Crossing borders, (from Colombia to Southeast Asia, from male to female.)
The 16 of September of 2013 in Hong Kong the curse of my life changed dramatically.
Before that day, I was a Colombian master candidate awarded with a government scholarship in the Taipei Medical University, an outstanding student following a doble dream, living comfortably in peace and full of joy in the little Island of Taiwan.
After that day, I became a refugee of the United Nations, an stateless and homeless person in a concrete jungle called Hong Kong, with no Identity, no dignity, no passport, living in terrible conditions, sleeping on the floor, with complete uncertainty about what to do with self, and complete lack of control of my own life and my free will, living in a bureacratic prison, depending on the international desitions of governments and organizations.
What happened that day?.
As I mention before, I was in Taiwan, living and studying, but because of my passport’s picture, that was not reflecting my identity at the time I went to renew my student visa I had to come in an urgent basis to the consulate of Colombia in Hong Kong, the closest one, to issue a new passport and in this way to apply for the second year of my master in Taipei Medical University.
I came here for only 3 days but that day the length of my stay became suddenly in a indefinite stay. That day I was sexually asaulted in the Hong Kong’s Airport, and I experienced a grave violation of my human rights due to the ambiguity with my gender, and the ignorance of the customs and excise and immigration officers that decided to refuse me to land to Hong Kong SAR, finding an excuse to deport me to Colombia a place that I left time before, because I suffered two independent murder attempts in the street precisely for the same reason being a “transgender”.
After the refusal to land in Hong Kng, two male officers forced me to be naked, and without any humanity and mercy they mocked and laugh of me, touched and manipulate all the parts of my body, freely and with no regret, with the advantage of the fact that in my passport was written an M in my sex instead of an F, and they were complete legally able to do whatever they wanted to do to me, including touching sensible parts of my body, like my boobs that according to them are not that sensible if you have an M in your passport.
I was sexually assaulted, but for Hong Kong law, according with their legal definition of sexual abuse, this is only considered when it happens (man person to a female person).
After almost one day detained in the airport’s jail in horrible conditions, placed in the male section I was forced to use the man’s toilet, even when I kindly asked them to allow me to go to the female one, but they refuse and force me to use the toilet in front of the men in detention, instead of the female one I tried to go, even my dignity was steppedd and after the abuse that I had to suffer I still was preserving my dignity and I refuse to use the men toilet, eventually I pissed my clothing after holding for a long time my physical needs.
The officer were openly discriminating me for being who I was, they violated each of the steps that they should follow with a person that is in detention like me, and they refuse to contact my consulate in Colombia. Instead they were trying to deport me as quick as they could since they realized they commit a big mistake with me when I was abused and my most basic human rights were violated.
After hours crying, and asking for help, I found the way to turn on my phone and using the international roaming from Taiwan I sent a help message to all my Facebook friends and after that, several organizations called the immigrations officers and after they realized that there were people concerned about my safety the immigration officers decided to allow me to land, however the land refusal that I was holding in my hands after being mistreated and the neglection of the Colombian authorities, forced to find protection in Higher levels “U.N.”
My fears of being deported to a place in where I am not allowed to be myself, where I can not express my identity freely and where exposing my self as I am could lead me to the face death in different ways including the social cleansing patrols. Forced me to find a long-term solution with the highest representation of the nations in the world. the UN. and leave back the whole life I had built in Taiwan.
My case was strong enought and the evidence I provided was strong enought that I became an Asylum seeker and in less than a month I got the Refugee Status of the UN.
However in this way, without a passport, and in my condition as UN refugee, that does not allow me to retrieve my passport I became an stateless person “de facto”, holding a deportation letter “refusal notice” from Immigration officers and a detention letter (recognizance paper) also issued for them.
In a nutshell In Hong Kong, after that day, I was mistredated and abused, I lose many things, my stability in Taiwan, my safety, my past, my master degree, my nationality, my passport, my identity, and my medical and hormonal treatment that I was following in Taiwan, since that I was not able to return to Taiwan, because I was a UN Citizen and Taiwan is a country that is not recognized as such for UN.
Who I am?
