From a young age, Ali knew he felt different, but was afraid to openly admit it.
“Growing up in an Islamic country, it’s a real fear if you have different feelings to the norm. You have no way to express it.”
After seeking asylum in the UK, he came out as gay at Pride in 2019, which he describes as the best day of his life.
“I came out the day before Pride on social media. It was a big moment for me. I was scared of people leaving me, people from the same background or from my religion at the time.”
Being gay is forbidden amongst the Baha’is and Ali ruminated over whether to come out to them. In the end, he felt he had to be upfront and honest or he would be living a lie.
“I told them I was gay, but that I also wanted to follow the religion. I was told that if I wanted to practise being gay then they wouldn’t give me a registration card because it was against their principles," Ali explains. "I had to choose. They were both my identities and I didn’t want to lose either of them. In the end I chose my sexuality, because I feel that being a homosexual is what makes me whole - and of course the support of the LGBTQ community, whose contribution on the path of finding my true identity is undeniable. I still have my beliefs and I will still be practising the principles I believe to be right, just not under the name of the religion."
A new beginning
After Ali revealed his truth, he says his life changed completely.
“I was really shy and anxious and stressed about everything. But when I came out, I just became myself. No pretending, no acting, nothing of the sort.”
Despite bravely coming out publicly, the thought of telling his mother was to be the hardest part – he didn’t want to lose her too.
“She was born and raised in Iran, so she does have that homophobic point of view. One day, I just woke up and texted her without thinking. I just said, 'I’m gay and it’s who I am, and if you don’t want to speak to me, I understand that.' She called me crying. She told me I was her son and that it didn’t matter. That she loved me. It was such a weight lifted.” he remembers.
Coming to Centrepoint
Ali came to Centrepoint with the help of his leaving care coach so he could be close to his college and live more independently, rather than in a shared accommodation. He said Centrepoint's help has been invaluable during this monumental and life-affirming time.
“They are always there for you at Centrepoint. You can talk to them about anything and they support you no matter what.”
With nobody else to rely on for financial support, Centrepoint have also been there for Ali when he had no funds for food or travel.
“They helped me with an Oyster Card and a gift card for Tesco’s so I could buy food when I didn’t have any money.”
Alongside this, Ali was supported by Centrepoint to purchase text books for his course. He now feels settled at Centrepoint - it’s somewhere safe where he can focus on his studies.
“The rooms are really good where I am. They have been recently renovated and are well-designed.”
Hopes for the future
Ali's feeling confident about what the future holds and has thrown himself into his education, studying Physics, Chemistry And Biology at A-levels. Eventually, he hopes to go to Kings College to further his study in neuroscience and neuro-imaging.
For Ali, the future's looking bright.
If you'd like to make a donation to Centrepoint and support young people like Ali, please visit our donation page.