Building a family

Levi’s ® and Le Refuge shine a light on LGBTQ+ young people rebuilding their lives with the support of their chosen families


Too many LGBTQ+ kids have to weather a storm of fear and rejection when they come out, facing discrimina­tion from their nearest and dearest, or worse, total abandonmen­t, tossed onto the streets for the crime of simply being themselves.

In France, acceptance awaits in the open arms of Le Refuge. For the past 16 years, the organisati­on has helped victims of homophobia and transphobi­a, aged 18- 25, to rebuild their lives, from offering emotional and psychologi­cal support, to providing job guidance and temporary accommodat­ion.

However, a house isn’t a home without the beating hearts of the people inside it, and this is where Le Refuge has made a real difference. These at- risk, sometimes suicidal youngsters may have been neglected by their biological families, but they’ve gone on to forge new bonds with their LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.

This summer, Levi’s ® continued their longrunnin­g fight for queer rights when they collaborat­ed with Le Refuge on a campaign ( picture above), celebratin­g this idea of the chosen family, and the journey that these young LGBTQ+ adults have been on since being taken in.

Take Nathan, for example. He was just 15 when he was cast out after opening up about his sexuality. “My mother abandoned me three years ago and I haven’t heard from my father in a year,” he explains.

Nathan’s fortunes changed when his friends told him about Le Refuge, who have 19 delegation­s across the country. “It was chaos. I didn’t have anywhere to stay, no food…

I had no more reason to live,” he continues. “Le Refuge gave me a goal in life. They are my chosen family. We are there for each other. There is always someone there to talk to.”

Encouragin­g other members of the community who are struggling to keep their heads held high, Nathan, now 18, says: “If you fall seven times, you stand up eight times.”

Fellow Le Refuge comrade Raphael, 26, escaped Cameroon for Montpellie­r, where the associatio­n’s headquarte­rs is based, after being injured in a homophobic attack in a local bar. “I got stabbed in the arm by people who came into the bar with machetes, yelling: ‘ We don’t want faggots in the country. We are going to kill you all!’” he recalls.

Aspiring footballer Raphael fled to France to move in with his brother: “But he told me, ‘ If I’d known you were gay, I wouldn’t have welcomed you in my house.’” Raphael ended up sleeping rough for several months before reaching out to Le Refuge.

“They gave me back faith in life, the will to live and to move on, having gone through several suicide attempts,” he adds. “I found a family who loves and accepts me as I am.”

“After rain comes sunshine,” he says.

Support Le Refuge by visiting le- refuge. org Find out more about Levi’s ® Chosen Families at levi. com/ pride

“A house isn’t a home without the

hearts of the people inside it”

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