Today a young Saudi trans woman is safe in the asylum system of a European country. Layla Al Darwish was born with the misfortune not only of being trans in the most repressive country on Earth, but with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that has made her functionally blind.
After her parents discovered she’d contacted us, her father threatened to kill her. In Saudi, this is not an idle threat. The Saudi state will do nothing against a parent who harms their child. So we had to arrange her escape quickly.
This has been a very dangerous extraction, the most difficult and complex operation we’ve completed to date, spanning from June to December 2022. A half dozen very brave people helped Layla on her way. One of them nearly had loved ones killed doing so, and Layla was pursued by family members while on the road.
Her travels took her through the Republic of Georgia. We are deeply grateful for the assistance of Equality Georgia, who partnered with us in this operation.
In the early morning hours of Wednesday, Dec 14, 2022, the house where five trans women lived together in Bundibugyo Uganda was raided by police. Three of the women managed to flee, but two others were beaten by police and local people, screaming “Are you men or women?”
The two women were arrested and taken to the local police station where they were sexually assaulted and further beaten.
We are assisting a local organization help all five escape to the local organization’s trans shelter in a safer place.
The local organization has arranged to free the two jailed women and provided medical care. We are extracting all five to a safer place.
Work like this requires funds. If you can, please give a small gift to help this keep happening.
Last year we published a piece here entitled “The USA is sliding into fascism. How to get out”. Behind the sensational title lay the worrying truth that we believe that the USA is heading towards a very dark place indeed, and that we would thus urge all American trans people to either get out or … Continue reading The UK Is Descending Into Transphobia. How to get out.→
Jenny List Our passengers usually travel alone, faceless beings in the global air transit system. That anonymity is their shield, because they warrant only brief inspection among the crowds hurrying for their flights. As a blind passenger Layla wasn’t so lucky, as at each step her accessibility needs had to be met. Her itinerary touched … Continue reading Layla, From My Perspective→
Today a young Saudi trans woman is safe in the asylum system of a European country. Layla Al Darwish was born with the misfortune not only of being trans in the most repressive country on Earth, but with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that has made her functionally blind. After her parents discovered she’d contacted us, … Continue reading Blind Trans Woman Escapes Saudi Arabia→
Bundibugyo, Uganda In the early morning hours of Wednesday, Dec 14, 2022, the house where five trans women lived together in Bundibugyo Uganda was raided by police. Three of the women managed to flee, but two others were beaten by police and local people, screaming “Are you men or women?” The two women were arrested … Continue reading Women Attacked in Bundibugyo, Uganda→
We recently got Alexander, a trans man, out of Russia. He was in a tight squeeze – He was a senior at a prestigious university, and holding on trying to finish his degree. But the mobilization convinced him he’d best get out now. We got him out by a roundabout route we don’t want to … Continue reading Alexander Zaytsev→
We have been under severe attack from some vicious trolls recently. We have to be rather widely accepting in how passengers contact us. They are ordinary trans* folk, in danger, often under a parent’s thumb (yes, this is normal for a 26 year old in some countries). They may have limited contact options. So people … Continue reading Bunkering Against Attack – Services Reduced→
It’s been a very stressful few weeks for us at Trans Rescue, as alongside our normal work with our passengers we’ve had to contend with a concerted attack from some vicious online trolls. It started when someone took offence at being blocked by our Twitter maintainer, and escalated into a bizarre and disturbing array of … Continue reading Finding A Way Out Of An Internet Attack→
I’m very worn out today and need to pick myself up. A journalist asked about our accomplishments, so I thought I’d write a bit of a brag piece. Some of these are things done as TransEmigrate (who we were before), and with other groups I wish I could credit, but who I don’t want to … Continue reading Some Things We’ve Done→
