Asylum for T

by Betty, from Action LGBTQ with immigrants and refugees (AGIR)

Hello, my name is Betty, i’m transsexual and a Mexican refugee. Maybe you identify this as an A.A. member introduction. No, i’m not an alcoholic (not a full time one), i just want to acknowledge my status and share my point of view.

First i would like to specify for those cisgender people (a term used in some trans communities to describe non trans people) who don’t know what it means to be a transsexual person, well pay attention to this: trans people identify with the sex/gender different from the one they were assigned at birth. Just to make clear, this is about gender identity, not about being gay, lesbian or bisexual – this is about how we understand our gender. Probably many people can get confused about this – it’s as normal as learning about racialized people. The access to information about gender identity is limited. For those of us who identify as trans, we all take care of ourselves as best we can.

Probably most immigrants know what it means to be a refugee claimant or an already accepted refugee. We at least each know the different reasons that made us leave our countries. I still have the “bogus” word in my head, or maybe to be called a “fake refugee”? Well. I would like to mention to that person who thinks we claimed or asked for asylum just for fun. Well, if he were to walk a mile in my shoes, i’m sure he wouldn’t dare to say that.

Being a refugee, from the beginning of the process, is to be treated like a criminal. It is not fair, living in precarious conditions – trauma, paranoia, low self-esteem, emotional or physical pain, leaving your family, friends, your home, your town, your traditions, your culture, money or what ever you had in your background and coming only with some clothes (if you are lucky) and coming probably with your hope (if you still keep it). Believe me… this guy who thinks we are “bogus” or “fake” would have an idea about what this issue is about, if he understood this.

Is not funny, is not pleasant, is not prosperable or stable. Because you are nowhere! Being a refugee claimant – you don’t have status, you go through a long and stressful process, probably it can increase your trauma. In the mean time, you have to integrate yourself to Canadian and in my case to Quebec society. This means learning about Québec history and the french language. Well, Mexico is a country rich in diversity, ruled by patriarchy and mostly macho men. 
If the levels of aggression against queers are high, you don’t have an idea about how dangerous it can be for transvestites or transsexual people.

Yes, maybe a lot of people remain isolated because we all have to hide, to run, and to suffer different kinds of transphobic violence. If you are in Mexico – just imagine if you are a man dressing as a woman with wonderful long hair, wearing makeup and high heels or in case you are a woman, wearing pants, or a male shirt, male shoes and cutting your hair, shaving yourself everyday and trying to hide your boobs. Now imagine a scenario that you are coming to school, walking on the downtown streets, or may be looking for a job. Have you ever seen a transsexual at universities? Well, maybe you have, but not many. Have you seen them working as lawyers, in a bank, as an accountant or maybe a doctor? Well, if you witnessed this, you are a lucky person, because maybe they are following a personal dream and trying to have a nice lifestyle, or maybe he or she is rich!

Unfortunately i have been witness to trans people working in bars, walking at night, working as sex workers in the worst places in town – being frequent targets of violence, harassment, sexual assault and being abused even by clients. Being paid for 2 dollars for a blowjob? (That’s real abuse!). Security is the biggest problem for us, there are no laws protecting our gender diversity, we don’t have real human rights supporting us.

Anyways, i would like to ask you to take a minute to think this, to reflect and ask yourself – what would be your reactions, how would you feel if you would lived like us? Not easy, is it? Well, i’m not looking for charity and compassionate feelings, i just really want to make you understand how damn difficult it is for us to survive in Latin American countries. We need money for rent, for hormones, for surgeries, for food, clothes and other basic necessities (that’s a lot of money honey). Me, personally talking about myself. I have lost loved ones – my family and friends.

I’m now living in the poorest conditions I have ever lived in in my life. I’m still alive, i’m healthy, i can walk on the streets in daylight with no worries, with no stress and i’m sure, i would be able to have a professional goal, to contribute and work for my community and to help to make stronger links in the trans community in Montreal. This word “bogus”, in terms of immigration, means this: I don’t care about how much you are under risk, I don’t want you in my country.

 I know about “bogus” trans women deported, living in the most precarious conditions, and some of them don’t live much longer because this negative refugee decision cost them their lives! Being murdered. Research has been done that shows that Mexico has been identified as the country with the 2nd most numbers of murders of transsexual people, after Brazil. Most these cases are never solved.

 Dear friend: that’s not being bogus, that’s not SAFE! I just would like to give a bit of information: if you are going through the refugee claim process, you have already had your hearing or you don’t have an idea about what’s happening on your status – come to the different groups to get support.

There are a number of social justice groups able to help you and accompany you through your refugee process. Try to find a good lawyer, some of them will take clients on legal aid or they are not expensive. Get involved with groups that are by and for (i.e. by and for the trans community, by and for the queer and trans migrant community, etc). It means people who have experienced the refugee process can at least can guide your process.


If you are an LGBTQ community member and you need resources – contact us at AGIR (! We can talk about it. Thanks for your time and reading this article.