My name is Eliana Rubashkyn, I was born in Bogota – Colombia. I’m a Pharmacist and Chemist. I speak 5 languages (Russian, Mandarin, English, Spanish and Portuguese), I have a partial MBA in public health in Taiwan.
I am a Transgender Woman.
I left Colombia a very transphobic place to start a new life in Taiwan in the way I always wanted, leaving back my whole life, and starting from zero.
Since I was 6 years old I realized that my physical gender was not matching with my inner feeling and inner identity, and I had to grow in the wrong way being a person I was not.
I used to wear my mom’s make up and outfits since 9. In my adolescence the awful changes related to my puberty lead to commit suicide in several occasions.
However at 17 years old I understood who I was, a transgender woman, and I realized that is possible to be who you are, even tought is a quite complicated way full of barriers, that can bring to your life solitude, sadness and suffering.
I tried to be my self in my room several times (Cross-dressing) but when I was in my 20′s I had a frenetical feeling to show to the world the person who I was. and that courage, let me to go out in the streets cross dressing as Eliana, even when I knew the hazards that I could find in a dangerous city like Bogota.
Colombia is a country where Machismo, Transphobia and Homophobia, are deeply integrated to the society, my country has been more that 60 years war, the crime is part of our culture, and hate is the way some people use to reflect the intolerance they have for those ones who act and think different, precisely because of that lack of tolerance in Colombia, there are some ultra-right paramilitary groups that expend more of their time, making something called social cleansing, social cleansing that in most of the times is addressed againts human beings like me, that these groups consider undesirable to belong or being part of the society, so it is normal to see how Colombia holds one of the highest murder rates per capita againts transgender woman. and even when whe are the minority of the minorities in the LGBT group, the 90% of LGBT-related crimes happen to Transgender Woman.
And was in 2009 that I almost died in the attempt of being myself, when at the third time I went out to the street as Eliana, exposing myself, I was stabbed in my back (6 cm wound) and after that in a second time I was about to be shooted apparently for one those social cleansing groups that are spread all over Colombia.
After these terrifying episodes that nobody in my family and between friends knew, because I was keeping my inner identity to myself and I was afraid to come out and face rejection in my family, that I understood, the systematic rejection and the growing transphobia in Colombia, forced me to leave everything back, because If I wanted to be myself I needed to leave my country, my family, my friends and my past and start a new life, somewhere else, where I can be my self without any fear.
Taiwan was like my chrysalide, because there the gender identity is seen as part of the nature of the human soul and as buddihst monk in Taiwan told me, your body is only a crust, is temporary, the real you is within you, and the nature understand why you want to reflect that inner feeling with your social identity.
Most of people in Taiwan understand that, and there is not a big taboo about gender, and also the legislation in Taiwan nowadays is the most opened one in terms of gender in Asia.
So there I found a safe place to be myself, and there I could start my medical treatment and my transitioning as female while I was studying my master degree in Public Health. Fulfilling a doble dream being an MBA and openly Eliana.
My life in general was nice, and I was in complete peace, I was happy to be my self, and also happy to feel acceptance of the people there, I had to work as a part of sustaining my Hormonal Treatment selling food in the streets of Taipei’s Night Markets, selling cupcakes, Colombian Natilla lunch boxes and bakery in general, an activity that I did part time while I was keeping my studies in my university.
In Taiwan I became myself a most spiritual person, and the awareness of the human nature and the diversity and dynamicity of the universe increased in me.
However not only spiritually things starting to change progressively in me, also my body and even more my face started to change abruptly, I became evidentially in a woman, in only one year after the hormone therapy replacement, I had to renew my visa for my second year of scholarship and there were when the problems with my passport started.
While I was in Taiwan, I tried to reach in several ocassion my embassy, Colombia and Taiwan don’t have diplomatic relationships, so I understood that is not possible to do anything there, and even when the consulatein Hong Kong didn’t provid to me any help, after several attempts to solve my problem in the distance, so I didn’t have another option rather than coming to the closest colombian consulate to Taiwan. the Hong Kong one.
After the event in the Airport – Nowadays.
Rainbow of Hong Kong an NGO in charge of LGBT advocacy and issues in Hong Kong decided to hold my case and give me support in different ways.
