Without a doubt, I remember Natasha* most of all.
She is a transgender citizen of a conservative Muslim nation. She had only been able to procure gender re-assignment surgery in a third country. She could not read or write any language. The first time she came to Australia, she was trafficked. On her second visit, she made contact with an acquaintance from long ago. She had no money.
In Natasha’s country, citizens could not change gender. All her Identification Documents listed her as male. Because of this, she could never find regular employment. At job interviews, she was ridiculed and harassed. Unsurprisingly, she supported herself as a sex worker. However, sex work was illegal. Every time she worked, she risked the charge of Prostitution and Sodomy. As she openly wished to convert from Islam, she was at great risk of a charge of Apostasy.
Her story was one of horrific violence and constant abuse from family, partners, police, doctors and strangers. Writing her Statutory Declaration was one of the hardest things that I have ever done. While I was writing it, I realised how impersonal is the public discourse on transgenderism. Sit with a transgender individual and you soon realise that they are never permitted to just be.
During my last appointment with Natasha she turned to Indraveer and I, made a prayer gesture with her hands and bowed. She said ‘Thank you for helping me. No one has ever helped me’.
But for me no thanks was needed the privilege was ours. We are all entitled to our dignity.
By Carole Hemingway
*names of clients have been changed to respect and protect their confidentialityHelp us to continue to help vulnerable clients, donate to our annual funding campaign below: