What Happened to TransEmigrate?

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 work we are doing. Our volunteer staff sometimes has our lives in the hands of other volunteers. Our passengers almost always do.

As any organization grows, it will inevitably evolve and re-invent itself to more closely reflect its continuing mission. As an example, the original impetus for TransEmigrate came through a concern for trans people in the US, UK, and Europe, but in practice our work has taken us to the Middle East and Africa.

So we need to formalize our organization.. When we lay out a path for one of our passengers we must do so with integrity and with the demonstrable ability to follow it up. Our objective is to move trans* people out of dangerous situations, and we must seize upon anything which could improve our efficiency in that endeavor.

We’ve thus decided to reorganize TransEmigrate as a new organization, Trans Rescue. Formally, we’re Stichting Trans Rescue Foundation. We’re a formal Foundation in the Netherlands, the equivalent of a 501c3 in the US. Besides the legal status, we intend to operate like a ‘real’ NGO.

Changing the name lets us reinvent how we do things. Without the name change, we might be tempted to do things as they’ve always been done.

Changing to a formal NGO structure also lets us work with governmental and international organizations, an increasingly important part of our work.

TransEmigrate has been a successful prototype. We’re now ready for the industrial scale version – Trans Rescue.

We want to thank many people. We remain a secret organization, and so we’ll thank our volunteers privately.

Thank all of you who supported TransEmigrate’s work during it’s life. Please support us during this time of transition.

Yours for a brighter future for trans people,

Anne Ogborn

Voorzitter, Trans Rescue

Eden House – A Trans Haven in Kenya

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 trans women in terrible conditions in a coastal town. A good-hearted local man was helping them, but he was out of funds and needed help.

They need out, and we’re getting them out.

But we need a place to house them, and time is short.

During Ramadan (when I’m writing this) religious sentiments will run high, so we’re waiting til after Eid (May 3) to do the move, at the women’s urging. An election is coming up, with more violence, so we have a narrow window between May 1 and June 15 to get them out.

Kenya has needed a trans haven for a long time. Now it’s an absolute necessity.

We want to rent a large apartment in Nakuru – a compromise between the most urbanized, accepting area and a reasonable cost of living. We’ll furnish it and set up a self government scheme.

We are working with local partners to provide training programs, mostly trade school type programs. Pastry chef, hairdressing, and similar occupations. These are often the entry to a reasonable standard of living in Kenya.

This is the implementation of a long term goal. We’ve been talking about establishing a trans haven in Kenya for 8 months. It’s time to do it.

Please help us. This work will cost 4000 € now, and another 4200 € over the next six months.

We believe we can find a corporate sponsor for ongoing costs, but we have to start this from the community.

Here’s our estimated costs

Eden House Costs

1700 EUfurnishings
1000 EUTravel - staff member to Kenya for extraction & setting up
500 EUExtraction costs
400 EUDeposit/first month's rent
400 EUWe sent a local volunteer on a reconnaissance mission
4200 EUFirst 6 months rent, food, utilities, etc.

Rayan – Saudi Arabia

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 mistreatment and conversion therapy, and was in a country whose government would not only not protect him, but would actively help his abusers maintain control.

Rayan had, seemingly, little chance of getting out.

A break came when the family moved to Turkey. He was still trapped in the family compound, but at least we could reach the compound.

Rayan did an incredible job of carefully preparing his escape. He started going to a gym in the compound, and carrying a change of clothing in a backpack. He located his passport in his father’s desk.

On the chosen day, he slipped into his parent’s room and took the passport. He was committed now – if his father discovered he’d taken the passport, he’d be killed. He’d already assembled the small collection of things he’d take with him.

He stepped out, as he always did, to go to the gym.

A TransEmigrate agent appeared in a car. Rayan got into the car and disappeared into the crowded streets of Turkey.

He was away, but still had to get out of Turkey. His family could easily track him down anywhere in the country.

We flew him to a country in North Africa. He stayed there, in hiding, for over a month. Any day his family could ‘redeem their honor’, as they saw it, by killing him. They were actively looking.

We tried to get him into Europe, but he wasn’t allowed to board the plane at the last minute. He seemed stuck.

We arranged a scheme that would make John LeCarre proud. There were fake companies, fake contracts, and even a fake warehouse full of fake produce. Another of our volunteers, in real life a programmer, risked her own freedom.

Rayan is now in Canada.

It was all worth it. Most people in immigration detention in a foreign country would be frightened. Rayan called us with happy news.

One day it was, “I learned to play ping pong today!”

One day it was, “A guard let me try playing his guitar. I want to learn!”

Rayan is now out, settled down, and preparing to get on with his life. He’s taken up boxing, and is building up his new testosterone muscles.

He plays the guitar badly and is fixing up his small apartment.

Some details of events and circumstances have been changed for the safety of Rayan and our agents. Rayan is an alias.. Photo courtesy IBA Boxing

Walim – Egypt

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 Egyptian trans man. He loves machinery and electronics and reads about it endlessly. One of our volunteers spends a lot of time teaching him electronics over the internet.

His father is driven crazy by his love of gadgets and beats him regularly for it and for doing ‘boy’ things.

When he cut his hair short, his father beat him savagely.

We desperately need to get him out before he’s killed. We’ve made one attempt recently, but need funds to make a second attempt.

Some details of events and circumstances have been changed for the safety of Walim and our agents. Walim is an alias.

