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.
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 allegations against our organisation and its directors that were they true would be an existential threat. Closer to home we’ve received credible reports of concerted attempts to report us to the local authorities where we are based, moving the whole episode from the merely annoying into the distinctly concerning. We can and have refuted and debunked the allegations, but since that simply generates a fresh set we’ve taken the sensible course of non-engagement. We don’t talk to people who have demonstrated themselves to be bad actors, that’s it. Perhaps it’s time to look at this from another perspective when attempting to make sense of it all, to examine the motives and costs for each party.
It’s All About Motives And Costs
For us, the cost of all this could be existential. It represents a threat to our fundraising, our ability to support our passengers, and their personal safety, as well as to our reputations, both personal and as an organization. Our motive is to clear our names and defend our work. Our desired outcome is for the allegations to be proved wrong and the attack go away so that our stress capacity can be used on our mission.
But what about the people behind all this? We think that while their behaviour has been just as threatening, they aren’t in it for the same reasons as more traditional trolls from sites such as 4chan or Kiwifarms. It may have started as a fit of pique at being blocked, but for them it’s moved on into something of an obsessive quest for an imagined truth in which they have more in common with a conspiracy theorist. People who have convinced themselves that the Moon landing was faked will willfully ignore all the compelling evidence to the contrary, and so it is for them. Their motive is to be seen as the Seekers of Truth who demolished the Big Lie, and like the Moon landing theorists they simply dismiss anything which doesn’t fit with their pre-ordained conclusion. Their desired outcome is our complete destruction and their rightful recognition as crusaders for justice, without any room for retreat.
If that’s their motive, how about the costs? In this case the costs are just as high for them as they are for us. The loss of face in coming to terms with having tried to bring down a small non-profit working with in-danger trans people in a developing country using fake evidence fed to them by a scamming chaser would be immense. It would destroy their personal reputations, with the fallout being visible for anyone prepared to search the Internet for years to come. These are people who style themselves as transgender activists, indeed in another world we might be working with them rather than regarding them as toxic, so any “are we the baddies?” moment of realisation for them is too painful to contemplate.
Finding A Way Forward Through Independent Scrutiny
In reconciling these two positions, it’s difficult to see a way out without the unthinkable happening for one party. Either we are forced to shut down, or they end up with so much loss of face as to erode their credibility for good. If there’s to be a way forward then, it has to involve a lessening of one of those costs. We aren’t going to stop what we do, so the cost has to be reduced for them instead. Doing that is easy to say, but given the obsessive nature of their continued campaign it’s difficult to see how they might be talked down.
As we have tried resolving this we have continued to be open about what we do and to keep on with our work. We continue to refuse to engage with the trolls no matter how much they demand it, so for example we haven’t rushed to show pictures of the Eden House chicken coop that they’ve been obsessing about. For those interested in seeing our work for real we’ve put the word out to professional independent journalists, and will be the subject of their writing in due course. They will write what they find, and we trust that they will find us to be exactly as we say we are. The true spotlight of scrutiny comes from impartial professionals rather than obsessive conspiracy theorist trolls. If you have been watching this saga then we urge you to read what they have to say rather than rely on the trolls, or indeed even on us.
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.
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 might expect, to be at the centre of such an attack has inflicted damage on our organisation. It has cost us a huge amount of time and stress, it has had an impact on our fundraising, and it has inflicted reputational damage both immediate and lingering. This will affect our relationship with corporate donors in particular, which will have an immediate effect on our passengers. Further to that it’s damaged our relations with other trans activists and groups, something which is particularly important for a small non-profit..
Finally and most importantly, it has endangered the lives of our passengers and our volunteers. The obsessive looking for so-called “facts” about us has come uncomfortably close to people in danger who operate in dangerous parts of the world, and who may be on the run from hostile family members or state actors. To the people mounting the attacks it’s a witch-hunt for the lolz and a bit of online clout, for the people on the ground it truly is a matter of life and death. People will die violently if this continues, it’s as simple as that.
Thus it’s been really unpleasant and mentally exhausting for us to deal with, but we have to address it somehow because to let it slide is to let it stand. So here we are, let’s go through some of the points one by one. Be warned, some of them stretch credibility.
You blocked someone on Twitter for posting about racism.
We’re a trauma aware organisation, and we have all been through very difficult experiences that have left us traumatised. If someone is consistently retweeting triggery stuff, it is not unreasonable to block them. Someone blocked you on the Internet, get over it.
