Trans Awareness Week November 13-19
We observe Transgender Awareness Week at Rainbow Railroad to promote greater acceptance, visibility, inclusivity, and social change for the transgender community. In order to understand and address the challenges the global trans community faces, it is critical to centre the lived experiences of its members.
In 2023, the number of requests for help from trans individuals Rainbow Railroad received doubled.
Julia is one of the trans individuals Rainbow Railroad supported this year. Growing up in Tunisia, she faced bullying and harassment because of her identity. At only 18 years old, she was imprisoned because a piece of her ID did not match her gender expression. As a result, she spent over a year in prison without facing a fair trial.
Julia is a multi-talented artist and creator. In 2018, she founded “Alwani,” which means “My colours”, in Arabic, an organization dedicated to advocating for the LGBT community in Tunisia. As a result of her activism, Julia was invited by the Arab Institute for Research and Publishing in Lebanon to help update their guide on gendered vocabulary in the Arabic language.
2022 was a turning point for Julia when members of an extremist group attacked both her and her mother. Through a recommendation of a friend, she reached out to Rainbow Railroad. The decision to leave Tunisia was not easy. She would have to leave her family behind and face financial insecurity from her resettlement. However, she felt she had no choice but to leave, describing her mental state as “in constant fear and expecting harassment at every corner, or worse, the police dragging me down to the station.”
Julia sought refuge in Madrid. She describes her three-day wait at the airport as a positive experience. Contrary to all her expectations, she was well taken care of, fed and given a phone to call home. The Red Cross provided her with a wheelchair because of complications she suffered throughout her travels. On June 14, 2023, Julia, at 28 years old, was granted asylum in Spain and started her new life in Madrid.
A resettlement organization, Rescate, supported Julia with housing in Spain and helped her learn Spanish. When asked how she adjusted to her new life in Madrid, she remarks, “I feel at peace, safe and secure. That is what changed for me — not the change in geographic location. My mind is no longer busy looking for ways to run for safety or thinking of how to prepare for the worst scenario possible.”
Her days in Madrid are occupied with participating in different activities through Rescate, learning Spanish and enjoying her hobbies of cooking and drawing.
Her current motto in life is: “I learn something new every day and every day is the best day of my life”.
“I tell my Tunisian LGBTQ+ folks not to despair and not to give up, and not to tire; to work toward your clear goals and realize them. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from community organizations or lawyers, and be who you are and live for what your souls yearn for, not for others. And don’t forget to dance to life’s ever-changing tunes.”
“I thank everyone who supported and supports Rainbow Railroad. And I tell them that their donations helped me reach safer shores and their donations are helping many others like me from the LGBTQI+ communities all over the world.”
In 2023, Rainbow Railroad successfully relocated hundreds of individuals like Julia, while providing vital support to thousands of others through shelter, emergency financial assistance, crisis response support, and other programs.
Help make our work possible by making a donation today at rainbowrailroad.org/60in60.