‘Living in Ireland has changed my life in a way that is so profound’

New to the Parish: Marlon Jimenez-Compton was persecuted as a gay man in Venezuela

Marlon Jimenez-Compton near his home in Castleknock. Photograph: Alan Betson

As a gay man living in poverty in Venezuela in the early 2000s, Marlon Jimenez-Compton's life was "very deprived". Often, he wasn't sure when his next meal would be, and the gay bars he went to were frequently raided by the police. He knew he had no future there.

In June 2003 he arrived in Dublin seeking asylum.

“They organised for me to have an interview with the government to present my case. I told them about my life and how I was persecuted and discriminated against in Venezuela for being a gay man.”

Venezuela was “not a welcoming place” for LGBTQ people. He was often “harassed” and found himself in “risky and unsafe” situations. “There was a gay scene, but the police would come and raid the place and they’d take you to the station overnight just for being gay.”


“I remember a time when I was living in rented accommodation in my city, Maracaibo, and a friend of mine had just been diagnosed as HIV positive. I went to the clinic to look for information for him, because he felt too ashamed to go himself. Someone saw me and spread rumours in the neighbourhood that I had HIV and my landlord told me I had to leave my accommodation because of that. I just knew I had to leave that country.”

A friend Jimenez-Compton met online on a website for gay men told him he might have a better life in Ireland because he had a good grasp of the English language.

He told me there was nothing in Donegal for an LGBTQ person. I didn't know what to do

He recalls hearing about former presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese and "how they advocated for human rights and gay rights ... So I became an asylum seeker. The whole process to become a political refugee took about 16 months," he says.

Initially he was due to be sent to a direct provision accommodation centre in Donegal. “But before I was supposed to be sent there, some guys at my hostel told me to check out The George. I went there and I met a doctor. We got talking and I told him about my situation. He told me there was nothing in Donegal for an LGBTQ person. I didn’t know what to do.”

“He was moved by my plight. And he told me, ‘I would like to offer you accommodation’. He wrote a letter to the government saying he was going to give me a room to stay in, and the Government said yes, because by him looking after me, they would have a space for another asylum seeker. So that was the reason I wasn’t in direct provision accommodation.”

Good friends

He stayed with the doctor in his house in Blackrock, and the pair remain good friends. Recently, Marlon attended the doctor’s wedding in Madrid.

“I eventually asked him: ‘Why did you do this for me?’ and he said it was because his mother was very generous with people, and he always saw her helping others. Irish people are just like that.”

When his asylum was granted, he cried. "We were just so happy that we could stay together"

The following year, he met an Irish man, John Compton, at The George, who is now his husband.

“We got together without knowing if we would be able to stay together because I didn’t know if my case for asylum was going to be successful. There was the chance that I would have been sent back to Venezuela.”

When his asylum was granted, he cried. “We were just so happy that we could stay together.”

In July 2009, he became an Irish citizen and received his Irish passport. That was a “special moment” in his life.

The couple legalised their union in 2011 when the Civil Partnership Act came into effect, and married in 2016, after the Marriage Equality referendum passed. They live in Castleknock with their dog, Sammy, and a fish from Japan.

In February 2019, Jimenez-Compton applied for a job in advertising and sales at Gay Community News magazine and has worked there since.

“The impact working at GCN has had on my life … I can’t put it into words. I value and honour GCN so much and it will always be part of my life. It’s like a family.”

Sing and dance

As a result of a viral LinkedIn post on World Refugee Day, which received more than a quarter of a million views, he sought to become a refugee advisory board member at the United Nations refugee agency.

He is very active on social media and he loves to sing and dance, “even though I can’t do it well”, he jokes. Last year a radio producer contacted him asking if he would like to guest-host her show on Dublin South FM.

“I did the show and after that they invited me back again and again,” he says. Eventually, the station offered him his own slot: The Marlon Show. “I love it so much, because I have a voice,” he says.

There are so many wonderful things this country has to offer

He describes the show as “an oasis of happiness and positivity” and “a platform for all those that feel voiceless for them to broadcast and showcase their message”.

“If you told me when I was in Venezuela in 2002 that this would be my life now ... I can’t say thank you enough to Ireland for the way I’ve been embraced here. I don’t want to get emotional … ” he says, wiping tears from his cheeks.

“Living here has changed my life in a way that is so profound. I got an education here. I did a diploma in psychology and a diploma in marketing. I fell in love. There are so many wonderful things this country has to offer. I have this saying now: Ireland is my house and Dublin is my home.”