You’re grifters, taking money and using it for yourselves
We have published interim accounts and we will be submitting all our yearly accounts as required by Dutch law. It should be clear from those that we are spending any money we receive wisely and in accordance with our aim. Meanwhile we’re as we put it “in our ramen phase”, putting a lot of time into getting Trans Rescue off the ground that we could be spending working, and thus living pretty frugally.
But you moved a cis person! That’s not in accordance with your aim!
As part of our incorporation we defined our aim as moving trans and other people. This was because we’re aware that sometimes we’ll move a loved one who is cis. We currently have passengers in our system who fit that description. Our director moved a cis person with her own money, before Trans Rescue was even incorporated. His name is Maeen Aldahbali, and he’s a Yemeni human rights defender on the run from the factions because he campaigned against child soldier recruitment. If you have a problem with our director helping him, then we suggest you take a long and hard look at your priorities.
You say you have a trans haven in Kenya, but it’s all a lie
Our trans haven in Kenya is called Eden House. The name was chosen by our first passengers who moved in, all of them Kenyans. We hope that the many pictures we and they who live there have posted about it should be enough to prove its existence. We will not reveal where it is in Kenya, to protect its security.
We’ve found some Kenyans who say you’re bad
Earlier on in our work in Kenya we had a Kenyan volunteer working for us, a cis man. He became our agent there for a while, before revealing himself to be a chaser, sexually propositioning one of our passengers, and scamming us. Since then he’s waged a low level harassment campaign against us. We think you’ve found him (or more likely he’s found you), and you’re talking to a bunch of his sockpuppets. He’s done it before.
The brickwork or some other aspect of Eden House doesn’t look very Kenyan to us
Don’t be stupid. You’ll be saying that all Kenyan buildings should be mud huts next.
You spent five grand on the Eden House chicken coop
Don’t be stupid. Setting up a trans haven from scratch, for a group of passengers who have absolutely nothing, costs money. We’ve had to equip an empty house with the normal things required for up to eight people to live with dignity, and we’ve had to ensure that it has proper security. Why yes, that also included setting up a chicken coop, which for some reason you’ve become obsessed with. It’s not a five grand chicken coop though, we’re not British Conservative MPs.
Your passengers in Kenya are fake
That’s right, dismiss the existence and credibility of marginalised people of colour in a developing country. Wow, such activism!
The Eden House manager is a scammer
See the paragraph above: “We’ve found some Kenyans who say you’re bad”. Did this accusation come from the source we mentioned there? Attacking the Trans Rescue directors is unpleasant enough, but attacking our manager, one of our Kenyan passengers who has come through some very bad experiences and who we are employing as the capable and efficient manager she is, is extremely shitty behaviour.
You’re forcing trans people of colour to work for you!
Don’t be stupid. Eden House is a rented property that had been empty for a long time when we moved in. Our director worked with the first residents to make their home comfortable, just as anyone would when they move into a new house.
But you’re making them work for you to stay in the house!
Eden House is a trans haven in which we are trying to establish a sustainable communal living space. Its residents are people who have been thrown to the edges of society because they are trans, are you seriously suggesting that it’s wrong for them to have jobs or small businesses of their own or to participate equally in a commune? The only person working for us at Eden House is our manager, she’s a Kenyan lady who’s been one of our passengers, and we have made certain that we pay her a proper wage. Imagining that all Africans should be charity dependent is simply racist.
Kenya is a dangerous country!
These attacks follow a colonial-era and racist view of Africa that still holds sway in the developed world; namely that Africa is a continent of hell-hole countries in which nobody is safe. The reality is very different indeed. While it remains sadly true that some African countries may be experiencing instability and some may be less safe than others, the continent is home to a great many countries that are going places. One of them is Kenya, a democratic country with a vibrant economy and a rule of law.
Kenya is dangerous for trans people, they have anti-LGBT laws on their books!
It is a valid criticism to level at Kenya, that it has anti-LGBT laws on its books, and that there are places in Kenya where it is dangerous to be trans. Our Kenyan passengers know this, they come from those places. So let us address this in terms accessible to people from the developed world.
If we were to describe a large country with anti-LGBT laws on its books in which it is safer to be trans in some parts than others, then most of you would recognise pretty quickly that we are talking about the USA. We think it’s safe to say that a trans person would be safer in New York than they would be in rural Oklahoma, don’t you agree? So if we said that we would move an in-danger trans person from Oklahoma to New York, we don’t think that anyone would raise any objections. Thus moving back to Kenya, it’s a large country with anti-LGBT laws on its books, and in regions such as the north and along the coast it can be extremely dangerous to be trans. But just as with the USA, there are plenty of places in the rest of the country where trans people are safer, and just as with the USA, it makes sense to move them to one of those places if we can.
You want to move everyone to Kenya
We operate a trans haven in Kenya. Unsurprisingly, it is full of Kenyans. We are not expecting Americans to move to Kenya, how would it possibly be appropriate to move them to a culture they know almost nothing about and in which there is no community to receive them?
The international air transport system is hugely racist, meaning that people from places like Kenya can be difficult to get visas for and difficult to get on a plane when they have a visa. Should we not try to help them because we can’t get them on a plane out of Kenya? Of course not! So we’ve set up our first trans haven somewhere they can get to, in Kenya. It’s likely that Eden House will at times play host to non-Kenyans for the same reasons as it hosts Kenyans, that we can’t get them on a flight to another country safer than where they are. Would you expect us to turn a Ugandan away? We hope not.
You’re white supremacists because you want to move American trans people of colour to Kenya
No we’re not, don’t be stupid. Throwing around accusations of racism as a tactic to smear people you don’t like is shitty behaviour, stop it.
You suggested Germany as a destination. This makes you Nazis
How to say you’ve never been to Germany without saying you’ve never been to Germany. It’s not 1937 any more, don’t be stupid.
You’re trying to work with the Canadian government to move people into towns with no jobs
Wow. This one shows how far over the edge you’ve descended into fantasy. We wish we could work with governments, it would make our job much easier. But as you might expect, they’re not great fans of people who help asylum seekers get into their countries.
For the record, we don’t work in Canada. We never have. We mentioned it in our piece on how to get out of the USA as it slides into fascism, because it will be the easiest destination for Americans to run to should the far-right succeed in their coup. Given the choice between running to Canada or being gunned down by some fascist militia, we think most people would take Canada.
That you’ve tried to turn our advice for such an emergency into an opportunity to smear us shows how desperate you are to take us down, and what kind of people you are.
But we’ve done our research!
We’re sure you have, but we’d like to respectfully suggest that you’re not very good researchers. Read the Wikipedia entry on confirmation bias. Better still, just stop it. And no, we wont engage with you, you’ve established yourself as the bad actors in all this. This has become personal for you, and at each stage when you come up with another implausible conspiracy theory and we debunk it, you get ever more desperate and come up with more. The reality that you’re the kind of people who get off on trying to take out a non-profit working to help trans people in developing countries doesn’t put you in a good light. When are you going to have your “Are we the baddies” moment?
We’re compiling a report of all your wrongdoings, then you’ll be sorry!
Good luck with that. It’ll contain a load of outright lies, some half-truths twisted from things you’ve read on this website, and your star witnesses will be the guy who scammed us and a load of his online sockpuppets.
So there it is.
Those are the accusations levelled against us and there’s the truth behind them, so make up your own mind. This all began as a personal gripe from one person with a history of attacking for clout, and we’re sure it will peter out over time.
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
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 seeing the writing on the wall. We’ve received many inquiries about fleeing the US in the last week.
We divide the world into safe countries, dangerous countries, and “countries of new concern”, countries where conditions for trans people were once somewhat hospitable, or at least on a path to progress, but are now in decline, often as part of a larger slide into fascism, such as Brazil, Poland. Hungary, the UK, and, yes, the USA.
At Trans Rescue we try to help trans people in countries like these, who may have never before considered fleeing their countries of origin, but now are seriously contemplating doing so and do not know what their options are.
This post is some advice for trans people in the USA, their families and partners.
This advice is based on our own experience with helping others migrate, with our knowledge of the international migration system, and to some extent our own experience (the writer is a trans US Citizen who emigrated to India in 2018, then the Netherlands in 2019). It is not legal advice, and we are not attorneys.
Don’t Despair, But Be Prepared For Sacrifice
We are painfully aware that advice like “deal with the custody arrangement keeping you in Georgia” and “have money” are very easy to say and very hard to do.
But we want to avoid a council of despair. Doing nothing is not a solution. Every day we deal with people in a LOT more trouble than you are in.
Distinguish between what you are planning to do – which might involve considerable sacrifice – and what you need to do right now – which could be simply to make plans.
And be prepared for sacrifice. There are many depressing stories of Jewish families who didn’t emigrate before the Holocaust because “dad had just gotten a promotion”, or “we had just purchased a piano”.
A few steps down on the economic scale, don’t feel like you can do nothing towards leaving because you’re barely making ends meet. If you have a passport, in the extreme case you can take a backpack and head North over the border. If you have a passport that is, and have prepared.
In doing that preparation you might have to lose treasured possessions to pay for a passport or other necessities. You might even be committing yourself to homelessness. But doing that work is a necessity because if you put your plan into action, then things have deteriorated to the point where the alternative is death.
