His father did not understand him. He tried to change him and eventually he beat him.

Mehdi does not want to face this anymore and that’s why he’s in Fort Myers seeking a new life. A life free of fear and hostilities; and with the promise of all America has to offer.

“I want to feel free and without always having to look over my shoulder,” he said.

Mehdi grew up in Morocco, the North African nation on the Mediterranean Sea. His Muslim family does not want to accept him anymore. If he were to return, they could, undoubtedly, hurt him.

Why? Because Mehdi is gay.

“I was not as masculine as my father thought I should be,” Mehdi said. “For this reason, he would often compare me to my brother and hit me with a bare hand as well as a belt because he felt that I was an embarrassment to the family.”

Mehdi endured the pain and punishment, suppressing his attractions for men to please his family, while looking to the West for hope. He came to America in 2009 on a cultural exchange program, working for Walt Disney World in Orlando. Mehdi kept his family ties with an uncle in Miami while working largely with fellow Muslims for Disney. And yet he still could not be true to himself.

Eventually, Mehdi’s secret was discovered by his uncle, who verbally abused him. Depression followed and bouts with anxiety led to Mehdi seeking treatment. In March of this year, he decided to apply for asylum in the U.S.

“I know that if I am forced to return to Morocco, that my family, as well as Muslim Moroccan society at large, will cause me bodily harm at minimum, jail, but ultimately, I believe that my family will have me murdered before any of that occurs.”

To stay here in South Florida, Mehdi needs help. Asylum can be a lengthy and arduous process. To raise money he’s set up a GoFundMe.com account, which includes his story.

He has a goal of $4,000 to be used in certification of financial management program at Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. Finance, Mehdi says, is his passion.

“I want to prove that I am here to be a productive member of society,” Mehdi said. “I can use my time during the asylum process to study and improve my education.”

To make a donation, visit www.GoFundMe.com/Mehdi-s-Asylum