Though our operations over the last year have had a focus in the developing world, the situation closer to home for us in countries such as the USA has been of significant concern. An inevitable descent into some form of fascism seems all-too-possible, and since we trans people are the scapegoat of the moment it’s not difficult to see where this is going. In case any Americans remain in doubt we’d like to direct them to the Heritage Foundation’s 2025 blueprint for a newly elected Republican president. Entitled “Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise”, it sets out a chilling path in which a president gains near-dictatorial powers through abuse of the federal system backed up by a supreme court packed with their yes-men. They can then criminalise being transgender at the federal level and erase us from society, effectively making any “safe states” irrelevant.
Over the past year then, we’ve urged people to not wait for that end, but to get out while they still can. Our biggest concern is that if it’s all left to the last minute as a newly-elected far-right President prepares for his inauguration, only the wealthy trans people will succeed in escaping and the rest will be left for the Republicans to come after. Unlike many of our passengers who will be denied access to international travel based simply on their nationality, transgender Americans still have one of the most powerful passports in the world. They have options, something that will disappear abruptly when they are criminalised and their documentation is invalidated.
The Only Luxury You Have Is A Bit Of Time
The trouble is, we can only keep saying this and urging people to plan their exit, we can’t airlift every individual trans American to safety as we simply don’t have the resources. We’ve taken some grief for this, as people shoot the messenger rather than listening to the message. It comes down to this, getting out in some form is not out of reach when you have the luxury of time, but as the time becomes more limited, so does the chance of escaping.
As a first step, if you haven’t already, get yourself a passport. Only 37% of Americans have one, don’t be one of the 63% who are stuck in a fascist society with no way out. It costs $130, which we know isn’t a sum everyone will have handy, but here’s where the time comes in. You have the luxury of time, use some of it to get that cash together. When it’s the document that will save your life, isn’t it worth some sacrifices to save for it?
So you’re getting a passport, what now? Your whole life should become an exercise in planning for a future as an immigrant somewhere else. What are your skills, what do you have to offer another country who might take you? Contrary to popular belief you don’t have to work in finance or computer programming to emigrate, a huge number of countries have skill shortages in much more mundane areas. If you can’t find one of those visas there are digital nomad visas, or even ancestry visas if Grandad came from the old country. We can’t hold your hand here, you will need to become an avid student of international visas. Every country’s immigration department has a website listing what’s on offer, and it’s up to you to spend your time trawling through them.
Having started looking, what skills can you learn? Can you come up with a location-independent way to earn a living? How many languages can you speak? Anglophones tend to be bad at learning other languages, so it’s an easy way to give yourself an edge. Sometimes visas even hinge on speaking the language, as an example Japan has one for agricultural workers which requires a high standard of Japanese. We know from our own experience here at Trans Rescue that language learning is hellishly difficult, but with apps such as Duolingo being only a download away at least it’s never been easier to start.
Here’s the bottom line then. Only the most blinkered of individuals could claim that there’s no threat of America lurching over the brink into fascism, or that trans people wouldn’t be first against the wall in that eventuality. There’s no credible future in somehow seeing off the military industrial complex of a fascist government with an AR-15 popgun, so your best chance of avoiding the inevitable is to get out. Time is running out for that to happen, so the earlier you take action the better your chances of survival. We can offer basic advice and we’ve done our best to share as much as we can here, but we can’t hold your hand through the whole process.
That’s up to you.
Header image: Alt-right members preparing to enter Emancipation Park, Charlottesville, ‘Unite the Right’ rally, 12 August 2017. Anthony Crider, CC BY 2.0.
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 that some would-be scammers have fertile imaginations. We’ve become pretty good at spotting them, by analyzing the many available information sources, by investigating their stories, and by experience and intuition. To provide readers with an introduction to this facet of our day-to-day work then, we’re sharing with you a recent scam attempt and a little of our investigation.
The message as we received it
We received a message on Telegram, which you can read in the screenshot. It has a set of pictures, and the following text:
Good evening, I’m [redacted] based in [redacted]. Sometime last year my village mate helped me set up my own community through transrescue and that’s how I got your number. She is [redacted], right now she is out of reach. The reason I have contacted you directly, we are going to [big city] reasons being the community here does not want us any more you understand right? I have 2 trans men 2 intersex kids and 3 gays. Let me get straight to the point we do community service some programme [redacted] organised for us bead making and weaving, even bed making. We just sold all that stuff and rented a house in [redacted], it’s 4 bedroom. Local chief wants us to go away ASAP, that why I’m here, can you help us relocated? I need to get a lorry carry all our belongings to [big city] that’s all.
Along with the text was a series of images, of which we’ve posted a screenshot. We’ll refer to them as images 1 through 5 in the following analysis, but first of all it’s worth looking at the story itself.
How it all falls apart
This was one of those scam attempts which caused us to smell a rat when we first opened it, as we can tell you from experience, running a house as a refuge for queer people is no small undertaking. If someone we had been associated with were doing that, we’d know about it. We’d have almost certainly been financing it, and we’d know the people within it by both name and face. The idea that the person mentioned in the message could have been running such an operation without our knowledge is not credible. In addition the industries suggested, bead work and basket making, seem calculated to appeal to an imagined European idea of what Africans might do. As enterprises for a queer refuge, they stretch credibility.
Turning to the images, our attention was first attracted to image 5, the dormitory. It’s what we’d recognise as basic but comfortable accommodation, and it might just have passed muster but for a few details. Have a look at that window first, it’s a unitary double-glazed window placed in a deep embrasure, those walls are thick. It’s simply not an African window or building but a European one designed for a cold climate. Even the beds and interior aren’t quite right, in that while pine isn’t unknown in the country this is supposed to be from, it would be unusual to see so much of it.
As you might expect, we turned to a reverse image search to confirm our suspicions. The dormitory in image 5 does indeed provide comfortable accommodation, however it’s not in Africa but in Ireland. It’s at the Black Sheep Hostel, Killarney, and it’s repeated across many accommodation booking websites.
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 LGBT, and want to flee, talk to us.
If we are providing you services you should have direct contact with us. If someone is asking money of you or will not allow you to contact us they are a scammer. Our agents will always be introduced after you have contacted us.
We will never ask you for money. We might ask you to pay your own expenses if you can (for example, buying your own bus ticket).
We’re seeing some organizers offering shelters for LGBT folks (particularly trans women) on the run, then being controlling. Don’t end up tafficked, in a brothel, or controlled by someone. Do not give the organizer your passport or other document “to keep safe”
Caution to those leaving Uganda – we are seeing some evidence of people trafficking. If people want to put you in a situation where they control you, ask yourself if you’re safe and if you want to do that. Often portrayed as “for your safety”
Do not delay getting out because you don’t have a passport. National ID is OK . You need a covid certificate and a yellow fever vaccination.
The border is fairly open. You can physically get out if you need to.
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 followers expected rioting or unrest if Trump was arrested. Replies from hospital workers and people living near military bases report they are gearing up.
Trans people are potential targets of violence. Don’t be paranoid or do things that harm you long term, but there are reasonable precautions you can take. You’ll have to weigh the cost of any of these actions against any safety they will bring. If you’re unemployed, going camping may be no big deal. If you’re going to be fired, maybe consider if it’s worth it.
Some things you can do to protect yourself:
If you have camping gear and the weather and your job allow, consider taking some trans folks and going camping for a few days. While encountering yahoos is always a possibility, you’re unlikely to discover an organized mob at your local KOA.
If you’re staying, lay in groceries – get some staples that survive without refrigeration – rice, canned goods. And just do the week’s shopping this weekend so you’re not having to do it in the middle of chaos.
Get fuel for the camping stove and Coleman lantern. Fill containers with water. Refill your prescriptions.
Check your bugout bag. Replace anything that’s been taken out.
Gas the car up and keep it full. If you have a chance, on Monday, it might be a good day to take the car in and have the oil changed, tires checked, and other routine servicing you’d do before a road trip.
Minimize going out. Keep an eye on the news, and use common sense. The evening after Trump has been arrested, think about security before going to Club Uranus and getting blind drunk.
