Lorelai’s story: Trans UofG student denied asylum

By Marcus Hyka

A University of Glasgow student seeking asylum is currently involved in a legal battle against the Home Office.

Lorelai Patanik (25) was denied her right to work and, later, her asylum claim in late 2022. The Home Office sent a statement of refusal against Lorelai’s asylum application on 16 December 2022, which it based on the availability of state protection and the possibility of internal relocation in India. “They admitted, yet ignored that I face transphobia in India, arguing that it may resolve itself if I moved to a different part of the country. This option is not accessible to me. They also believed I could go to the higher authorities. But there is institutional transphobia from the legislature to the judiciary. There is police brutality and employer discrimination against trans people. If a trans person is assaulted, it is a bailable offence and the police may refuse to resolve the case. If I went to the police in India about my parents, I would be ignored. My parents would have killed me by then. They said they would kill me. My mother said it and laughed” Lorelai said. 

After an asylum interview earlier that year, on 7 May 2022, Lorelai was accused by the Home Office of verbal deception, and the conclusion that she had intended to claim asylum from the start. Her right to work in the UK was promptly removed. Lorelai told The Glasgow Guardian, however, that she had no intention to claim asylum until Scottish charity LGBT Health and Wellbeing put in her touch with the legal team at Katani & Co Solicitors, who advised her to register her claim: “When I came to Glasgow, I did not know about asylum. I was familiar with the concept, but that was it. I simply wanted to start a new life and build a career in a place where I could be myself freely without my parents.”

In another interview on 5 September 2022, Lorelai says the transcript taken by the interviewer contained errors, and her lawyer had to make revisions to it: “The interviewer would interrupt me and leave out some things from the transcript.” Asylum seekers are required to attend a substantive interview set up by the Home Office to determine their status in the country, which often requires intense preparation, and Lorelai had accordingly collected evidence to substantiate her lived experience as a trans woman in Glasgow. 

Now, Lorelai is appealing to the first-tier tribunal against the Home Office’s decision. Yet, because Lorelai’s crowdsourced living funds are above the blanket number of £3,000, she has been denied Scottish Legal Aid. As a result, Lorelai must pay all her fees despite not having the right to work, forcing her to convert her survival fund into a fund aimed at meeting the cost of her legal fees for the appeal process: “I feel vulnerable and scared. No asylum seeker should have to pay for a legal process. I feel I was penalised by the Scottish Legal Aid board for relying on community’s support. There is a lack of concrete policy or active involvement from the Scottish Government for asylum seekers in Scotland. Everybody has a right to dignity. On top of already being an asylum seeker, the system is so dehumanising.”

It could be months before Lorelai hears of an outcome, but she remains hopeful about appealing the denial of her right to work in Spring.

Meanwhile, violence and discrimination against trans people in India is increasing. According to trans rights activists, trans people have been pushed to the sidelines of policy-making, with legislation to protect their lives not being truly enshrined in democracy, nor delivering any protection to trans people. India’s rampant transphobia problem has resulted in transphobic assault, violence and murder, conversion therapy, workplace discrimination and a government actively eroding trans rights and proactively neglecting the welfare of the trans community. In 2022, a teacher was fired for being a trans woman. In addition to the cases of violent public and public transphobia, one 17-year-old trans girl was brutally murdered by her own family in 2021. The state and society are actively hostile to the trans community in India.

When Lorelai came out to her parents, they became an active danger to her life and safety: “My parents are violently abusive and transphobic, and actively repressed my identity, desisting my transition through therapy, and threatening conversion therapy. They were a threat to my life and safety on the very basis that I was a woman. When I came out, my mother pushed me to the wall and said she’d kill me and burn the house down if I continued expressing myself.”

Lorelai’s parents weaponized against her the sort of non-medical, spiritual practices of conversion therapy which are common in India. Conversion therapy involves using violent procedures to alter one’s gender or sexuality, and it is tantamount to torture. It has been proven to be continuously unsuccessful, and the individuals forced to participate are at a high risk of suicide. Although India’s High Court has prohibited the practice of conversion therapy, the court has allocated the responsibility of criminalising conversion therapy to India’s union and state governments – both of which have not expressed any plans to implement bans. Additionally, this law only applies to medical professionals, meaning that non-medical practitioners, including religious factions, can still practise conversion therapy.

In September 2021, Lorelai made an active decision to move to Glasgow to complete an LLM in law, pursuing a career she loves in which she can help others whilst building a life for herself: “The moment that plane left India, it felt like the beginning. An ocean apart from everything.” Lorelai found community amongst the Glasgow University LGBTQ+ Society, taking on the role of POC officer. She began to present more outwardly in public as feminine, with greater access to clothes and makeup. Through groups including Small Trans Library Glasgow, Rainbow Glasgoroos, and places like Bonjour, Pink Peacock Cafe, and Category is Books, Lorelai finally felt at home. Lorelai’s drag persona, Medea, also found success, becoming one of only five trans women of colour performing drag in Scotland, even performing in the first all-POC Scottish drag show: “Drag for me was finding community, feminine gender expression and feeling like I would be cherished.”

The support Lorelai has found in queer communities in Glasgow has been crucial. Under the current regime, the Home Office’s provision for asylum seekers involves a sum of £40 a week to live off, which has not been increased in spite of the cost of living crisis. Hotel detention accommodation is offered, but as a trans woman, this proves an incredibly dangerous option for Lorelai. With the help of the Glasgow University LGBTQ+ Society and Glagow’s queer community, Lorelai was able to set up the GoFundMe for her survival in Glasgow, as well as various fundraisers. These initiatives, which are now having to be directed towards the legal fees, contributed towards Lorelai’s survival fund, ensuring she could move into safe, queer-friendly accommodation whilst still having enough money to survive.

“Everyone’s support has been crucial. It means a lot. I want to focus on my health and dysphoria and start transitioning. Having now raised enough to meet the costs of my legal fees, my fundraising will now focus on my transition, as my other needs have been met by previous fundraising. Transition is a crucial part of my survival as a trans woman. I am fighting with the strength of the community I have found in Glasgow. It’s a battle, but I’m not struggling or isolated because of their support.”

Due to her status as an asylum seeker Loralai is fundraising to be able to afford to survive in Glasgow and cover her legal fees. The link can be found here .


Share this story

Follow us online

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments