How a trans refugee survived suicide and gang violence to finally live as her true, authentic self

An animated image of a woman against a purple background. A stamp is shown on the top right hand side in a postcard style reading "LGBTQ Refugees Welcome".

Alexa was just six-years-old when she realised that she was trans.

When she thinks back to that time, Alexa recalls how she gradually became aware that the way she saw herself didn’t align with the way the world saw her.

It was a painful realisation that was made even worse as she grew older and discovered that LGBTQ+ identities were largely not accepted in her home country of Honduras.

Now in her mid-40s, Alexa has spent most of her life travelling from one country to the next in search of safety and stability.

Her story is just one that PinkNews is sharing this holiday season as part of the LGBTQ+ Refugees Welcome campaign. Over the coming weeks, we will share stories of LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and refugees from all across the world.

Some have found safety, while others are still grappling with harsh asylum systems that are designed to keep refugees out.

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Refugee Alexa has survived two suicide attempts

Alexa knows all too well what it’s like to have to flee home. She left Honduras as a young adult and moved to Guatemala in search of freedom.

“I have faced a lot of discrimination because my country doesn’t accept my gender identity,” Alexa tells PinkNews via a translator.

Sadly, Alexa’s journey ultimately proved fruitless. Guatemala was not the safe haven’t she hoped it would be – she remained in the country for 20 years, but she continued to face discrimination because of her gender identity.

“I attempted suicide twice because I was being persecuted because of my sexuality,” she says.

In Guatemala, Alexa took up sex work as a way to make ends meet. In one chilling incident, she sustained a serious injury to her leg when two clients assaulted her and tried to kill her.

She remained in Guatemala until she came into contact with a gang who tried to extort money from her. She was left with no choice – she knew she had to get out.

From there, Alexa travelled to Mexico and finally, life started to look up.

It was there that she got help from Doctors Without Borders, which helped her get medical attention in a care centre that helps those fleeing violence in Central America.

(Mario De Moya F via Getty Images) PinkNews is proud to launch our LGBTQ+ Refugees Welcome campaign to help those who need it most

In the care centre, Alexa underwent vital surgery on her leg, which was still injured from the assault she suffered in Guatemala.

Shortly afterwards, Alexa was put in touch with another advocacy group which helped her apply for asylum in Australia. Thankfully, her application was successful, and she is now building a life for herself down under.

For the first time in her life, Alexa can live openly and freely as a trans woman.

“I actually have been blessed because I have been linked to organisations which have assisted me to continue with my [transition] journey,” she says.

“I have a lot more freedom in regards to being open about who I am.”

Alexa entered Australia with permanent residency, and she’s received “a very warm welcome” from locals.

She’s also been able to access transition-related supports and mental health services that have helped her deal with her emotional scars.

My first goal is to learn the language because I would love to continue working for the LGBT community in health promotion.

“I’ve suffered from PTSD and depression and in Australia I’ve been linked to organisations that are giving me support with the emotional side of things,” she says.

Alexa now has her own home – one that was assigned to her – and she’s spending a lot of time learning English so she can embed herself in Australian culture.

She has high hopes for the future – she now wants to use her own life experience to help other LGBTQ+ people in Australia.

“My first goal is to learn the language because I would love to continue working for the LGBT community in health promotion,” she says.

Her other passion is dressmaking and sewing – she loves fashion and her favourite thing to do is to craft her own designs at home.

Finally, Alexa has the space and the secure base she’s always craved to be fully herself.

Trans people contend with PTSD and self-blame after enduring violence

Alexa would never have gotten to this point without the help of the care centre in Mexico, which gave her the lifesaving care she needed.

Jorge Diego López Núnez, an employee at the care centre, tells PinkNews that trans people often come to them after fleeing violence in Central America.

Trans people like Alexa often face violence in Central America because they don’t conform to deeply conservative ideas about gender, he explains.

The result is that many arrive at the care centre in Mexico suffering from complex physical injuries as well as conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“They think, ‘Well it’s my fault for being this way, I had to flee, now my whole family is being persecuted,'” Núnz says.

“There’s a whole shame and guild element that’s particularly the case for people who are part of the trans community.”

The end result is that trans people like Alexa who arrive in Mexico often think there’s “something wrong with them”, he explains.

“They’ve really got it in their whole psyche that there’s something wrong with them. To make sense of what’s happening to them, they think, this happened because I’m a trans person.”

It’s because of people like Alexa that PinkNews launched the LGBTQ Refugees Welcome campaign. The initiative is raising funds for Micro Rainbow, a charity that provides safe housing for LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum, and for OutRight Action International’s LGBTIQ Ukraine Emergency Fund, which distributes money to activists on the ground in Ukraine.

As part of the LGBTQ Refugees Welcome campaign, PinkNews is sharing the personal stories of refugees and people seeking asylum throughout the holiday season. The series launched last week with Irene and Hanna, a lesbian couple who fled Ukraine after Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

Over the course of the coming weeks, PinkNews will share the stories of LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and refugees to put a spotlight on the painful realities that are still forcing so many to flee their homes, from familial violence to anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

But that’s not all – the series will also show how a person’s life can change radically when they’re granted asylum. When they can get to safety, LGBTQ+ people have the chance to thrive.

PinkNews wants to show how living without the threat of violence or persecution can help queer people build beautiful, kaleidoscopic lives – but they can only do so if they’re given the proper support.

Please give what you can to the PinkNews LGBTQ Refugees Welcome campaign on GoFundMe. Through GiveOut, we will be directly donating to OutRight Action International’s LGBTIQ Ukraine Emergency Fund, helping the activists and organisations on the ground in Ukraine and surrounding countries to support the needs of LGBTQ+ people turning to them for life-saving help.

Our second beneficiary, Micro Rainbow, creates safe homes where LGBTQ+ asylum seekers from Ukraine, Afghanistan and beyond can be safe while they endure the UK’s gruelling asylum process.