Think about visibility. It’s been our best tool over the years, but don’t become a victim because you weren’t balancing danger and visibility.
That said, do celebrate! It’s been a long road.
Protect each other. Make sure the unpopular girl at support group has your number. Call around your local trans community and see what others need. If you are, or know, the locally visible spokesperson for the community, invite them to stay with you a few days in case local yahoos have doxxed them.
If you think you might have to flee, get ready to bug out. I’m sure someone is going to yell ‘Trans Rescue is telling people to bug out’. We are definitely not. We are telling people to be on heightened alert.
Form affinity groups. Have a small team that shares resources. One person has camping gear. Another has a good car.
Work across class. If you are a middle class person who always played by the rules, your most valuable group member might be a streetwise person, and vice versa.
Make sure there’s a clear way to make decisions. An argument that leads to the group breaking up is not good.
Get together and make sure you’re all agreed on general strategy. If half the group believes all trans people should have a gun, and half think that’s a recipe for disaster, split the group. Similarly, check in if anyone uses marijuana, is everyone OK with that? Have honest discussions about money.
Be cautious in who you accept rides/housing/etc from. Remember our enemies would love to get you in a dependent position, and on the internet nobody knows you’re a dog.
Let cis friends, employers, etc know that you are concerned. Enlist them as allies if you can, but avoid having your life depend on them. When the fash knock down the door and demand to know where the trannies are hiding, their priority will be their own safety.
This is written not to promote fear, but rather preparedness. Being ready and feeling stupid after is better than not being ready and feeling stupid after.
There is no evidence to suggest that a trans genocide is coming this week in America. It’s important to avoid spreading unfounded fears and spreading panic. But it’s definitely a week to think about your options.
Header image: Becker1999 from Grove City, OH, CC BY 2.0.
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 people are under relentless attack, particularly in the USA but in other countries too. You don’t have to be a genius to see where this is going, there are people who want to eliminate us, and given the chance they’ll follow through on that. All your planning for an orderly exit can go up in smoke if events unfold too quickly, so it’s time to also take a look at planning for a quick exit just in case. And for that, I’ll start with a mid-September day at the height of the pandemic.
When It Was My Turn, I Made All The Mistakes
Back in 2020 I had a very unstable domestic situation, eventually culminating in my being made homeless going into the second UK COVID lockdown. When things began to go awry I packed a bug-out bag for what I judged the likely risk would be, and in the event I made such a series of mistakes that they should serve as a lesson to others.
My threat model was that things would take a temporary turn for the worse, and I would have to clear out for the day. The British countryside in September is pleasant enough, so I packed for a day outdoors. I would hang out in a quiet and shady corner, where I was going to have a brew and eat nut bars while I sat with my laptop and did my work. At the end of the day I’d slide back in unnoticed, and that would be that. In the end when it came, it was so unexpected and ferocious that I didn’t have a chance to grab my bug-out bag and I didn’t feel safe going back that evening. All I could do was run for my car, which is why I found myself that afternoon in my local megastore buying essentials. I was fortunate, I had my mobile phone and my handbag, and a friend offered me her sofa to sleep on, but it could have been so different. I avoided sleeping in my car with no food or money by a whisker, and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did.
So, where did I go wrong? I packed for too specific a scenario, I didn’t properly anticipate my threat model, and perhaps most importantly, my bug-out bag wasn’t in the right place for me to grab it when I needed it. You can learn from this just as I have, you have a better line on the threat model, you can plan much better what you will do, and you can place what you need, where you will need it.
A Bug-Out Plan Is What You Need
The first thing to say is that a bug-out bag is not there as part of a long-term and well-considered extraction master plan. It’s there for emergencies, when you need to drop everything and run. So part of it is the bag itself, but you should also consider it as a component in a greater bug-out plan. And don’t forget what you might have to leave behind, are there any other arrangements to be made? As an example, if you have a cat, arrange in advance for their welfare with a cis friend in the event you have to run. Or if you won’t be able to return, arrange with your friends what will happen to your possessions.
Our threat model is depressingly obvious in this case, that it’s going to in some form become dangerous to be where you are because you are a trans person. One of the things you’ll have to think about is how long you will be away, which will affect what you decide is essential, and thus what those other arrangements should be.
Having considered the threat model, next up think about your bug-out plan. What are you going to do and where are you going to go? Will you take shelter with a friend, use motels, sleep in your car, or what? Are you heading to the next city, another state or province, or will you leave the country? And how are you going to do it, in your car, by plane, or by some other method? How much is it all going to cost, and have you got enough cash stashed away? Think in terms of the short, medium, and long terms, where will you be tonight and how will you get there, then the next night, followed by the next week, and so on. Once you have a pretty good idea of where you are going to go and how you’re going to do it, come up with an alternative plan for each stage. Things will go wrong along the way, and in those events you’ll thank yourself for coming up with a backup plan.
There’s More To A Bag Than Just A Bag
We know our threat model then, and we’ve made a plan. Are we finally at the bag? Not quite, because a bug-out bag isn’t always a single physical bag. Instead it’s a series of components which might be in the same place but don’t have to be. Loosely, consider what you take with you as things to have on your person, things you might carry away with you, and things to cache somewhere else to pick up once you’re away from immediate danger. Where do these things have to be to be of most use to you?
In my bug-out above I got one thing right, I had my car keys, phone, and payment card with me. These are the things you have on your person, and for instance you might want to add some cash, your passport, or a supply of your medication to them.
Where I went horribly wrong was in the bag I was going to take away with me, In my day pack I had a waterproof groundsheet, camp stove and coffee fixings, my laptop and some trail food, but hadn’t considered I might need the necessities for a night away. Then to compound it all I left it somewhere I couldn’t easily grab it, when I should have put it in my car. You will certainly dodge my mistakes, but think more carefully than I did and try to avoid pitfalls of your own.
If you’ve planned things correctly, now you should be equipped to get away from home with the essentials, and you’d be safely on your way. But stop and think for a moment, are you carrying too much? Can you keep your immediate exit safer by carrying less, and caching some of the more bulky things with a friend somewhere for later retrieval? There are some things here that you definitely shouldn’t have on your person, for example ADHD meds which require certificates to cross international borders, or professional qualifications and diplomas which can be a red flag for immigration staff. Maybe a friend can store and forward a bag of your stuff, or you could even stop by a UPS depot on your way, so you don’t have to weigh yourself down.
If you were hoping for an exhaustive list of what to put in your bug-out bag as part of this article, then we’re sorry to have disappointed you. But with luck we’ve set you thinking about the things you’ll need to consider in case you need to make a quick exit, and made that eventuality a lot safer for you if you ever find yourself in that position. Stay safe everyone.
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!
One of our passengers has had experience with registries of trans people. In light of the recent decision in Florida registering trans minors, she thought it was important people know her story in her own words:
I’m over 30 in Hungary. Before they banned transition, I had my psychological evaluation in the way, and visited psychologists over my issues. After the ban in 2020, the psychologists told me they can not help me any more, and after a few months, some ministry’s office started to harass me on the phone, pretty much threatening me that if I attempt to transition, they will send me to jail or worse.
I reported such to the police and blocked the number.
Nearing 2021, police officers shown up at my workplace and asked me to come around to the nearby police office. The officers were apologetic and embarrassed, but “we just do what we are told to do”. In the office, some woman from a ministry (not from the police) started shouting at me about how being trans is an evil fad and corrupts children, and I should write an official paper that I am normal, not trans, never will be trans and fill in some data on it. I refused because it seemed like getting data and “I am cisgender, leave me alone”.
Then she shown the papers from my doctor, which they pretty much confiscated from the hospital. “Yes, I had a time when I was unsure, but I am sure now. Leave me alone.”
So as I left, a police officer called me aside and apologized in the name of the Hungarian police force, stating that this is from the ministry and they have to do this, smaller office, so they are doing what they are told to do. I left anyways.
The phone harassment did not stopped and near the end of 2021, officers came around again, but they just shrugged when I told them they got the wrong guy.
Early 2022, Trans Rescue helped me out of Hungary to a safe zone in the EU. They gave me a temporary house until I got on my feet and legally could stay in a country.
The harassing calls did not stopped, the Hungarian officials still tried to threaten me that if I ever return to Hungary with a changed gender, they will hit me “with all the power of the law”.
She, and we, thought it was important to get this out, but for obvious reasons she was reluctant to release it on her own.
We have been under severe attack from some vicious trolls recently.
We have to be rather widely accepting in how passengers contact us. They are ordinary trans* folk, in danger, often under a parent’s thumb (yes, this is normal for a 26 year old in some countries). They may have limited contact options. So people come to us over social media, email, and the other normal ways of contact in an internet world.
But the trolls have been making such contacts very expensive. They create “sock puppets” — artificial accounts claiming to be trans folks in danger or volunteers. Sorting out ‘real’ approaches from the fakes is consuming huge amounts of effort.
Beyond that, and more importantly, we may make mistakes. If we, a few volunteers, get overwhelmed and decide an account is a sock incorrectly, some poor soul in Sudan or Egypt loses their lifeline.
And moving someone invariably involves discussing how to do it with them. Which leaks operational secrets.
We have to continue our work or passengers die. We have folks holed up in secret places inside repressive theocracies. If the police catch up they die. We are sending them money and keeping them on the move.
So, as a temporary measure, we are, sadly, taking some defensive measures. Any resulting deaths will be on the hands of the trolls.
First, we are only talking with people we know and trust. If we don’t know you, you’ll be directed to this page.
For new passengers, this cuts off help.
We had ‘closed intake’ a while back. It’s more humane to say ‘we’re full’ than to consume the trapped passenger’s time and possibly endanger them only to put them on a long backlog.
But people do come anyway, and we explain we have a backlog, and sometimes their problem is simple. So we take folks in when it’s realistic for us to help them in a reasonable time frame.
As of today, that stops. If we don’t know you we won’t talk with you. If that leaves you needing help, we’re terribly sorry. When the attacks stop we’ll go back to normal.
We are also getting volunteers. If you want to volunteer with us, you’ll have to find someone we know and trust and have them recommend you. And you should expect the first step in onboarding to be a more than usually rigorous check that what you say is true.
(And yes, this hurts us – Our only paid employee is Eden House’s manager. Everything else is done by volunteers).
If you’re here and you’re appalled – get angry. This defensive posture is a body blow to our fundraising. We will be trying to ‘shielter in place’ passengers, that’s often cheaper, but we will run out. And some need moved NOW.
So if you want us to keep working, pull out your credit card. It’s the only way we can keep passengers alive until this attack ends.
I’m very worn out today and need to pick myself up. A journalist asked about our accomplishments, so I thought I’d write a bit of a brag piece.
Some of these are things done as TransEmigrate (who we were before), and with other groups I wish I could credit, but who I don’t want to mention for operational reasons or because we’re currently under troll attack. I think we’ve all been far more interested in the work getting done than credit.
We have helped people get out of danger, in these countries: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, USA, UK, Northern Ireland, Russia, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldive Islands, Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria.
How many depends on how much contact we need before it’s ‘help’. We’ve had ex passengers help get others out and tell us afterwards or be gotten out by supportive families. But the ‘count’ is about 20 people we have helped substantially.
We currently have 5 people “on the run” and supported by us. We also support Eden House until it can become self sustaining. In the past we’ve had about this many consistently.
And we work with others who don’t need our financial support (mostly they’re trying to escape parents in repressive countries) but who we are trying to get out.
We have started a program to advise people in places like the US and UK how to get out. We fear for the future in such places. If the US becomes a fascist autocracy a million people might suddenly be on the run.
And we feel like we’re raising awareness of the plight of trans people in dodgy places. No country wants to be known as a place we get people out of. It’s early days for this, but I’ve had at least one conversation with a government official who made it clear our actions were not appreciated by his government.
Finally, we’ve raised awareness of the plight of trans people in dodgy places among the western left. That has value of its own.
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.