“I just want to be a human being!”

Although born in Germany, Sandy K. deported to Syria with her family. However, the activist returns – with the goal of being able to live her identity self-determined and free. In our dossier "LGBTIQ* and Refuge." she tells you about her efforts and dreams.

I was born in 1990 as the last child in our family. We are 4 children in total. The town where I was born at that time is called Ahaus and is situated in the northwest of North Rhine-Westphalia. My parents traveled to Germany as war refugees from Syria in 1989. At that time you had lived in Lebanon and there was a huge civil war going on there. Unfortunately, my family did not have the opportunity to flee back to Syria.

Since my parents wanted to protect my siblings, they traveled to Europe with the other war refugees. In 1990, my parents had applied for asylum in Germany. I was born in the same year. I had a beautiful childhood in the first 4 years. I noticed that there was something wrong with me when I was 5 years old. I have always acted like a girl and even as a child never felt like a boy. I had mostly female friends and all girl things I found quite interesting. I clearly remember my childhood.

At the age of 4 I had a collection of dolls in my room. This was fine with my parents because they always justified it with my age. Secretly, when my mother was not at home, I always wore her high heels and tried to put on makeup and stand in front of the mirror. I always wanted to look like my mother when I was a child because she was a beautiful woman then. I can still remember how I always wore her jewelry. I could only do this in their absence.

To live with two personalities

Being from a religious family, it was very difficult for me. Already in my childhood I had feminine features and some neighbors always mistook me for my sister and thought I was a biological girl. At the age of 6 I was able to play with a good friend in her room and we used to make each other up, which I still find very funny to this day.

In retrospect, my mother already had the first suspicions that I was becoming more and more feminine and that this would not fit with my male body and culture as well as religion. So, as a consequence, she decided to take away my dolls and asked me several times to behave like a boy, which was very difficult for me as a girl. Because when you’re a kid you don’t do that on purpose when you act like a girl. These are instincts that come automatically.

So I had to act and pretend to be a boy. Because I could not be what I felt inside and had to live with two personalities. A sad story started at this stage of my life. I could no longer play with dolls, put on makeup and jewelry. I used to stand in front of the mirror and hate myself because I had a boy’s haircut. These feelings are really unimaginable and you carry a big burden with you. I wouldn’t wish this childhood on anyone, because the agony is just too great and something like this is just not bearable. But thank God there were still my friends who treated me as a girl. This always pleased me and strengthened my personality.

In elementary school I was sometimes bullied for having only girls as friends because I didn’t get along with the boys in my class. They wanted to play soccer, which I still find very uninteresting to this day, and I wanted to hang out with my classmates and play girl games. In 1998, my family and I moved to Essen in North Rhine-Westphalia. I still find it fascinating to live in a big city. You have many possibilities, chances and above all you can make friends quickly. You meet many people during the day and see new faces every day.

In a big city you have no everyday life, because you always experience something new. When I entered puberty, my world came crashing down. I was disgusted by my deep voice, beard growth, hair on my body and the bones on my face became wider and wider, which still makes me very sad to this day. The female features disappeared in puberty and my true self was displaced by my male body. I can still remember this difficult time today. The older you get, the more difficult it becomes for people who were born in a false body.

In elementary school the first bullying times began. But when I came to the comprehensive school, it was even more difficult. Because I could not be me. Nevertheless, I clearly showed the behavior of a girl. The discrimination and stigmatization started in my life. In a heteronormative society you can’t expect more acceptance and tolerance. At the age of 12 I found out that I was a transsexual and that I really had a big problem. I realized what it meant to grow up as a girl in a boy’s body.

At that time I had to return to Syria with my family, which was very difficult for me. This happened on 09. September 2002, when the officers rang our doorbell at 3 a.m. I was still fast asleep. When my brother opened the door, the first police officers came in and arrested my brother. My mother woke me up and said that we have visitors. I wondered and asked myself why we had visitors at 3 o’clock in the morning. But when the officer asked us to pack the most important things, I knew that something was wrong.

Waking up in a strange homeland

We were treated as if we were criminals. Yet I was only 12 years old. My mother broke down and said, "Please don’t send us to Syria. That day it was clear to me that we were going to be deported. After 12 years of living in Germany, I had to say goodbye to all the good things, friends, school and life. I never thought that I would suddenly wake up in a foreign country. Germany is the country where I was born. I feel completely German and grew up with 2 languages. I always thought that we were German and that our roots were in Germany.

But apparently I was wrong with my thoughts. The authorities rejected our asylum application and tolerated us in Germany for 12 years. Now it was also clear to me why we were never allowed to travel outside Germany. Because in the possession of a toleration you cannot travel anywhere and this toleration is extended every three months.

