Tag Archives: Eden House

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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

So there it is, those are the accusations leveled 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 small non-profit organisations for clout, and we’re sure it will peter out over time.

Eden House Begins!

“Hii nyumba ni kama nyumba ya mungu luna ipa heshima.”

(This house is like a temple, and we respect it)

– Shilla

After months of planning, fund raising, and work, our trans haven in Nakuru, Kenya is a reality. This post is being written in the office of Eden House.

We moved the first passengers in on August 1.

Our awesome volunteer, Simon Ng’ang’a, found us a really special place. It’s a lovely 3 bedroom 3 bath home with enough property for a chicken coop and garden. Its location on the outskirts of town is secure, quiet, and means we can move to the agricultural project vision gradually – renting a nearby field and expanding into it.

All of us in Nakuru have been working hard to turn the house from a rather dilapidated place that hadn’t been lived in for some time to a lovely home. We’ve cleaned a lot, we’ve had plumbers in and figured out the NASA like complexities of the plumbing, done a lot of small repairs, and are moving on.  

We’re currently a bit in the ‘camping in our new apartment’ stage, with mattresses on the floor and a single cheap molded plastic table and chairs. But we’ve set up the kitchen (everyone but me seems to be a wonderful cook), and have daily basics like clothes washing, internet service, fridge, and so on established.

But we’re starting our move towards self sufficiency by building our own furniture.

The back porch currently has a lot of offcut lumber piled up, most of it with the bark removesd. We’re building 5 beds, a sofa, and a trestle type dining table.  In preparation, I taught a basic tool use class (it’s not all one way – I finally got a proper lesson in how to wash clothes in a bucket from Sophia, I’d struggled with this before). 

As much as teaching concrete skills, we’re working hard to get the women who grew up in the city used to the idea of doing for yourself.
Most of the folks in the house had little experience with self sufficiency, but they’re learning fast. In fact, after several ideas of how to build beds, we settled on an idea Arya came up with, based on used tomato boxes. And the idea of learning skills from YouTube is new to them all.

We’re purchasing some basic tools, some chickens, a sewing machine, and some art supplies.  Arya’s interested in starting clothing production, and Sophia’s a talented artist. Shilla brings many practical ‘farm’ talents – she’s going to start raising chickens and lead the project to put in a garden. 

And yes, we have a large garden planted! Shilla took the lead on this project.

We’re doing more than we expected for this early phase of the project. We’re ready to start some skills training, but need equipment. The tools are purchased, but we could use more, and we need to purchase a sewing machine, sewing notions, some fabric, and some art supplies.

Eden House is on a residential lot on the edge of town, down a narrow dirt road. About 50% of the surrounding lots are used for agriculture. Our original plan was a house or apartment, then move into some self-sustaining agricultural project later as we grew. Instead, I think we can just grow the house where we are for some time, perhaps renting a nearby lot for agriculture.

The compound is the former home of a local MP.  Politics can be violent in Kenya. For us, having a politician’s house means the property is very secure – it has a tall stone block wall topped with broken glass and a secure iron gate. All windows have secure steel bars. If (a realistic possibility here) there’s a violent protest, we’re secure.

Matching Funds For Eden House

One of our wonderful supporters (who wants to remain anonymous) has offered up a challenge. For every euro we raise, up to 2000 EU, she’ll match it 1 for 1.  So let’s go, you can donate