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A Story of Resilience: Seagirl Abuson and her journey as a transgender refugee from Uganda

Q: What were your experiences in your home country of Uganda?

I was born and raised in Uganda by a single mother. From day one, as a transgender/non-binary person people criticized me, judged me, and called me names even before I knew the meaning of those words.

My mom always defended me. She was very protective. She always had quarrels with neighbours and people in the community who called me derogatory names. She was the only supportive person I had then. Despite that, homophobia in Uganda was common and widespread. She would tell me how shameful it would be if I came out. She pleaded with me not to be gay. In my final year of high school in Uganda, everything changed. When my sexuality came to light, it took my mom by surprise. Following a heart attack, I lost my mom and was blamed by my family and the village for it. Eventually, the village found my boyfriend and killed him– he couldn’t escape but I did. It was such a painful time. I’m still blamed to this day.

I’m so proud to say that I’ve been true to myself since the beginning. But it was a difficult time. I felt guilty. I still do. I was unwanted by the government, my family, my mother was gone and my boyfriend had been killed.

Following all the loss, I lived on the streets of Kampala for three years where rape and violence was inescapable and other challenges like finding safety were difficult to come by. Uganda is an incredibly homophobic country. People kill you. The challenges in Uganda made me realize that [LGBTIQ people] have no voice and no rights. We don’t have enough support.

With the help of my doctor, I traveled to Kenya. Life in Kenya was extremely challenging. I lived on the streets of Nairobi for 3 months, until I received help and shelter from UNHCR. I ended up spending 1.5 years at Kakuma refugee camp. Since then, I’ve been resettled in Canada.

Generally, in East Africa we don’t have enough support and LGBTIQ asylum seekers and refugee lack resources.

A lot of people in the community don’t want to share their stories but I believe it’s important to highlight stories like mine to create awareness. The reality is that these difficult experiences have a long-term impact on someone’s life. I still shake from trauma. I want to share my story so that people understand and do more.

Q: How have your experiences as a trans woman shaped you?

As a nonbinary/trans person, I’ve felt the impact of my identity since day one. [Trans people] are constantly left behind in communities with no support. We are not considered.

My experience has been a battle with acceptance, it is no different than someone in America. I don’t feel accepted by laws and by society. People are always telling me how I need to change. My nails, my dress, my makeup that’s what makes me!

Since I came to Canada, I’ve only been able to work for two months. I don’t have the ability to pursue every job because of my identity. I’m not accepted. [Society] says that we are accepted, but we’re not.

Q: If you could give advice to other trans people what would it be?

I would love to tell them to be loyal and true to yourself. Doing so is something so beautiful. I look back at where and what I’ve been through. It’s a long journey of challenges and struggles. I am myself; it is my truth.

Be seen. Be here to stay. Prove them wrong. We’re not going anywhere. Know your mission, to be true and happy within yourself and your community.

If it feels like too much and you are no longer in control, you are not wrong. You find yourself lying to yourself to embrace others but they can’t do the same.

If you give up today, you don’t get to change the future. You don’t get to see the progress you and the community have made for young transgender people and yourself. We don’t know how long we will be on this world.

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