It’s an unfortunate side effect of running a trans organisation, that sometimes you will attract the wrong kind of attention. It’s happened to us, we’ve been the subject of a sustained online harassment campaign for clout from somebody within the trans community who became upset with us when we blocked her on Twitter. As you … Continue reading Responding To Our Attackers→
We’re a small organization in our first year with a small budget. We’ll be submitting normal accounts at the end of the year. But it’s not easy to read accounts without training, and it seemed we should give an account of where the money has come from and gone. Unless otherwise specified, all values are … Continue reading Where Does The Money Go?→
We’re now 3 weeks into Eden House. It’s been a busy time, so we’re having an update. What we’ve accomplished: Cleaned up Gotten the plumbing mostly repaired Been broken into 3 times, (local thieves, not transphobia as far as we know) and house security has held each time. Improved house security – secured the ladder, … Continue reading Eden House – Month one, and Why→
“Hii nyumba ni kama nyumba ya mungu luna ipa heshima.” (This house is like a temple, and we respect it) – Shilla After months of planning, fund raising, and work, our trans haven in Nakuru, Kenya is a reality. This post is being written in the office of Eden House. We moved the first passengers … Continue reading Eden House Begins!→
In October 2018 the New York Times published a leaked HHS memo, a plan to “eliminate transgender identity”. Since then, even with the end of the Trump administration, anti-trans hate has steadily ramped up, and in the last few days a US Supreme Court decision overturned Roe v. Wade. American trans people seem to be … Continue reading The USA Is Sliding Into Fascism. How To Leave.→
السلام عليكم ورحمه الله وبركاته، بص، علشان نقدر نستخرج جواز سفر، فيه حالتين حضرتك هتبقي موجود فيها، هقول أول حاله و هي إن حضرتك ١٩ سنه أو أقل. المستندات اللازمة: أولهم صورة لبطاقه سارية لو فوق ال١٦ و الأصل معاها، ٣ صور ٤ في ٦ خلفية بيضه من غير نضارات، لو حضرتك متجوز ببقي وثيقة … Continue reading Getting A Passport in Egypt→
We know a lot of organizations offer to help, do intake, and then do nothing, or have a wait list miles long. We don’t want to be like that. We currently have so many people in the system right now that we simply can’t help any more. This is mostly a matter of funds. So … Continue reading Intake is, sadly, now closed→
May 25, Mombasa Rita, a trans woman in coastal Kenya, was assaulted on May 15 at her restaurant chef job, after the restaurant owner learned she was trans. He and another employee attacked her, probably giving her a concussion and skull fracture. The police came and arrested Rita, charged her with “impersonation” and “shaming” the … Continue reading Trans Woman Assaulted in Kenya→
Trans Emigrate has been a success over its 20-month lifespan. We have gotten 15-20 people out, and we have learned the basic mechanics of obtaining visas, arranging asylum, handling passengers, and organizing globally. But it’s been obvious for a while that our origin as a scrappy activist group isn’t consistent with the scope of the … Continue reading What Happened to TransEmigrate?→
In a country as large as Kenya, one place can be relatively safe while another is deadly for trans people. We can often save folks simply by getting them to another part of the country, and, often, away from parents. A local ally rang us up recently with the sad news that there were 8 … Continue reading Eden House – A Trans Haven in Kenya→
Last year Rayan’s situation seemed hopeless. As a ‘female’ in his home country of Saudi Arabia, he had little control over his life. His wealthy, powerful, and criminal father ruled the family with an iron fist. He’d been threatened with death both by his father and mother, been abused by family members, subjected to medical … Continue reading Rayan – Saudi Arabia→
Engineers are born, not made, it seems. Some people are in love with machines and will tinker endlessly if allowed. Sadly, in some places people seen as women still aren’t allowed. Often our work at Trans Rescue isn’t about fighting transphobia as much as it is about fighting sexism. Walim is a 19 year old … Continue reading Walim – Egypt→
Ife is a beautiful young (21) trans woman from Nigeria. She’s surviving on street hustles. Five minutes talking with her and you realize how intelligent she is. She’s well read and can talk about gender theory like a western baby trans. As we discuss plans to get her out, she emphasizes, over and over, how … Continue reading Ife – life in Nigeria→
