There are many contenders for the most famous newspaper headline of all time, and many of them are triumphs of the journalist’s art, skilfully capturing world events for posterity. A few among them are as much infamous as they are famous, headlines a newspaper might wish to suppress had they not been for all to see on every newsstand in the country. Perhaps the most obvious one in this category for Brits comes unsurprisingly from the Daily Mail, whose owner the 1st Viscount Rothermere exclaimed in print in January 1934: “Hurrah for the Blackshirts!”. His open support for Hitler and for Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists was toned down as events unfolded, but the headline remains to remind the world that the Mail was and is tainted by support of far-right causes.
A Community Mourns
As this is being written, the trans community in the UK stands in mourning for one of our own who was brutally taken from us. Brianna Ghey was a 16-year-old who was stabbed to death in a Cheshire park by two other teenagers in a transphobic attack. Her tragic fate comes against the backdrop of a long-running campaign of institutionalised anti-trans hate speech, and is the inevitable result which many of us have feared for years would come. The knife was wielded by her attackers, but for the trans community there is no doubt. In a Britain without a media and political establishment with us firmly in its sights, Brianna Ghey’s life would have been much safer and she would still be with us.
There’s a phrase you sometimes hear in British public life, “The Great and the Good”, meaning a Who’s-Who of the upper echelons of power and influence. Of course many people would argue that it’s a misnomer as few of them are truly either great or good, but it’s fair to say that among them you’d find senior politicians, journalists, and other prominent figures. It includes newspaper editors such as Katharine Viner of the Guardian, or Ted Verity at the Mail, just two of the many papers that have gone out of their way to platform vile hate speech against the trans community. Or how about consistently transphobic Members of Parliament such as Women and Equalities Committee members and alumni Rosie Duffield, Jackie Doyle-Price, and Mark Jenkinson? Staying in Parliament even the Minister for Women and Equalities Kemi Badenoch, holder of a post which is supposed to provide representation for the trans community, is known to have well-documented transphobic views.
The above paragraph contains merely a snapshot of the institutional capture by transphobes of the British Establishment. There’s hardly a political viewpoint or media outlet not tainted by it or that has not tolerated hate speech within its ranks, there is no player who is blameless when it comes to the targeting of trans people. While Rothermere’s support for fascism in the 1930s put him out on a limb, here in the 2020s there are players on all sides who have unquestioningly given a platform for hate speech against our community. As far as trans people are concerned they all have Brianna Ghey’s blood on their hands, and our worry is that before the transphobia is rooted out for good there will be many more like her.
What Did YOU Do When They Came After Trans People?
All those people mentioned as the Great and the Good, as well as all those too numerous to list whose views align with theirs, undoubtedly have a high opinion of themselves. They no doubt see themselves as successful people at the peak of their careers, and they imagine that they are laying down for themselves a legacy. Perhaps there will be a portrait of the great editor on the wall in the newspaper boardroom, or for the MPs even a Prime Ministerial portrait gracing the staircase at Number Ten. But how is it really going to go for them, in a few decades time after the current explosion of hate has been played to its bloody conclusion and when the sinister ideology behind the transphobia has been exposed for what it is? It’s unlikely that many people will discuss the 1st Viscount Rothermere in the 2020s without his writing in support of fascists being front and centre, and similarly it’s likely that for these people their active participation in an environment which led to the deaths of trans people will be the first topic in their legacy. It’s pretty obvious that some of them want the elimination of trans people, but do they really think they’ll get away with a spotless legacy? Perhaps some of them need to consider that.
In the 1930s the German trans people who were murdered after the raids and famous book burnings at Berlin’s Institut für Sexualwissenschaft had nobody to speak for and remember them. Ninety years later that is no longer the case, and whatever happens as the far right pursue their campaigns against trans people in the UK or the USA, there is a worldwide community who will ensure that those who enabled them can not fade away and pretend they weren’t really part of it. Trans people won’t go away, they will keep the receipts, and you can depend on it, they will ensure eventual justice for any victims. A few of the would-be Rothermeres should think on that.
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 make a plan for getting out. But the USA isn’t our only country of concern that has embarked on a path away from being a safe place for trans people.
