“Unsettled” Hits the Castro Theater June 23rd at 1 pm

Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America returns to San Francisco as part of the Frameline queer film festival. It’s scheduled to be shown at 1 pm, Sunday, June 23 at the historic Castro Theater. Following the screening there will be a panel discussion “Troubled Sanctuary: LGBTQ+ Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Immigrants in the US.”

Unsettled documents the fight of two lesbians and two gay men to flee the persecution of their home countries and settle in San Francisco. Junior Mayema, a client of the Guardian Group, is one of the film’s subjects.

Come and see this documentary that shows what the Guardian Group does and who we help!.

Tickets starting May 28th.

 filmmakers, subjects, helpers, and friends at the documentary's director's preview in April, 2019.
UNSETTLED: SEEKING REFUGE IN AMERICA filmmakers, subjects, helpers, and friends at the documentary’s director’s preview in April, 2019. photo by © Lydia Daniller

Documentary Features a Guardian Group Client

Filmmaker Tom Shepherd (left) with Guardian Group client Junior Mayema
Filmmaker Tom Shepherd (left) with Guardian Group client Junior Mayema

“Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America” premieres as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival Wednesday, April 17th at 7:30 pm at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco (it shows again Thursday at 8 pm in Oakland).

The film powerfully and heartbreakingly details the challenging process that LGBTQ refugees must go through to find safety and security while starting over in the US. One of the newcomers featured in the movie is a client of the Guardian Group, and a couple of his volunteer helpers appear on screen.

The inspiring new documentary profiles four people who have come to San Francisco to save their own lives. Over the course of this unforgettable group portrait, Subhi (from Syria), Junior (from Congo and our Guardian Group client), and Mari and Cheyenne (from Angola) experience roadblocks and triumphs as they reflect on their respective histories and try to create a home for themselves in an environment that is not always welcoming.

This important film shows what real refugees and asylum seekers are like, contrasted to the mythical boogeymen created by the President.

The documentary is showing as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival. https://sffilm.org/event/unsettled-seeking-refuge-in-america/ (See their site for ticketing and more information.) 

The leads and filmmakers of "Unsettled" Junior Mayema -- in the red, white, and blue cowboy hat -- is a client of the Guardian Group.
The leads and filmmakers of “Unsettled” Junior Mayema — in the red, white, and blue cowboy hat — is a client of the Guardian Group.

Dealing with Realities

The Guardian Group steering committee decided in May, 2018 to suspend its routine meetings and operation.

Guardian Group Getting Ready to March in Pride 2017First, the US government’s anti-refugee policy has stopped newcomers from coming to the Bay Area. The group last received a refugee client in July, 2017. While a trickle of other queer refugees – maybe two or three this year – have come to the Bay Area, the official volunteer agency (VOLAG) tasked with resettling them has placed all them in the East Bay.

That brings up the second reason the group has not had additional clients: the housing costs in San Francisco. Even with the very modest government benefits for refugees, it is very, very difficult to find places for newcomers to stay that fit their small budget. So, the VOLAG has relied on people in the East Bay who have volunteered to provide discounted housing for its few new clients. There haven’t been enough new refugees for the VOLAG to seriously try to locate refugee housing in San Francisco.

Moreover, attempting to help newly-arrived asylum seekers is beyond the capability of our small volunteer program. Asylum seekers receive no government assistance and are ineligible for public benefits (except for medical care in San Francisco). Our group feels that it would be misleading to offer help to asylum seekers when the costs of living cheaply in San Francisco still is well over $1,000 a month and our foreseeable donations and gifts total only a few thousand dollars for the year. We cannot responsibly offer to “support” a new asylum seeker arriving in San Francisco.

Rather than meeting while having no new people to help, the Guardian Group has decided to support its existing clients who still qualify for aid. We are ready to start meeting again as soon as our committee finds out newcomers are coming, housing is available, or donations are flowing in.

We have volunteers ready to reactivate the group when new refugees arrive.

But, for the moment, we will check in, mentor, and care about the 18 people we have met as refugees and asylum seekers since 2011.

We plan on celebrating at the church some individual refugee and asylum seeker success stories in the fall, and we give great thanks for the members and friends who have supported our clients with housing, financial donations, and love.

Thank You! You Gave $6,195!!

Faithify Funded noticeThe Guardian Group is very grateful to the many people who gave money to help LGBT refugees and asylum seekers settle in San Francisco.

You were very generous, and we promise to use the money wisely.

We set an ambitious goal of $5,000 at the urging of our Senior Minister, the Rev. John Buehrens. He said that members of our home Unitarian Universalist community, their friends, and other people of faith were sure to come through.

If we didn’t get $5,000 in pledges, we would get nothing.  That’s crazy, but we signed up for that!

And, you came through.  Thank you!

By the end of the campaign on the Fourth of July donors pledged $6,195. That’s 123.9% of our goal.

Thank you so much!

Why Say “Queer” ?

Mighty Queer T-shirt in HRC store windowWe received a polite question from a visitor asking why we used the term “queer” for the people we helped when historically that word has been used as a homophobic taunt.

We are not arbitrators of good taste or cultural terminology, but we’ve seen over the past years gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex… sexual minority… people have worked to reclaim the word “queer”. Younger people first started using it to describe their community, and it is preferred — or at least accepted — by most LGBTQI people now.

The danger in listing LGBT, LGBTI, LGBTQ, or whatever specific set of initials you choose is that you will inadvertently leave out a letter that someone will say is who they are. Using a generic term like “queer” finesses the problem of leaving someone out.

It’s likely that there are some LGBTIQ people from an older generation (like me) who still feel uncomfortable about the word “queer” because it was used against them. However, I hope that the general wide acceptance and the context we use the term in will make the most people possible feel included and respected.

I snapped this photo of the clothing for sale in the Castro Human Right’s Campaign window. They’re a pretty conservative LGBT rights organization, and even they are selling t-shirts for proud queers!