Sara is an intersexed woman with an undiagnosed sex hormone issue. She lives in a small town in northern Iran. She’s unable to have the issue properly diagnosed or to obtain supportive medical care. The local authorities, and Sara herself, have no word for intersex, and so say she’s LGBT. The police have sent letters … Continue reading Sara – Intersexed in Iran→
I’m Maeen Aldahbali from Yemen. Im currently in Egypt. I’ve been shot, humiliated, tortured and jailed. As a young Yemeni born in 1998 I dream of a peaceful life and brighter future for me and all youth of my community. Unfortunately, the spring of my age met my home country’s autumn years. So I witnessed … Continue reading Maeen Aldahbali→
One of our passengers has had experience with registries of trans people. In light of the recent decision in Florida registering trans minors, she thought it was important people know her story in her own words:
I’m over 30 in Hungary. Before they banned transition, I had my psychological evaluation in the way, and visited psychologists over my issues. After the ban in 2020, the psychologists told me they can not help me any more, and after a few months, some ministry’s office started to harass me on the phone, pretty much threatening me that if I attempt to transition, they will send me to jail or worse.
I reported such to the police and blocked the number.
Nearing 2021, police officers shown up at my workplace and asked me to come around to the nearby police office. The officers were apologetic and embarrassed, but “we just do what we are told to do”. In the office, some woman from a ministry (not from the police) started shouting at me about how being trans is an evil fad and corrupts children, and I should write an official paper that I am normal, not trans, never will be trans and fill in some data on it. I refused because it seemed like getting data and “I am cisgender, leave me alone”.
Then she shown the papers from my doctor, which they pretty much confiscated from the hospital. “Yes, I had a time when I was unsure, but I am sure now. Leave me alone.”
So as I left, a police officer called me aside and apologized in the name of the Hungarian police force, stating that this is from the ministry and they have to do this, smaller office, so they are doing what they are told to do. I left anyways.
The phone harassment did not stopped and near the end of 2021, officers came around again, but they just shrugged when I told them they got the wrong guy.
Early 2022, Trans Rescue helped me out of Hungary to a safe zone in the EU. They gave me a temporary house until I got on my feet and legally could stay in a country.
The harassing calls did not stopped, the Hungarian officials still tried to threaten me that if I ever return to Hungary with a changed gender, they will hit me “with all the power of the law”.
She, and we, thought it was important to get this out, but for obvious reasons she was reluctant to release it on her own.
We have been under severe attack from some vicious trolls recently.
We have to be rather widely accepting in how passengers contact us. They are ordinary trans* folk, in danger, often under a parent’s thumb (yes, this is normal for a 26 year old in some countries). They may have limited contact options. So people come to us over social media, email, and the other normal ways of contact in an internet world.
But the trolls have been making such contacts very expensive. They create “sock puppets” — artificial accounts claiming to be trans folks in danger or volunteers. Sorting out ‘real’ approaches from the fakes is consuming huge amounts of effort.
Beyond that, and more importantly, we may make mistakes. If we, a few volunteers, get overwhelmed and decide an account is a sock incorrectly, some poor soul in Sudan or Egypt loses their lifeline.
And moving someone invariably involves discussing how to do it with them. Which leaks operational secrets.
We have to continue our work or passengers die. We have folks holed up in secret places inside repressive theocracies. If the police catch up they die. We are sending them money and keeping them on the move.
So, as a temporary measure, we are, sadly, taking some defensive measures. Any resulting deaths will be on the hands of the trolls.
First, we are only talking with people we know and trust. If we don’t know you, you’ll be directed to this page.
For new passengers, this cuts off help.
We had ‘closed intake’ a while back. It’s more humane to say ‘we’re full’ than to consume the trapped passenger’s time and possibly endanger them only to put them on a long backlog.