Next on our list is the United Kingdom, a country which has over the last decade witnessed an explosion of institutionalised transphobic hate speech from within the media and in high-level politics coupled with a Conservative government that has swung progressively towards the far right. We have seen attacks on trans healthcare and particularly that for trans youth, worrying noises around the idea of bathroom bills, and most recently as this is being written the news that the London government will suppress Scottish gender recognition reform and place trans female prisoners in male prisons. Their continued erosion of human rights legislation as well as projected withdrawal from the European Court of Human Rights is of particular concern, and given that the transphobes have also infiltrated the opposition parties we expect to still be concerned for the situation of British trans people following the next general election.
Is It Time To Get Out, Or Just To Plan?
Given that the events outlined in the previous paragraph paint such a bleak picture for British democracy, it might seem as though it would be imperative for trans people to leave. For all that though, we’re not quite at the point of advising a quick flight and we are not providing financial support to help British people. If there’s a silver lining in the cloud it’s that on-the-ground safety has not yet reached a crisis point, and despite a worrying increase in reported anti-LGBT hate crime the UK is still largely a safe place in which to be trans when compared to the countries in which we do most of our work. British TV news channels may unquestioningly give a platform to TERFs campaigning for us to be excluded from the Equality Act, but they do not approach the excesses of their American counterparts in platforming armed far-right militias and calling for our lynching.
British passport holders will never be refused access to an airliner merely because of their nationality, as would for example a citizen from a country associated with refugees in the minds of the authorities. Thus we do not immediately anticipate a situation in which the act of leaving would become impossible, as it is for a Syrian or a Yemeni. So for now it’s better to have somewhere to live and some means of income in the UK than it is to be penniless and homeless in another country.
Based on what we’ve said in the last two paragraphs then, we’d advise any UK person considering leaving to plan ahead and do their homework rather than booking a ticket and running without considering what happens next. Start at the very beginning and assess the threat level at which a move would become necessary, and use the intervening time to plan an exit with less need for huge resources. There’s the old analogy that a frog in water that is heated gently enough will not notice the temperature rise and jump out, instead boiling to death. Assessing the threat level means being aware enough to jump out of the water before it becomes too hot, and not being the boiling frog.
Putting The Wheels In Motion
Perhaps the easiest way to start your plan is to talk to the people around you about your need to get out. Your partner or family for example should be prepared for your plans, and understand their necessity. If it reaches a point at which you have to make the move then by doing this early you will have already ensured that those around you do not become impediments. Remember, the cis people around you will not be the ones under threat.
The next most easy piece of preparation is to ensure that you have the appropriate documentation. A passport is the obvious one, as is a COVID vaccine certification. Make sure you renew your British passport.
Further to that, look at your family tree. Do you have grandparents from another safe country, and can you apply for that passport? If so you’ve won the jackpot, because there’s your way out.
With those easy steps out of the way, it’s evident that whatever path you take will require some financing as well as careful planning. The good news here is two-fold: not all paths are as unaffordable as you think they are, and for now you have the luxury of time in which to start planning the monetary side as well as the details of your move. Saving money is hard, especially on a low income, but if you can find any way to do so, put it into action.
Then, and perhaps most importantly, you should think about what happens once you have left the UK. How are you going to live, how are you going to support yourself? Are your skills transportable, would you be able to get a job somewhere else? Great news if you’re an in-demand software developer, but not necessarily cause for despair if you’re unsure how you’d manage this. You have the luxury of some time, use it to learn what you can. Consider everything, from something you can sell on Fiverr upwards, and try to develop it into something while you’re still in the UK. If nothing else, improving your employability works in the UK too.
Now you have no ties, you’ve got a financial plan, and you’re busy honing a skill. You’re ready to decide on where you’re going. At this point, we have two pieces of advice. Be realistic, and be prepared to discard your preconceptions.
Why “Be realistic”? The trans rumour mill is a great source of disinformation and half-truths, so it’s very easy to fall into unrealistic beliefs as to what might work. Probably the example we hear most often is that a Brit would be able to claim asylum in another country, something which sadly is not the case. Perhaps it has its roots in racist British popular media coverage of asylum seekers, in which it is portrayed as an easy process which any ne’er-do-well from another country can just turn up and receive their free benefits. In fact, the asylum system exists for the aid of people in far more desperate situations than that of British trans people, and destination countries are without exception very picky about who they will grant it to. There are mutual safety treaties between the UK and the countries you are probably thinking about, so for example if you were to turn up in an EU country and try to claim asylum your claim would be dismissed simply because there is a defined presumption that the UK is a safe place. Much as we would like it to be different, UK trans people don’t have any special status, so trying an asylum claim would certainly result in your swift return. Worse, it could even endanger future claims when matters are worse for UK trans people, by establishing a legal precedent. So be realistic, don’t try edge cases which will certainly fail.
