Seeking Change, Kindness And Respect For Asylum Seekers: An Intersex Woman Shares Her Story

"Eventually, I faced the reality that I must flee my country ― my home. If I were to stay, my life would be in danger."
06/22/2017 11:46 am ET Updated Jun 22, 2017

I had finally found my purpose.

Living in Zimbabwe as an intersex woman, I knew firsthand the discrimination and violence I faced. I was born intersex; raised as a boy when in fact I am a woman. I was struggling to cope. I was subject to verbal abuse in school about the way I looked.

After 14 painful years of feeling hopeless and helpless, I started speaking up. I knew I was a girl but I not seen or treated as such. And I wasn’t alone. Others had told me their own stories of discrimination.

Finally, I decided to do something about it. I founded a secret organization called True Identity. The organization was to provide awareness-raising on trans and intersex-rights and health, in hopes of creating safe spaces for transgender and intersex populations living in Zimbabwe.

True Identity helped intersex and transgender people in cities throughout the country come to terms with who they were. Through our collective meetings and workshops we were striving for fair recognition in the country.

While running True Identity, I was threatened and told to stop my work. I was physically and emotionally abused several times and some even threatened to burn down my home while I was inside.

Eventually, I faced the reality that I must flee my country ― my home. If I were to stay, my life would be in danger. So I came to the United States and applied for asylum in New York. I came to America to try and start a new life because it was impossible to go on anymore in a country where the leader is not supportive in any way. New York was supposed to be a place where I escaped to and could find calm, love, and kindness. But it hasn’t met my expectations.

I came to America to escape persecution, but have found an unworkable system here that leaves me just as destitute as when I left Zimbabwe. Many people don’t realize this, but the asylum system in the United States is archaic, slow, and fraught with regulations. Immigration officials asked me to wait over six months just to make a case for asylum.

What I have found is that all immigrants ― whether they are refugees or asylum seekers or not ― are treated like garbage. They are asked to wait 180 days, and during that time, they are not allowed to work. If they hustle on the streets then they are treated like criminals. They go homeless, or must rely on the kindness of strangers, for months on end without a job while waiting for immigration status. Lives get ruined whilst trying to survive.

I started a sensitive conversation in a very dangerous and hostile country and some people have lives now because I went against everything the society believed in which includes not speaking up and I went on to speak and say we need change.

I am now saying the same thing here. Asylum seekers are people who are escaping fatal danger. As human beings, we deserve better.

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