But people do come anyway, and we explain we have a backlog, and sometimes their problem is simple. So we take folks in when it’s realistic for us to help them in a reasonable time frame.
As of today, that stops. If we don’t know you we won’t talk with you. If that leaves you needing help, we’re terribly sorry. When the attacks stop we’ll go back to normal.
We are also getting volunteers. If you want to volunteer with us, you’ll have to find someone we know and trust and have them recommend you. And you should expect the first step in onboarding to be a more than usually rigorous check that what you say is true.
(And yes, this hurts us – Our only paid employee is Eden House’s manager. Everything else is done by volunteers).
If you’re here and you’re appalled – get angry. This defensive posture is a body blow to our fundraising. We will be trying to ‘shielter in place’ passengers, that’s often cheaper, but we will run out. And some need moved NOW.
So if you want us to keep working, pull out your credit card. It’s the only way we can keep passengers alive until this attack ends.
I’m very worn out today and need to pick myself up. A journalist asked about our accomplishments, so I thought I’d write a bit of a brag piece.
Some of these are things done as TransEmigrate (who we were before), and with other groups I wish I could credit, but who I don’t want to mention for operational reasons or because we’re currently under troll attack. I think we’ve all been far more interested in the work getting done than credit.
We have helped people get out of danger, in these countries: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, USA, UK, Northern Ireland, Russia, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldive Islands, Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria.
How many depends on how much contact we need before it’s ‘help’. We’ve had ex passengers help get others out and tell us afterwards or be gotten out by supportive families. But the ‘count’ is about 20 people we have helped substantially.
We currently have 5 people “on the run” and supported by us. We also support Eden House until it can become self sustaining. In the past we’ve had about this many consistently.
And we work with others who don’t need our financial support (mostly they’re trying to escape parents in repressive countries) but who we are trying to get out.
We have started a program to advise people in places like the US and UK how to get out. We fear for the future in such places. If the US becomes a fascist autocracy a million people might suddenly be on the run.
And we feel like we’re raising awareness of the plight of trans people in dodgy places. No country wants to be known as a place we get people out of. It’s early days for this, but I’ve had at least one conversation with a government official who made it clear our actions were not appreciated by his government.
Finally, we’ve raised awareness of the plight of trans people in dodgy places among the western left. That has value of its own.
We’re a small organization in our first year with a small budget. We’ll be submitting normal accounts at the end of the year. But it’s not easy to read accounts without training, and it seemed we should give an account of where the money has come from and gone.
Unless otherwise specified, all values are in Euros.
We maintain an account with Bunq bank in the Netherlands.
As of Sept 25, 2022, we had 5273 euros in the bank: 1193.7 in ‘incomings’, 158.66 in admin, 87.32 in operations, 1601 in savings, and 1432 set aside for Eden House.
Eden House particularly needs stable funding, hence the relatively large amount set aside for it. We’ve just spent 4804 setting up and operating our first 7 weeks, so this fund is currently depleted.
We never know when someone won’t be let on a plane or we’ll be approached by someone who needs moved NOW. So we set aside a relatively large amount for savings, and currently have 1601 in that account.
Like any organization we have administrative expenses (bank charges, IT charges) and have 158 set aside for anticipated expenses. We transfer money from incomings to Operations as a fiscal control measure, and fund operations from the Operations account.
We have raised 32923 euros to date.
Most of our income has come from small individual contributors. Our largest contribution has been the initial 3000 euro donation from an individual that started us.
We have received no grants or corporate donations.
We received a 2500 euro interest free loan from one of our board members to help get started. This money isn’t included in the above figure, and was used to incorporate and obtain ANBI status.
Google now provides us with a graph.
It can take us a long time to get a passenger out. For this reason the largest item is ‘support’ – sending frightened trans folk money to stay alive while on the run, and renting rooms in dodgy places. Eden House has been an attempt to reduce this cost. Sometimes we’ve had to hold people somewhere simply because we didn’t have the funds to get them out. So this also inflates this number. This number also includes some items we’d rather not describe because it would compromise our methods. We spent 13485 on support.
Passenger travel is what we love to spend on – airline tickets, trains, and other transport. We spent 5153 on passenger travel. A separate category for ‘passenger paperwork’, we spent 162 euros on such items as passport charges.
Eden House has been our next largest expenditure. The 4804 investment is already greatly increasing our capacity to help people in East Africa and other places. Moving forward, we’ll spend 800-1000 euros a month for the next few months until self sufficiency programs kick in.
Sometimes we need to send a volunteer somewhere to physically help someone escape. These are often quite dangerous. We spent 1926 on staff travel.
We had charges of 553 for admin and 826 for IT. The large IT charge was because we were setting up systems, because we paid for TransEmigrate’s IT charges while TransAsylias was getting separated, and because it took us a while to be registered with Google for their Google for Nonprofits program.
Our only fundraising expense was 150 euros. We had a tent at “May Contain Hackers”, a ‘hacker camp’. This was an opportunity to ride along on activities a board member had to do anyway for their day job. While not a great success as a fundraiser, we developed many useful contacts.
We recently hired Arya Aurora for a combination role of Eden House manager and PR assistant. She’s been learning the PR role, but is already doing great work as house manager. Her salary is 250 euros/month, consistent with market rates for office worker jobs in Kenya.
There is a 340 euro discrepency in these figures. I believe it’s due to some refund, but since this post is not intended as a formal financial report, I’m simply going to acknowledge it and return to moving passengers.
What We’ve Done
In the past 9 months we’ve
Moved 18 people – some of them only partially
Helped another 6 survive while we figure out how to get them out
We are trying to help 4 more
Started Eden House
Started a program to advise people in non-emergency places like the US and UK how to get out
We had a program of emotional support for QTI folks stuck in dangerous places, run by a social worker, but we no longer have that resource.
Raised awareness of conditions for QTI folks outside EU/US
We feel like we’ve been good stewards of your donations. We do thank you for your ongoing, amazing support.
Made more household furnishings – we’ve made 3 sofas and 5 beds. (Tomato crates are amazing!).
Bought basic carpentry tools, got past some gender stereotypes about what’s appropriate women’s work, and had basic tool use classes. Everyone caught on, and now is much more self sufficient.
built a chicken coop
Planted a garden
What Is Eden House, How is a ‘Trans Haven’ different from a ‘hidey hole’ or temp shelter?
A ‘hidey hole’ is a temporary place for a trans person to hide while we get them out. We have these in various places around the world. They’re uncomfortable bare rooms, not a place to live very long.
Some organizations make Queer homeless shelters. A place where a queer person can come and stay safely, but not very comfortably for the long term.
Instead, we’ve chosen to make a more ‘plush’ place. Trans folks can come and stay as long as they like. We help them find productive work within the context of the Haven. Some may choose to stay their entire lives, some may choose to leave soon.
Financially, we expect the place to become self supporting, a communal living space. Folks come and go at a stereotypical ‘hippy commune’, soem staying a long time. We can do much the same.
Obviously it’s a bigger undertaking than a minimal place with crammed in bunk beds. So why do it?
First, Kenya’s a big country, we regularly get folks asking us for help. Mostly in danger in a small town, they just need a place to go and a bit of travel money. Renting an apartment for each is expensive. In the end, Eden House becomes a free place to send folks.
Second, if folks are housed independent of each other, they’re without mutual support – at Eden House a job training program or remote work system or trauma support is easy to set up. Spread out, it’s not.
Third, Kenya is indeed dangerous – we picked a place with a wall, and it’ll take a lot of guts to attack a house full of people with good security (we’ve already made the house look a bit like a fortress – local thieves have been ‘pentesting’ it for us).
Fourth, institutions (police demanding bribes, local religious leaders stirring hate) have a harder target. We are already a resource for our neighbors (our neighbor benefits from our security arrangements, our other neighbor is a vendor (She supplies our chickens)).
Fifth, this is the start of a long term project– we can expand and form a constantly growing queer community. To do that people need to feel free to stay in or around the project.
To those of you who don’t remember the 80’s, Queer havens like San Francisco’s Castro and New York’s Christopher Street were important organizing centers.
If we have a strong community in one country or one city in East Africa, we can expand out and create change in the entire region. It’s not just Kenya that will change, but all East Africa.
Sixth, Kenya is a place we can get folks from the Middle East or Africa to easily, and those are some of the worst places to be trans now. Eden House makes our other operations much, much easier.
Seventh, Kenya’s a country with an improving record of human rights, largely outside the fascism taking over many countries. It might end up as a base to retreat to.
“Hii nyumba ni kama nyumba ya mungu luna ipa heshima.”
(This house is like a temple, and we respect it)
After months of planning, fund raising, and work, our trans haven in Nakuru, Kenya is a reality. This post is being written in the office of Eden House.
We moved the first passengers in on August 1.
Our awesome volunteer, Simon Ng’ang’a, found us a really special place. It’s a lovely 3 bedroom 3 bath home with enough property for a chicken coop and garden. Its location on the outskirts of town is secure, quiet, and means we can move to the agricultural project vision gradually – renting a nearby field and expanding into it.
All of us in Nakuru have been working hard to turn the house from a rather dilapidated place that hadn’t been lived in for some time to a lovely home. We’ve cleaned a lot, we’ve had plumbers in and figured out the NASA like complexities of the plumbing, done a lot of small repairs, and are moving on.
We’re currently a bit in the ‘camping in our new apartment’ stage, with mattresses on the floor and a single cheap molded plastic table and chairs. But we’ve set up the kitchen (everyone but me seems to be a wonderful cook), and have daily basics like clothes washing, internet service, fridge, and so on established.
But we’re starting our move towards self sufficiency by building our own furniture.
The back porch currently has a lot of offcut lumber piled up, most of it with the bark removesd. We’re building 5 beds, a sofa, and a trestle type dining table. In preparation, I taught a basic tool use class (it’s not all one way – I finally got a proper lesson in how to wash clothes in a bucket from Sophia, I’d struggled with this before).
As much as teaching concrete skills, we’re working hard to get the women who grew up in the city used to the idea of doing for yourself. Most of the folks in the house had little experience with self sufficiency, but they’re learning fast. In fact, after several ideas of how to build beds, we settled on an idea Arya came up with, based on used tomato boxes. And the idea of learning skills from YouTube is new to them all.
We’re purchasing some basic tools, some chickens, a sewing machine, and some art supplies. Arya’s interested in starting clothing production, and Sophia’s a talented artist. Shilla brings many practical ‘farm’ talents – she’s going to start raising chickens and lead the project to put in a garden.
And yes, we have a large garden planted! Shilla took the lead on this project.
We’re doing more than we expected for this early phase of the project. We’re ready to start some skills training, but need equipment. The tools are purchased, but we could use more, and we need to purchase a sewing machine, sewing notions, some fabric, and some art supplies.
Eden House is on a residential lot on the edge of town, down a narrow dirt road. About 50% of the surrounding lots are used for agriculture. Our original plan was a house or apartment, then move into some self-sustaining agricultural project later as we grew. Instead, I think we can just grow the house where we are for some time, perhaps renting a nearby lot for agriculture.
The compound is the former home of a local MP. Politics can be violent in Kenya. For us, having a politician’s house means the property is very secure – it has a tall stone block wall topped with broken glass and a secure iron gate. All windows have secure steel bars. If (a realistic possibility here) there’s a violent protest, we’re secure.
Matching Funds For Eden House
One of our wonderful supporters (who wants to remain anonymous) has offered up a challenge. For every euro we raise, up to 2000 EU, she’ll match it 1 for 1. So let’s go, you can donate