This week, we wanted to spotlight one important organization out there right now, Trans Rescue, that is helping transgender people in danger. This organization provides resources and support for transgender people worldwide. The group was started by two transgender women in the Netherlands (one American and one British) and had been operating on a tight budget, with the two women even spending their own money. Their goal is to turn a house in Kenya into a refuge for transgender people fleeing violence.
Who Are the Two Transgender Women Who Started the Trans Rescue Organization, and Why Did They Start It?
Anne Ogborn and Jenny List are the founds of the organization and are both trans rights activists. Anne has been a vocal advocate of trans rights dating back to the 1980s.
She was curious about the experiences of gender-diverse people worldwide and, at one point, moved to India to live with the Hijra community. This group is usually called India’s “third sex,” existing within Hindu society for 2,000 years.
When she returned to the US, she almost stopped working as an activist when Donald Trump was elected president in 2016.
As she witnessed Trump taking steps to ban trans people from the military and withdrawing protections for trans people in the workplace, schools, policies on housing transgender inmates, and other settings, Anne became jaded with her country.
She met another trans woman named Misty Hill, who had the same feelings as she did, so they left the United States in 2018, with Anne moving to the Netherlands and Misty to Ireland.
“Misty and I said to each other, ‘When we get ourselves out of the US, we will start an organization to help others get out,” said Anne.
In 2020, Misty founded the organization, TransEmigrate, with full support from Anne.
They thought they would mostly get calls from North America and maybe from some countries in South America.; however, as word got out, messages came in from places worldwide.
“We got a quick education on how many trans people are trapped in their countries,” Anne stated.
Where Is the Organization Now?
Last year, Anne re-launched the organization as Trans Rescue, along with British trans woman Jenny List. They relaunched in Amsterdam, with Misty doing her advocacy work in Ireland. Each week they get about four requests for help, most coming from South America, the Middle East, and North Africa.
The organization has obtained charitable status; however, it requires a dozen volunteers’ help in various countries, and its resources are quite limited.
“We reach people through an underground online queer network. Somebody knows somebody,” Anne said.
Volunteers ensure that when they hear that a trans person is in trouble, they contact Anne and Jenny in Amsterdam. Then, these two will seek to arrange safe temporary accommodation.
Anne says their team has put their life savings into the organization. In addition, they can only move some of the people who get in touch with them due to a lack of resources, which has been about 15 people thus far.
“Moving people safely and legally is hard and slow,” Anne stated.
“But in many cases, they move them within countries. It may also be that what callers need most is information.
Sometimes people just want to be made aware of their options. We work in countries where people are on the run because their existence is illegal. We are an essential service for trans people.”
Are you curious about Gender Affirming care? Check out our article What is Gender-Affirming Care and Why Do Some People Seek it Out?
Who Has Trans Rescue Helped So Far?
Nuru was someone that Trans Rescue has helped. They organized for her to move to a safe location and set her up with trans women contacts in Kenya.
Nuru asked if she could volunteer for Trans Rescue at one point, so Anne knew she could call her when she heard about eight trans women in trouble in Mombasa.
These women were survivors of continual physical and sexual abuse by various men and did not have much food or adequate sleep.
Nuru called Anne and Jenny, who organized for them to be moved, and sent along money for food and rent.
Sadly, even though they were relocated, they weren’t safe in their new location. Two of them were attacked by a group of men when they were out for a walk on the beach, with one of them being killed.
Providing a Safe Refuge for Trans People
This incident especially highlighted the need for a refuge for trans people. They are working on creating Eden House, a sanctuary located in a large city in Kenya.
Anne emphasizes that it will not be a hiding place but a spacious building where trans people can live openly and feel safe. Anne said that it would be the first kind worldwide:
“We would like the house to become an institution large enough to form a bubble of trans acceptance around itself. We want it to be where trans men and women from other parts of the world can come and live.”
“If we have a safe building in Kenya, we can get people in truly dangerous places to safety.”
They have found a house – their main task is to find 10,000 euros (£8,600) to buy it and make basic repairs.
The first residents would be the seven surviving trans women from Mombasa, also open to people globally. In addition, Anne hopes to provide therapy for those in need, but their priority is the physical survival of trans people.
For more information about Trans Rescue or if you want to help out, visit their website: https://transrescue.org/.