Transgender refugee stranded in Hong Kong describes struggle to be recognized as woman

Hong Kong FlagOn Apr 3, 2014 Shanghaiist reported: September 2013, transgender Colombian national Eliana Rubashykn traveled to Hong Kong to update her passport and described being frisked and mocked by immigration and customs officers who behaved “like animals” during a nine-hour ordeal where she was put in detention at the Chek Lap Kok airport. Six months later, Rubashykn tells the South China Morning Post that she is a stateless refugee in Hong Kong, where it’s been “hell” to be recognized as a woman.

According the original Post report from November, then-25-year-old Rubashykn was living in Taiwan and had to update her passport photo at the Hong Kong Colombian consulate, the closest option. She arrived on September 16 but ran into security problems over her identity at the Chek Lap Kok airport because hormonal treatment had transformed her looks as different from the photo on her passport—the reason she had traveled to Hong Kong to update it.

Rubashkyn was refused passage into the city, apparently because her looks contradicted the “male” identity on her passport. Rubashkyn said she was detained at the airport for several hours and was ridiculed by male security officers who carried out a body search on her, although the Immigration Department denies these claims.

Finally Rubashkyn was allowed to enter Hong Kong after contacting the UN High Commissioner for Refugees through Amnesty International, but this required her to give up her passport and take the status of refugee.

Although she is under UNHCR’s protection, she now describes life in Hong Kong as “a nightmare”, where she can’t apply for paid jobs and has no Hong Kong ID card, no income and now, no suitable place to live.

Rubashkyn’s situation highlights struggles not only of refugees living in the city but also of those of transgendered people in Hong Kong who face discrimination that’s further backed by government policies.

“It is a merge of two rather complicated areas, refugees and sexual minority rights,” a lawyer named Michael Vidler told the Post.  Continued

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