Married at First Sight star celebrates LGBTQ+ History Month with Causeway

Matt Jameson (2)

Hi everyone, it’s Matt Jameson here,

Being part of the first same-sex pairing to marry on Married at First Sight UK was a real honour.  Even today, visibility of LGBTQ+ is often low, and the experiences and challenges we face, and perspectives LGBTQ+ people offer, can be forgotten.

Since appearing on MAFS UK, my focus has been on elevating voices and experiences of LGBTQ+ people, trying to tackle inequalities, and driving the change that the community needs. That’s why this LGBTQ+ History Month I am proud to be joining forces with Causeway to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ modern slavery survivors, and the challenges and risks they can face.

Whilst the UK can be seen as a progressive place for LGBTQ+ people to live and work, the same cannot be said for multiple countries around the world where being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans is illegal, punishable by death, or so heavily derided amongst communities or authorities, that to come out would be to put your life at risk.

It is these dangers faced by LGBTQ+ people abroad, and here in the UK, that makes them especially vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.  Whilst working with Causeway, it’s been heart-breaking and shocking to learn how these vulnerabilities can be abused, and the appalling situations this can lead to.

When traffickers, individuals or gangs are looking for people to exploit, they focus on people who are vulnerable in some way.  Often this means poverty, gender inequality, emotional isolation, or lack of opportunities where they live.  For LGBTQ+ people, their sexuality or gender identity not only exacerbates these other vulnerabilities, but makes them a target in their own right.

An LGBTQ+ person desperate to escape a community or country where they don’t feel safe, may be more likely to accept risky offers of ‘a new life’ or ‘job opportunity’ abroad that turns out to be exploitative.  I also learnt that for others, their sexuality may be used as a source of blackmail against them.  Their abuser may threaten to tell their family or the authorities about their status as an LGBTQ+ person, which could lead to violence, arrest or death.

There can also be increased risks for LGBTQ+ individuals here in the UK. The LGBTQ+ community are disproportionately affected by homelessness, and it’s things like this which may increase their chances of being targeted by traffickers, as well as those who wish to sexually exploit them.

It was interesting to hear from Iona Smith who, as well as working with survivors of modern slavery, runs Causeway’s LGBTQ+ staff network. Iona talked me through the experiences of one service user she supported who identifies as LGBTQ+:

“I remember one woman who was being supported by Causeway after being forced into domestic servitude. The woman was from the Caribbean and had been in a relationship there with a woman.  She hadn’t hidden the fact she was a lesbian from her community, but some people didn’t like it, and turned against her, harassing her family and threatening them.

It got so bad that a gang of men cut her brother’s arm off, and forced her into a relationship with one of the male gang members.  They then forced her to go to the UK to work as a servant in one of their relative’s homes.  They said if she didn’t do it, they would kill her family.  After a year of being abused and forced to work for free, she went to the police, who referred her to Causeway.  Luckily her family are safe now, but it shows the danger LGBTQ+ people face on a daily basis.”

Iona also explained how many LGBTQ+ people, both here in the UK, and abroad, may also be wary of revealing their identity to police or authorities through fear of discrimination, or not being believed or supported:

“We supported a person recently who identified as non-binary.  As a teenager they had been targeted on a dating app and groomed by an older man who had persuaded them to come to the UK ‘for a new life.’ When they arrived, they were abused and sexually exploited by this man, but when they went to the police for help, they felt like they weren’t taken seriously.  At Causeway we have numerous staff who identify as LGBTQ+ which is really important for showing service users that it’s ok to be gay, trans or non-binary, that they can be who they are with us.”

Hearing these accounts from Iona has just increased my passion for more to be done.  Causeway are one of the largest providers of modern slavery support in the UK, and currently support over 2,000 individuals each year.  This includes men, women and non-binary people, those from the UK and those from overseas.

However, like all charities, Causeway relies on the support, generosity and advocacy from the wider public.  If you are in a position to donate to their work, you can do so here, or stay up-to-date with their work by signing up to their free newsletter here.

By coming together, we can create a fairer, safer and equal world for all.


Matt x