney in San Francisco.

Pastor Judy used the internet and churches that are open to LGBT people to find a home for me in San Francisco.   Kelly Devlin who is a member of this church, was in San Fran at the time.  His friends came to Riverside and picked me up because my visa was expired and I was afraid to get on a bus.  They drove through the night so that they wouldn’t miss work, picked me up and drove me back to SF.  They dropped me off at the house of Kim and her partner, Susan.  I lived with them until I was able to get my own apartment.   They call me their son.   They are amazing people.

I know that I cannot go back to El Salvador.  It would only be a matter of time before I would be killed.   As a gay man, I cannot hide who I am and what I am.

I believe that Hadwen Park Church and the Task Force were God’s hands to save my life.   I do not believe I would be alive today without your support.   I also know that God loves me no matter what some churches say.  In El Salvador my priest said I was an abomination.

Also, I want to tell you that today is the first time that I have said “I AM GAY” in a church.  Even when I go to church in San Fran, I keep quiet, it is hard to trust churches.  When I told Pastor Judy that I was going to COME OUT for the first time in a church, she asked how I felt.  I said, “EXCITED” and more free.  So, it has always been my dream to come to you and tell you thank you so much for what you have done for me and for so many others!

Now, even though I am alone in this country, I feel a freedom that I never felt before.   I have my immigration status, I have a nice apartment, I have a job.  I have a car, a Honda.  I can go out and meet other gays and I can be sure everything will be fine. Now, I can tell you all, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.

Thank you Hadwen Park!  God Bless you!

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