Category Archives: Uncategorized

Review Of the Year: 2023

It’s been a hectic but transformative year for Trans Rescue with a lot of stress and plenty of ups and downs, but we’ve come through it and we’re delighted to be able to say that with your help we’ve been able to help over 140 people to safety so far in 2023.

In this review we’re bringing you the work we’ve done this year, something on the passengers we have in transit, some good news about passengers who’ve made it to safety, and news of our upcoming campaigns. Keep reading, and find out what we’ve been up to.

America

The USA flag with a calendar page showing the 5th of November 2024, and a banner at the top saying "US Presidential Election".
It’s less than a year now to the US Presidential election. Flag image: Mrrebel1453, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The original impetus behind the formation of our predecessor organisation TransEmigrate was to provide support for American trans people in escaping the increasing number of anti-trans laws in the USA creating a hostile environment in which to be trans. With just over a year until the next US Presidential election we have returned to this topic, launching a campaign to equip American trans people with the support and knowledge they need to reach safety.

With an estimated 1.6 million transgender Americans their numbers are too large for us to help each of them individually. However, because an American passport remains one of the strongest in the world trans American’s needs are very different from the people in developing countries who have occupied much of our attention until now.

Our campaign has started by persuading American trans people to apply for a passport, and will continue by helping them explore the escape options available in the likely event of a far-right government. Without this work we think escape will only be a realistic option for the wealthy, so our aim is to lower the hurdles to the point at which it becomes practical for many more. There are a huge number of American trans people who we think can get themselves out if they have the right information and encouragement, these are the target audience we are trying to reach.

East Africa

Daily Monitor headline: "We shall not accept gays, says Kaziimba"
The deteriorating situation Uganda, summarised in a headline.

By far our biggest operation this year started in the spring, when we found ourselves the only outside LGBT organization with access to a network on the ground in Uganda as the government there enacted a series of measures criminalizing LGBT people.

We had an extensive presence in Kenya already, and had helped a few trans people in late 2022 in Uganda. So we were, awkwardly, one of the few global organizations with an existing program in Uganda. This placed us in the position of taking what would turn out to be a prominent position in the movement to help Ugandan LGBT people flee. We were rather a small organization to be doing this.

We obtained a generous 40K Euro grant from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to expand our existing trans haven, Eden house, in Nakuru, Kenya. Sadly, the shelter was raided in August by Kenyan police due to the presence of LGBT people. We divided the residents of Eden House into smaller groups and set up safe houses in other cities.

Annie, our director, took a group of Egyptians who were in the house to Tanzania, while Arya, our shelter manager, took a group of Kenyans to the coast. We established a new, smaller shelter for some of the Ugandans, while others moved in with friends. We have ongoing costs to support those passengers who remain in Kenya.

Having now become the target of the Kenyan police, in the end we had to get most of our staff out of Kenya. Arya had to flee Kenya herself. She’s currently in a third country and we’re attempting to relocate her to a permanent place .

Passengers In Transit

We currently have passengers in transit across several regions of the world, in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the Americas. In some cases our role is an advisory one for passengers who are self-funding, we are helping others directly with their extraction, and a few more are being supported by us in mid-journey.

Coming Up

"Why we are sounding the alarm for transgender Americans" superimposed over the "See no evil... " three monkeys.
Our America campaign will include a series of videos on our YouTube channel alongside more grass-roots activities. Monkeys: John Snape, CC BY-SA 3.0.

As we move towards 2024 we’ll be continuing to work on our America campaign, something which is likely to intensify with the progress of their election.

This new project will involve extensive writing, video production and post production work. If any of you have an interest in helping with the campaign in that way, please drop us a note.

Meanwhile we have our existing in-transit passengers to continue on their way, our growing cadre of former passengers to support in various ways, and our continuing work helping new passengers.

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of an impromptu meeting of five former passengers. In the group most of the former passengers were bright young adults with an impressive array of credentials who will be contributors to the communities in which they now find themselves. This work can be emotionally hard, dangerous, and exhausting, but moments like these keep us going.

We could not do this work without our donors and supporters. We thank you, and we hope that this has given you some ideas of what we have been doing over the last year.

Happy holidays and a happy and safe new year for all of you,

The volunteers of Trans Rescue

The UK Is Descending Into Transphobia. How to get out.

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.

An "adult human female" sticker, part of a transphobic hate campaign.
Campaigns such as this one are part of the UK’s ever-growing atmosphere of transphobia. (Rubbish computer, CC BY-SA 4.0)

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?

This thing won’t get you thrown off a plane. (Swapnil1101, Public domain),

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.

We all got our COVID vaccinations, make sure yours is up to date!

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?

As the clamour for Scottish independence becomes ever louder, could it offer us a way to safety? (LornaMCampbell, CC BY-SA 4.0)

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.

The world can still be your oyster. (Intisar Ali, CC BY-SA 4.0)

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!

Women Attacked in Bundibugyo, Uganda

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 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.

Blog Index

Passengers

  • Alexander Zaytsev

Alexander Zaytsev

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 reveal, but in the end we got him to the Netherlands, and he’s now in an AZC and doing well.

We’re very grateful to his family, who supported him and worked closely with us to get him out, and to our donors who provided the funds to sustain him during his voyage.

We’ve made a short video of Alexander enjoying freedom.

When Trans People Are Registered.

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.

Bunkering Against Attack – Services Reduced

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.

To those who we’re serving – we will stay with you. We are not going away. We are going to win this fight. You are going to have a good life in a place that respects you. Don’t give up.

Finding A Way Out Of An Internet Attack

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. 

Header image: Keith Evans (CC-BY-SA 2.0).

Some Things We’ve Done

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 Eden House, a haven for trans and intersex folks on the Tenacious Unicorn Ranch model in Kenya.

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.

Responding To Our Attackers

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.