Next, we said “Be prepared to discard your preconceptions”. This is something we encounter on a daily basis from people in far worse situations than you are in. As an example we had a passenger in a troubled Middle Eastern country who was hiding from the police as a trans person and would have certainly been killed if arrested. We had the ability to get them to our safe house in Kenya but there was next-to-no chance that their passport would be accepted on a flight to Europe. They refused point-blank to go to Kenya, citing beliefs about African countries which we can only describe as rooted in racism. The reality of a Kenya in which it’s possible for a group of trans people to live in safety was too far a leap for their preconceptions, and they could not go there. The point for you to take on board here is that we all have preconceptions about other parts of the world, and sometimes they’re based on half-truths or outright falsehood. When considering destinations you’ll all have a list of places you’ll consider “safe”, but be prepared to consider the unexpected. For example, was Argentina on your list? Look up the legal status of trans people in that country, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Where Can You Go?
By now, we think you should have some idea of the steps you should take as you consider a move. You’ll know that it’s possible, you’ll have some ideas of how you’ll go forward, and you’re prepared to consider the wider world on its merits. It’s now time to talk about the question we’re usually asked first. Where can you go?
For someone looking at leaving the UK it might be odd to start instead by talking about not getting out, but moving within the country. But since it’s the easiest option of all it’s worth talking about. At this point you have to pull out your crystal ball and make a bet with yourself about what constitutional changes are likely to happen to the country in the aftermath of a very rocky Brexit road. We’re a country of constituent nations, and only a fool wouldn’t recognise that there’s a pretty good chance we’ll be a country of fewer constituent nations before too long. It’s ironic that the constitutional crisis which might end the Union brewing as this is being written has the issue of trans rights at its centre, but it should serve to remind any non-Scottish UK trans people that maybe life north of the border in an independent Scotland could offer a safe future.
Would Wales follow a Scottish lead? Almost certainly, but we’d expect a lot more foot-dragging from London so not in the same time frame. Meanwhile Northern Ireland is politically as delicate as ever, but a place with an easily crossable border to the Republic of Ireland and an inexorable demographic change in progress from Protestant to Catholic. Of the options we’d go for Scotland, but maybe we’ve given you something to think about.
Having exhausted the UK, nearest to us are the EU countries. We may no longer have the freedom of movement we had before Brexit, but we’re still not without possibilities. Of these, top of the list is our closest neighbour, the Republic of Ireland.The status of Northern Ireland post-Brexit may be a roaring trashfire, but the Common Travel Area provisions that predate the EU remain in place allowing citizens of either country to live and work in the other. This makes the Republic of Ireland the easiest destination country for British trans people in terms of immigration, but as with every destination, there’s a catch. Ireland is a lovely place with a good legal status for trans people, but it has many of the same social problems as the UK including astronomical housing costs. If you’re crossing the Irish Sea, make especially sure you have meaningful plans to cover your work and income. Also, for the love of God, read up on the past hundred years of Anglo-Irish history.
Beyond the British Isles, it makes more sense to talk about types of visa and what you should do than it does to list specific countries. Returning to the paragraph about preconceptions, it’s not for us to dictate which countries are safe or not, because while it’s pretty easy to name the least safe countries it isn’t for us to impose any of those preconceptions on you. Look for an accepting cultural and legal environment as you make your list. So back to visas, and here there are plenty of choices. They all require different levels of sacrifice, but among them are options for all levels. We’ll try to list a few below, but this is by no means exhaustive and you will only find what you want by combing the immigration websites of the countries in question.
First up: the employment visa. Not just for high-flyers headhunted by multinationals or even for those lucky enough to be able to land an overseas employer prepared to do the visa legwork, there are still countries offering work visas for mere mortals. Look for skilled worker visas programmes where they are seeking particular specialties, look for industry-sector-based programmes, and look for programmes aimed at particular geographical areas. Just as one example, Canada has visa programmes for people prepared to work in its northern and Atlantic provinces. Getting a work visa will take a lot of research and effort, but once obtained it can be a route to permanent residence and even citizenship.
Then there is a whole category of entrepreneur, freelancer, and digital nomad visas. Most countries have these in some form or another, and while costs vary widely there are still some sweet spots. Leaving aside the citizenship-by-investment programmes which are only for the wealthy, there are often small business schemes which allow a proprietor of a business based in the country to live in the country and run the business. They inevitably require a certain level of cash to be held in the business to remain valid, but it’s often not an unattainable sum. The business itself can even often be a consulting operation, allowing the owner to do a fairly conventional job for which they are employed as a business rather than as a person.
If a business isn’t quite for you but you have a transportable skill, then a digital nomad visa may be for you. These are designed for people who earn money outside the country with a job they can do anywhere with an internet connection, the idea being that a country will attract a group of earners and taxpayers with minimal investment. They are usually fairly short term in the first instance as many people working this way prefer to hop from country to country, but there are usually schemes to extend them or convert them to residency.
These are by no means the only visas on offer, if you spend a while researching you’ll find a load of others for surprising reasons. But what this section should do is remind you that there are plenty of possibilities to be found, and if you’re prepared to do the research and make an effort it doesn’t have to cost the earth, either. Break out Duolingo, and start learning the language!
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 the UK, and so I met her at Stansted, tired but happy to be safe. We had a few days with a volunteer, so we took a trip to London walking round some of the sights.
She would leave from Gatwick, but here fate intervened. Sometimes the system favours us, but this time the airline didn’t like her visa and wouldn’t let her fly. That’s the reality of traveling on non-Western passports, something EU, UK, or US passport holders never see.
We were stranded in the early hours of the morning with an urgent need to think on our feet, reschedule flights, and find somewhere affordable and safe for a fortnight’s unscheduled stopover. We found a holiday cottage in a remote part of Great Britain’s west coast, extremely cheap at the start of November. The weather was wild but the cottage was comfortable, and it was nice to get to know her. She has a natural talent for languages that leaves my slow learning in the dust.
Her final flight left Manchester, again in the dark. Another motel at a motorway services gave us a few hours sleep, then she breezed through check-in with no worries at the colour of her passport. I was soon wishing her a safe journey before driving home into the night. Over my coffee at a stop in the Midlands the message came, that she was safe. She’s going to live a successful life as a confident young woman in a supportive environment.
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.
As a Brit who travels to and from mainland Europe on a regular basis, there’s something of a sobering reminder to be found beneath your feet as you walk around European towns and cities. Every now and then you’ll see a small brass plaque in the pavement, with a name, some dates, and sometimes a … Continue reading Why We Are Sounding The Alarm For Transgender Americans.→
It’s an unfortunate but inevitable side-effect of running a non-profit working in developing countries, that we find ourselves the target of scammers who impersonate desperate passengers in order to extract money from us. Some of their stories sound believable at first, others fall apart after asking simple questions, and the rest, well, let’s just say … Continue reading Anatomy Of A Scam→
This is a frequently updated status page for those leaving Uganda. Current update 07:38 9 May, 2023 We currently have NO funds to assist in leaving Uganda. We CAN offer advice and assistance if you have funds. We CAN get help to you if you are jailed in Uganda. If you have medical training, are … Continue reading Information for Ugandans Fleeing Uganda→
Many news organizations are reporting that Donald Trump will be arrested by the Manhattan District Attorney this coming Tuesday, March 21, 2023. Hospitals, fire stations, the US Military, and police are gearing up for unrest. This NBC News report says the cops are on high alert. Jon Cooper, Biden’s campaign manager, asked on Twitter if … Continue reading Preparing for Civil Unrest→
When you’ve got to get out, and fast, you need a bug-out bag containing the essentials for your escape. What do you need to think about when packing yours? Everybody’s bug-out plan will be different to suit their needs, we’re here to set you thinking about what you’ll need to do. Here in 2023, trans … Continue reading How To Pack A Bug-Out Bag→
We’re Trans Rescue, and what we do is help trans people get out of dangerous places around the world. If you’re reading this site, you’ll know that the number of places we’re concerned about is rising, and we don’t think it’s hyperbolae to say that countries such as the USA and the UK are heading … Continue reading See The Bigger Picture, And Survive→
Long-time followers of our social media presence will know that we’ve been supporting a pair of Egyptian trans women over the last year. Rudy and Nancy are pseudonyms for a pair who have been on the run from both their families, and the police crackdown on LGBT people. Last October we published some of their … Continue reading Rudy’s On Her Way, Nancy Isn’t. We Need Your Help!→
There are many contenders for the most famous newspaper headline of all time, and many of them are triumphs of the journalist’s art, skilfully capturing world events for posterity. A few among them are as much infamous as they are famous, headlines a newspaper might wish to suppress had they not been for all to … Continue reading When This Is Over, How Do You Want To Be Remembered?→
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→
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.