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TRANSformation through Advocacy & Artistry: Rosheka’s Activism Journey

TRANSformation through Advocacy & Artistry: Rosheka’s... TRANSformation through Advocacy & Artistry: Rosheka’s...

“The day I decided to leave Jamaica was one of the happiest of my life. Leaving my mother behind was incredibly difficult, but she supported me through thick and thin, and blessed my decision to go. I simply could no longer stay in Jamaica. It was not safe. I was attacked multiple times because I tried to create change in my country.”

Rosheka’s story exemplifies the persecution that many trans women who reach out to Rainbow Railroad experience. As a child, she was picked on and physically abused by her brothers. When the abuse became unbearable she had to run away from home, in search of shelter and a livelihood. 

“My family bullied me, abused me, and I was an outcast from society. As a black trans woman, it is very difficult to survive in Jamaica.”

Rosheka’s journey led to her discovery of a trans community, where she met and learned from other trans individuals who affirmed her transness. Within the community, she also discovered her passion for drag performance.

“I became more involved in performing as a drag queen and over time, I became more popular — not just in the LGBTQI+ community, but also in the cis-hetero community. It became increasingly difficult to walk around in public because I was being recognized more due to my advocacy.” 

Rosheka’s activism placed her at risk in Jamaica. Although she was able to earn money through performing, and feel “like a human being,” she also gained visibility as an advocate, which made her a target of transmisogynistic violence. 

Ultimately, things became untenable. 

With the help of Rainbow Railroad, Rosheka fled Jamaica. She eventually resettled in the U.S. and things have improved for her since.

“It feels amazing to be in a country where I can be myself. Now I can go out in public and not feel inferior and like someone is going to attack me. Like I’m going to be shot and killed in the middle of the street like a dog. I feel alive for the first time in years.” 

Tracking Transmisogyny

Transmisogyny knows no borders. 

But there are real differences between countries where trans people have some protections in law versus those where transmisogynistic violence is met with complete impunity. These differences show up in the data Rainbow Railroad collects.

In 2023, we saw a 148% increase in requests for help from trans women, compared to the previous year. Top drivers of displacement and reported safety concerns include community rejection, family-based rejection, verbal threats and abuse, community violence, and being beaten up / shot at / chopped. In comparison to other gender identities, those who identify as genders other than cis, had a higher increase of requests for help. Notably, the increase in requests for assistance from trans women was 49% greater than cis women.

Marking International Women’s Day by Drawing Attention to Transmisogyny 

This year, Rainbow Railroad is marking International Women’s Day by spotlighting the continuing epidemic of violence faced by trans women globally, and how our community can commit to eradicating transmisogyny.

While gender-based violence affects all women, it affects trans women disproportionately. Trans women face shocking rates of intimate partner violence, a lack of human rights, police brutality, and extreme economic marginalization.

In recent decades, as trans people have fought and won greater visibility and recognition, they have faced a violent global backlash against their existence. In the U.S. hundreds of anti-trans bills have been proposed in the last few years alone, targeting access to gender-affirming healthcare, inclusive education, civil rights, and art forms like drag shows. Anti-trans legislation fuels acts of violence committed against trans people — especially trans women. 

Rosheka’s message

Now settled in the U.S., Rosheka has a message for trans women and LGBTQI+ people everywhere.

“There are people who try to put us in a box and cast us aside. We will thrive in spite of them and experience queer liberation where we are free of every harmful rule, every harmful law, and every harmful mindset.” 

On this International Women’s Day, Rainbow Railroad recommits to helping trans women — and LGBTQI+ people of all identities — escape violence and persecution in order to live lives of dignity and opportunity. 

With your support, Rainbow Railroad continues to provide a lifeline to trans women who reach out to us. Through our programs, which include emergency relocation, we help trans women like Rosheka escape extreme violence around the world and relocate to safer countries.