Decide On A Model Of The Danger
The first step in planning your move is to sit down and decide what you personally think could happen. Here are some possibilities:
Street level violence becomes overwhelming. Yahoos graduate from yelling at us to attacking us in broad daylight.
Street discrimination reaches a point where it becomes difficult to have a normal life. Keeping a job, renting an apartment, or going to a restaurant become difficult.
Our existence is outlawed. Cross dressing and impersonation statutes are brought back. Restroom laws with draconian penalties are enacted. Lawrence v Texas is reversed (it depended on Roe v Wade) and sodomy laws suddenly are enforceable.
Our documents are invalidated – e.g. a state or the federal government may declare that only documents in our “biological sex” are valid. Holding a document in one’s real gender might become fraud.
Trans people who are parents are declared unfit. Our children are taken away.
Affirmative care for trans children becomes illegal or cause to remove the parent’s custody.
We are declared mentally incompetent as a pretext to round us up, a start to concentration camps.
We are just rounded up, our existence made illegal. There is a night where many trans people have the knock at the door.
Our citizenship status is revoked (this is what Hitler did to the Jews).
As you plan, think about both how likely a scenario is, and the consequences. Don’t dismiss events simply because they’re unlikely. Instead, look at both. I have car insurance, even though I don’t expect to be in an accident today, because the consequences of an accident could be severe, accidents do happen, and car insurance is reasonably cheap. You’re 82% likely to be just fine after playing Russian Roulette, but I don’t recommend it.
Another question to ask yourself is what you expect to happen overseas. Americans are known worldwide for being insular. Our country is large and isolated. But you’ll need to consider what you think will be happening in places you’re considering going. Many Jews fled Germany to places like Belgium, only to later be engulfed.
Finally, how long do you imagine you’ll be gone? Is this emigrating forever, never to see the waving wheat fields of Kansas again? Or is it a long vacation while the fires sweep over the country?
Leaving Versus Emigrating
Lets look first as just ‘leaving’ – physically getting out of the country for a while- either being on a long vacation or working remotely, without obtaining a work permit in another country.
Fortunately, as far as visas, getting out of the USA is easy. An American passport will get you a tourist visa to any of the countries marked in green with no visa or with only a formality (an e-visa or visa on arrival).
And once you’re out, you can at least prepare to permanently leave from a safe place.
If your model of what you need for your own safety is only to be out of the US for a relatively short time, then you just need to be prepared to go. Here’s a checklist of what you need to prepare:
Get a passport. It’s less relevant that it’s in your deadname than that you have a passport. If your passport is going to expire in the next 2-4 years, renew it.
Get a Covid vaccination certificate. You will not be allowed on an aircraft without one.
Have enough money saved to show you can support yourself for 90 days in the country you’re going to (discussed below).
Have enough money for a round trip ticket to your destination. You won’t be allowed into the destination without one. Technically, you need an ‘onward flight’ – so if your bug out plan is 90 days in country A, then 90 in B, an itinerary USA — A — B — USA is fine.
Clear up anything that would keep you stuck in the US, such as child custody issues or criminal complaints. If you are trapped by disability payments, you can perhaps ‘live’ in one place while spending your time in another.
Make plans to deal with your ageing parents. Have a frank discussion with your partner. An emotional bond that keeps you in the US will be no less a bond than being on parole.
Stop being insular. We’ve had passengers in truly dangerous situations – wanted by the police, with a price on their heads – reluctant to go to places where they’d be perfectly safe because they have fallen prey to negative stereotypes. Not all the world outside Europe and the US is a crime ridden hellhole. You may never have traveled before. Accept that this is going to be an adventure, and know that, while scary, it’s something many people have done. Watching happy YouTube videos of people traveling the world or living as expats can help.
When you fly, don’t carry anything that indicates you intend to look for work (resumes, work clothes, tools). Scrub such items and incriminating discussions from your phone and laptop (customs can, and will, demand you unlock them and then will look through them, including your social media accounts). Don’t post about leaving on your social media. Store your data in the cloud and retrieve it on the other end.
Tourist visas are either 30 or 90 days. If you plan on being gone longer than that, but not so long that you need to work, you can often go to country A, then go to country B as little as overnight, then back to country A.
Many folks say to us that they don’t have the money to leave.
You’re going to need $160 for a passport. Bluntly, yes, you’re an adult, you can raise it somehow.
After that, don’t feel you’re stuck because you’re broke. The majority of immigrants in the world are penniless people fleeing war, persecution, or poverty. You can reach the Canadian border somehow.
Now let’s look at what money you’ll need for a reasonable ‘leave’ scenario.