Gloria – Ghana

I’m Gloria, from Ghana. My pronouns are she/her/hers and I identify as a lesbian. After realizing I liked girls at the age of 9, it wasn’t difficult, even at that age, to know that this was not something I could be open about. Through the years I managed to keep a low-profile, but as I got older it became more difficult to suppress who I was. I was almost dismissed from my high school based on rumours around my sexuality. In December 2021, I was thrown out by my sister, with whom I used to live, after she made the conclusion that I was a lesbian having seen lesbian content on my YouTube feed. Between December 2021 and March 2022, I moved around staying with a couple of friends.

Until the beginning of 2021, there was less to fear for being a lesbian in Ghana if you managed to keep it secret. Following the opening of a new LGBT office in Ghana in December 2020, was the awakening of the highest level of distasteful bigotry from the citizenry. The newly opened office was forcefully closed, and an anti-LGBT bill was drafted. Currently, the anti-LGBT bill is being debated in parliament. This bill seeks to further criminalise homosexuality and imprison any members of the LGBT community as well as allies and advocates for LGBT rights. Hate crimes against members of the LGBT+ community have since soared in the country with the most common group, gays and lesbians, being highly targeted. The series of events has inspired a witch-hunt with groups actively targeting and attacking members and suspected members of the LGBT community, with no protection from the law enforcement.

It has always been my dream to relocate to a much safer country once I had the means. To have a good job, a beautiful wife and a lovely family without facing jail time, or death. Unfortunately, this bill and the tension it has created in the country makes it impossible for me to fulfil my dream in my own time. I am a highly skilled graphic artist and a frontend web developer with a lot of potential who can succeed with your support to get me to safety. I volunteer with my local LGBT rights organisation and with Trans rescue as a graphic artist and it is my greatest desire to continue to contribute to the betterment of the lives of the members of the LGBT community in any way possible. Thank you for your contribution to my safety.

Note from us at Trans Rescue

Gloria’s done some amazing work for us. She’d make a great graphic arts hire. Her portfolio is here https://www.behance.net/gloriasekyere

Most descriptions of our clients have details changed. This one does not.

Ife – life in Nigeria

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 important it is to her to get to somewhere she can continue her education.

When she first contacted us she was living in poor conditions. Soldiers came to her flat and threatened her, and neighbors were harassing her, so she had trouble entering or leaving the flat.

We moved her to a safe house, but have been having trouble getting her out of Nigeria. She once called it ‘her never ending vacation’.

A family member caught up with her at the safe house, and we’ve had to move her to another city.

She can’t really pass as a boy, so it’s particularly difficult to get her out.

She’s interested in languages and wants to live a normal life. We’d like to get her to a European country where she has family.

We have a scheme to get her out, but it’s going very slowly. It’s very hard to get a visa to a safe place from Nigeria.

Please help us get Ife out.

Some details of events and circumstances have been changed for the safety of Ife and our agents. ‘Ife’ is an alias. The image above is a stock photo of an actor.

Sara – Intersexed in Iran

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 to her family telling them to send her to the local health center. She’s not gone, but eventually they will pick her up. She’s been told in Iran she must either be a boy or a girl, or she will be arrested. She has no place to stand.

She used to go out sometimes, but after much street harassment and several encounters with the police, including being jailed for several days, she doesn’t go outside any more. If this goes on long enough she’ll be thrown in prison.

Her father is physically and emotionally abusive and has threatened to kill her.

Sara contacted TransEmigrate for help 9 months ago. We’ve been trying to get her out.

With our encouragement, she’s took the giant risk of enlisting her mother. They’re working together with us to get her to a safe country where she can find acceptance, a full life, and proper medical care.

Maeen Aldahbali

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 the war in Taiz city when it had just started in the beginning of 2015, I saw people suffering especially the youth and children. That was when I decided to do something for them and not to be useless as I always stand for peace and humanity.

After a year of working for children rights and trying to keep them away from the war, I got selected to be the governor for Taiz City for the Youth and Children Government. I worked hard to do better for the youth of my city as much as possible at least to prevent them from being involved in the war, and protect their rights during the conflict. Because I truly believe they are the men of tomorrow, they should be empowered by knowledge not by extremism. We helped educate them and keep them safe far away from any kind of violence.

However, in the end of 2016 I was shot three times on my arm after a terrorist attack from my back while driving back home in the evening. After two weeks, though I wasn’t safe, I immediately went back to work because I’m driven by a purpose and passion.

The second attack happened in 2019 while driving to work with my friend in the morning. Not only have I been shot again but also my friend had been shot and killed.

When I got out of the hospital I was asked to go to be questioned which I thought is normal. However, I was taken to a basement jail for more than 10 months, where I was extremely tortured and forced to stop working for Youth and Children rights in exchange for my freedom after my case went public.

I managed to escape from Yemen to Egypt with TransEmigrate’s help. I’m currently in Egypt which is even not safe for me, I’m receiving death threats. I’m trying to move to a country far away where I can live at peace.

Trans Rescue says:

Trans people know what it is to be in danger. Maeen is a cis man who contacted us in desperation when no one else would help him. We said screw it, we’re better than cis people. We helped.

Maeen remains in Egypt, still in danger. We’re trying to get him out. Meanwhile, we’re trying to keep him out of the hands of his enemies, who know roughly where he is, and who have been seen in Egypt.

Most descriptions of our clients have details changed. This one does not.