Take a look inside the House of Kings and Queens, a LGBTI refuge in Sierra Leone

There is a house in Sierra Leone that has no electricity, no running water, but it is filled with kings and queens.
This inconspicuous home in Freetown belongs to a transgender woman, who we will call Queen Nicki to protect her identity.
Most of all it is a refuge to the city’s LGBTI community. The people who have been kicked out, forced to flee from persecution, have a safety net.

And in the House of Kings and Queens, as they call it, they are free to be who they are.
While the location and its inhabitants are kept secret for their safety, they have given a window into their unique lives of struggle and striving for peace and happiness.
International documentary photographer Lee Price, commissioned by Hull , has created a collection to show what it means to be a LGBTI person in Sierra Leone.

The punishment for being gay in the West African country is forced penal servitude – for life.
But even if they are not arrested, LGBTIs still face harassment, ridicule, eviction and violence.
‘There is so much homophobia in Sierra Leone’
‘There is so much homophobia in my country,’ Queen Nicki told Gay Star News.
‘When people come to the house, they are lost. They have been beaten, they have been attacked, they have been raped.

‘We call ourselves kings and queens because in this house we can do anything we want. We can have sex, we can smoke, we can drink.’
She added: ‘I am a queen, I always feel like it in my spirit, and I don’t care if they kill me I don’t care. My soul belongs to the world.’
However the threat of murder is very real. The house is a frequent target for robbery and burglary. Not even just for money, but sometimes for food and clothing.

‘Right now there is no food. There is no light. The restroom is broken,’ Queen Nicki added.
‘We need so many things in the house. You just have to get on and do it.’
Many of the inhabitants of the House of Kings and Queens are sex workers, as this is the only way they are able to get money to survive.

But they will always have a place to stay, thanks to Queen Nicki.
‘Sometimes [homophobes] threaten to kill me. I cannot go anywhere in the country other than my area,’ she said.
‘But as a queen, I want to do the best thing for my country. And this is how I’m going to do it. I’m Queen Nicki, I’m capable of anything.’
The House of Kings and Queens, a collection of photographs by Lee Price, is available to see in Hull’s Humber Street Gallery until 24 September.
The House of Kings and Queens

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