Eliana Rubashkyn is a Colombian trans woman who has lived through a difficult ordeal according to this interview that highlights the global problem of homophobia and transphobia on both hemispheres. In Colombia she suffered physical violence and when she sought refuge in Hong Kong she survived what she characterizes as inhumane treatment, detained because her travel documents didn't match her gender presentation. In Hong Kong she was placed in a straightjacket and a padded room. The reporter asks her to respond to the Hong Kong's Health Ministry's contention that this was done because they feared that she was suicidal. Rubashkyn answers:
"Lo que pasa es que en aquellas clínicas que tienen aquí en Hong Kong, porque aquí manejan nuestra condición de transgenerismo como una enfermedad mental, ellos definen que una persona que es transgenro es susceptible a cometer suicidio. Yo en ningún momento [quería suicidarme] Yo me desmaye, porque no tenía mis medicamentos y por la falta de estos medicamentos me desmaye. Me llevaron en la ambulancia y en vez de darme los medicamento lo que hicieron fue aislarme, y ponerme en ese cuarto [acolchonado]."
"What happened was that in those clinics, because here in Hong Kong they treat transgender people as ones with a mental disease. They consider that a transgender person is more susceptible to commit suicide. When I got to the city I fainted because I lacked access to the medication I had been taking. And so they took me in an ambulance and instead of giving me the medication they took me to the padded room."
Rubashkyn's case attracted global attention and Hong Kong's LGBT activists brought transgender supermodel Geena Rocero to highlight the difficulties transgender people in many places throughout the globe where they cannot have identification that matches their gender. In the United States according to this know your rights fact sheet from the ACLU there is no consistent practice or protocol with some states allowing changes to birth certificates and identifications and others not, some requiring transgender people to go through surgery before they are granted new documents and others not.
Rubashkyn learned that she will be given refugee status in New Zealand, but her experiences in her native Colombia and then in Hong Kong where she had sought humanitarian refuge have left her leery of what she can expect from any government and the laws that protect transgender people.
"Pues yo te soy honesta, yo a la verdad no sé que me espera en Nueva Zelandia. Yo estuve aquí en Hong Kong como refugiada de la naciones unidas y recibí el pero trato que puede recibir un ser humano aquí en Hong Kong. Yo verdad aquí viví en condiciones bastante inhumanas. Digamos que vienen cosas buena, que Nueva Zelandia no me va a tratar como te trataron en Hong Kong Si hay cierta incertidumbre que se confundió con el sinsabor de lo que viví en Hong Kong."
"Well, I have to be honest, that really I don't know what it will be like for me in New Zealand. I was here in Hong Kong as a refugee under the United Nations and I was treated in the worst way a human being can be treated while here in Hong Kong. I lived under inhuman conditions here. I can say that good things are coming, that New Zealand won't treat me the way I was treated in Hong Kong. But I still have a little bit of insecurity that is based on the way I was treated here in Hong Kong."
We wish Eliana Rubashkyn and others like her who face inhumane treatment and a lack of protections because they are transgender luck whether they live in Colombia, Hong Kong or the United States
You can watch the interview in Spanish in the three clips below: