My name is Lisa. I am 24 years old and a transgender woman from Uganda. This is my story:
My voyage began in a small village in Uganda known as Kimuli. It is hard for LGBT people to live in my country as the laws and policies of Uganda do not protect them. For transgender people, in particular, there is an organization called Transgender Equality Uganda, which is led by Kalungi Beyonce and aims to protect and improve the rights of transgender people.
While in Uganda, I received several death threats and I completely lost my family; they turned a blind eye to my existence, they have strong religion background hence it was difficult for them to accept me. Normally, I would travel to Kenya to receive hormones illegally. Hormones was not available in Uganda, because the laws do not allow same-sex intimacy.
My journey to the Netherlands started with sex work (prostitution). I was unemployed, so I had to do it to save enough money to travel. I would also do cyber-sex work on gay websites such as Grindr, Badoo, and Adam4Adam.
When I earned enough money to start on the road to safety, I had to cut my hair and dress as a boy as I was going to enter very dangerous territory. I was afraid, as I could not get a visa for the Netherlands at the embassy in Uganda. I had to travel through South Sudan, Sudan, Chad and Libya.
In Libya, I was beaten because I was black and at one point I was molested and robbed of my money. I had to flee into Tunisia to work as a “yard boy”, which meant I had to work as an underpaid servant for months to earn enough money to travel to Italy. I managed to get on a boat. While in Italy, I did sex work for seven months. I remember many bad experiences. I was abused by female sex workers, engaged in territorial war, and the high levels of discrimination among them.
I was lucky enough to save the money I needed to continue my journey into the Netherlands, taking a train from Italy. I sought lodging at the Salvation Army. I had to find food and other shelter, so I continued sex work as employment.
I do not want to be identified as a transgender. My current partner accepts me as a woman, and I want to remain that way. I don’t go around advocating for rights because no one advocated for me. I just want to have a family and live peacefully.
My plan for 2017 is to get married, so I can have my status to live, work, raise a family and do business. Also, I’d like to have access to proper healthcare at the VU Hospital in Amsterdam – even though I don’t live in the Amsterdam area.
Lisa’s story was deeply moving, and it brought tears to my eyes as I listened. At one point, she said “Jessica please don’t cry. I may have to finish this conversation if you continue to cry”.It must be noted that millions of immigrants travel from around the world to the Netherlands to seek refuge. The journey is treacherous; incidents of rape, molestation, human trafficking, and even murdere are quite common before refugees enter a safe country.
Transgender persons are more at risk as they must hide their identity from society to survive. It is important to have organizations such as GenderTalent, Transgender Network Nederland (TNN) and others that can support in the following ways:
- Protect the rights of transgender people
- Provide transgender people with the necessary tools to combat stigma and discrimination
- Assist with the (re)integration into mainstream society
Program Manager Transgender Refugees