Besides, well, needing to live, you need to show you have funds to be allowed into the country (or even onto the plane). This means you might want your 90 day ‘vacation’ to be in a country where things are cheap. And you might be happy camping or living like a local, but customs might want to see enough for you to live like a tourist anyway. You’ll need to research prices and visa regulations where you plan on going.
When estimating the cost to live in a country, remember that with a tourist visa you may not be able to rent an apartment. In some countries it’s impossible without a permanent residence card. And you’ll be a foreigner, so when you tire of the local cuisine you’ll want ingredients from the expensive foreign food store, and not know many of the local tricks that make life cheaper.
Expatistan has a useful cost of living calculator to compare the expense of different places worldwide.. Take not only the overall value, but read through the individual prices – sometimes you’ll discover rent is expensive but other expenses are not, or sometimes a single item (often the cost of a car) is skewing the data. And sometimes there isn’t much data.
If you’re lucky enough to have a career you can do remotely, you may not need to truly ’emigrate’ to stay away longer than you can live without an income. Just keep your US bank account active and deposit your income into it like normal. You can ‘live’ in the US without physically being there. Thousands of US retirees already live in Mexico under such an arrangement.
If your threat model includes the US suddenly invalidating your passport, then you want to be abroad, not trapped inside.
Finally, don’t be last. A lot of cis people will be leaving, too, and as the ranks of American refugees swell, the “easy” places such as Canada will become less, rather than more, welcoming.
Emigrating takes time, money, and effort. As the jaws close, it will become harder and harder to get out. If you lose your job because you’re trans, you may suddenly not be able to afford to emigrate, for example. Get out earlier than you think you need to.
The other option is to obtain permission to work in a foreign country and move there permanently.
If you have salable skills, this can be as simple as going to your destination ahead of time on a tourist visa and passing resumes. You may have to sell yourself well or offer to compensate the firm for the substantive hassle of dealing with a work visa.
If you have substantial savings, almost any country will make you a citizen if you invest. The amount is usually around 250,000 dollars, and purchasing real estate is a common choice of investment.
If the Netherlands is your chosen destination you can come and operate a business as long as you keep 5000 Euros on deposit in a Dutch bank, under the “Dutch American Friendship Treaty”. While you won’t be able to work as an employee, you can take contracts for your business. Plan an additional 2500 euros in fees and legal expenses to set this up.
Another option, if you can work remotely, is a ‘digital nomad’ or ‘rentista‘ visa. These are a recognition that there are many people who can earn money in one country while living in another.
These visas allow the visitor to remain long term (up to 5 years in many cases) and to do such things as rent an apartment, have utilities, and make use of the public health care system. In return, the visitor is earning income from outside the country and spending it inside the country.
The biggest stumbling block to a digital nomad visa is often the income requirement. Some countries demand the applicant show they have a recurring income source of over a certain amount. This rather short sighted rule is often inconsistent with how freelancers actually work. A 3D artist might have a very steady income, but it’s different clients in different months. Many freelancers find a substantive portion of their actual income isn’t usable for this requirement due to the ‘recurring’ clause.
Finally, you might hit the jackpot if grandad came from the old country. Can you claim citizenship somewhere? Many European countries will grant citizenship to close descendants of their citizens, so it’s worth scrutinizing that family tree.
Aslyum? Not So Fast
You may be yelling, “I’ll show them! I’m going to claim asylum!”. Sadly if you’re a US citizen then that is to all intents and purposes not an option. The US and most of the other countries where you might be interested in claiming asylum in have treaties in which the two governments each agree that the other is generally safe, and that, exceptional circumstances not withstanding (which are SO exceptional that it is very unlikely they will apply to you), it’s safe to return people to the other one.
Most such agreements also limit asylum seekers to only one country in the treaty. For example, the “Dublin Accords” treaty says asylum seekers must seek asylum in the country where they first enter the EU. You can’t apply in Italy, be turned down, then apply in Germany.
If you’re an American planning on filing an asylum claim and you think that yours might be an exceptional case, then you should of course contact an attorney. Beyond this, you should contact organizations like the Transgender Law Center, as such a case would be likely to establish precedent for all transgender Americans. Don’t be forever known as the person whose attempt to subvert the system for yourself closed the door permanently for everyone else.
Now It’s Time For You To Act
It’s clear American politics is heading toward a dark place. There is still a window of opportunity for transgender Americans to place themselves out of harm’s way. We’ve tried to lay out some options in this article and as events unfold we’ll do our best to share any further resources as we have them. Below is a sign up for our newsletter. Sign up to stay informed. If we have enough signups we’ll organize a webinar to answer questions.