Part of the help they provide was to give me a the temporary “improvied” shelter in their offices in Jordan – Kowloon, In this place I have been living several times, always sleeping on the floor living with other people that face discrimination and also people that find themselves as homeless in Hong Kong.
Nowadays I found my self completely homeless, and because of this probably ISS is intending to relocate me to Yuen Long in the border with mainland China, a place in where most of the refugees in Hong Kong are forced to live.
In Taiwan I was holding a complicated medical treatment including a medication called “Leuprolide Acetate” medication that I could not suddenly suspend because it lead me to develop several adverse effects related to a general metabolic disorder.
Unfortunately I couldn’t continue my medical treatment in Hong Kong as a refugee, and the Hospital and the general health system, refused to provide me any medical assistance.
Two weeks after I fainted in the street and an ambulance took to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in the ER, when they realized about my gender ambiguity, they instead of provinding me basic primary care for the reason I fainted they decided to plac e me into the padded room intented for insane and mental patients in the psychiatric ward of that hospital, a room in where I was located in restrains to a bed, I was almost two days in those conditions until again Rainbow of Hong Kong came to save me.
The struggle after that episode against the Hong Kong public health system was that strong that Rainbow of Hong Kong, finally got full assistance to my health condition including the medication and the medical assistance since January.
The 30th of October The UN acknowledge my Refugee Status, this status protects me officially from any hostility of the Hong Kong government but does not allow me to contact my counstry’s consulate.
The only way I can use to leave Hong Kong is with my Colomb ian passport, but I can not have a Colombian passport because if I retrieve it I will inmediately lose my Convention Refugee status, then I can be immediately placed in Jail and then deported /repatriated to my Country
Now because of the lack of passport, the UN started a troublesome process to find and third country for me to go, a place in where I can start a new life again from zero in peace and dignity, even though they have more than 20 countries for resettlement, most of them like Norway, Belgium, Switzerland, France or Italy, force me to do the sterilization surgery or mutilation, to recognize my gender as female in my documentation, on the other hand a lot of these countries do not provide any transgender assistance or health care, so the UN has been struggling a lot in the way to find a good long-term solution for me.
There are few options of countries that are suitable for my in my situation, and also countries that accept refugees coming from the Hong Kong office: Canada, US, New Zealand, Sweden and recently Australia.
New Zealand is now the most suitable option, however my case has been holded several months for them, and I can not apply to a different country while they are assessing my case.
After 15 of December things with immigration department started to be more complicated again, I was afraid to approach them for the previous experience in the Hong Kong’s Airport, the 6 of January I went there after having a recommendation letter from the UN, however after that even with the refugee certificate I became an illegal person, and after that I was liable to be detained according with the Hong Kong law (section 32 of the immigration ordinance), because of the overstaying I was arrested but not detained in February.
The situation of refugees is very concerning and complicated, as refugees we are forced to live in inhuman conditions, in pig farms, sometimes like in my case homeless, without any control of our lives, we are not allowed to work and study, and Hong Kong only provide about 300 USD per mont per refugee, money that is managed directly for the ISS a private NGO who give us the food they chose and the allowance that we can get for less than 150 USD per month, ammount of money that is not enough in Hong Kong, one of the most expensive cities in the world, that holds the most expensive renting in the world, so that amount of money is not even enough for renting a 6ft by 2ft rabbit hutch in Kowloon and the ammount of food is as well not enough to cover all the basic human needs. In this way Hong Kong forces us to live in a very miserable way, like in a big concentration camp, since we don’t have any right here, and we can be deported any time they want.
Now I am like a butterfly trapped in a spider web, I’m trying to fly, I try to be self, but now there is nothing else I can do, I have no control of my life, I am a prisoner of this system, but still I will continue fighting, I hope I have energy to continue, I have been several times about to give up, I am losing hope, and I am losing the desire to continue this strugle, I need to find the way to leave this prison, I need to be free from hate, discrimination and indifference in where the big spider called Hong Kong has forced me to fall. And even when I am entangled in this catch 22 of legal, political, and religious definitions and I am only asking to the world to allow me to be free and allow me to fly.
The struggle continues and there is hope, however when it seems there is not a clear reason to continue fighting, my life still has a meaning, being my self, being Eliana, and I hope I can be free soon, and I can find the happiness of expressing my inner and real identity.