I stood in front of the window of our living room and cried, wondering if I would never be able to see Germany again. When I still think about it today and have to remember this time, tears just flow. I was just a person who wants to pursue his goals. My main goal was to continue living as a girl and to gain the acceptance of my parents. I did not know that my parents had no right to stay in Germany. But what can I do about it?. Why do the children have to experience all this?. Why can’t you have a dignified life?

Now the officers’ companions had taken me to the van and the rest of the officers were carrying the boxes that contained my belongings. We were then taken to the airport in Dusseldorf and temporarily locked up there. It felt really bitter and hard, because as a child I have no place there.

A few hours later the plane arrived and we traveled to Syria, to the capital called Damascus. To return to a homeland that I did not perceive as home at all. Everything was foreign to me, the atmosphere, the people, the nature, the infrastructure – everything. When we arrived, the officials handed us over to Syrian security at the airport. There my parents were interrogated by the Syrian officials. This again took several hours until they were released.

Then we took a tour bus to Aleppo. A city in the north. Because that was the hometown of my parents. I had to learn another language there, adapt, which is difficult for trans people in an Arab city anyway, and was forced to live there. I had to support my family through work. For me it was hell because I always had to pretend and act as if I were a boy.

A time of stigmatization and hostility

At that time I had completely different worries than my family. My beard growth became stronger, my voice was very rough and the body hair increased. At this point, everyone could see that I was perceived as a boy. Nevertheless I moved like a girl, because I couldn’t do it any other way. I was beaten several times because I always behaved like a girl in front of the family members. I didn’t do it on purpose and behaved like a girl.

Also my cousins did not perceive me properly as a man and always bullied me and made fun of me because of my behavior. When it came to invitations, I was never allowed to go because my family was ashamed if I behaved like a girl in front of the family members. So I stayed at home all day and took the chance to be what I was never allowed to be. Just lived as a girl. In the boys school I also stood out, and was constantly bullied and stigmatized and was a "sick fag" in their eyes.

This Arabic comprehensive school was only for boys. Most of my class did not make friends with me because I was very feminine to them. I was constantly discriminated against and was also sexually harassed. The first suicidal thoughts came in 2005, when I was 15 years old. I was never happy then and asked myself why I should still live in such a world?

Even in conversations with schoolmates I never talked about girls or about bicycles, cars and soccer or subjects that were very interesting for other boys. There were also teachers who approached me because of my feminine behavior. They had always asked me if my family could handle my behavior. I couldn’t tell anyone what was in my head and what I really was.

But secretly I knew that I was trans and since I had no one to talk to about it, I became depressed. I was constantly frustrated and sad. I even had the suicidal thoughts all the time because of my depression. I never took part in the sports lessons because it was difficult for me to change as the only girl in a male cabin. Instead I had to watch the others having fun in class. As a grade I got of course always a 6 (insufficient).

As a result, I had expressed the desire to meet with a psychologist who dealt with trans people. Unfortunately I was never found out. As I tried to approach God (I was religious at that time) and asked him for help, unfortunately everything was unsuccessful. Since I always wanted to be a woman, I suppressed it all and at the same time blamed it on puberty. But neither religion nor psychologists could help me in the difficult situation I was in at that time.

Everything frustrated me, so much so that I was constantly angry with myself and asked myself every time: Why, of all things, was I born in the wrong body in the family. This agony and suffering and the inner pain and turmoil led me to depression and I had constant headaches from all the crying.

In the end, I did integrate there, but what happened within my four walls is known only to me and the good Lord. I always had the opportunity, when my whole family was away, to act and make up like a girl. And often dressed up as a girl. On the Internet I started to inform myself. And only then I realized that the problem was not me, but society, which was simply incapable of accepting or even respecting other people or (diversity).

The first thoughts finally came when I was 18 years old that I hardly had a chance to continue living there in Syria. A happy time began, because I had already turned 18 and was allowed to return to my real home country, Germany, because I was allowed to decide where I wanted to continue my life. Of course I had the goal to return to my real home country and saved my money for 7 years until I could finance the trip to Germany. I had to work every day after school to support my family there and of course I saved the money for myself too.

For my family it was very unfortunate. They also knew roughly why I wanted to leave Syria. They never wanted to talk about it and didn’t want to perceive it, but I don’t want to stand in the way of my happiness and decided to return. I saw no prospects in Syria, no future and no hope to continue living there as a woman. In principle, I had no chance to live as a woman in Syria and as a man I couldn’t either. I was and am not a man. Point. My dream life can finally begin in Germany.

I have arrived in Germany and that is how it will stay

On 21.07.In 2009 I came back to Germany and had to get everything together myself as usual. The escape began from Turkey with a truck across Europe, until we arrived at some point in Germany. This time was also very difficult, because I had to squeeze together with other men from different countries, because there was really very little space in the truck.

We were not allowed to eat and drink much during the trip because otherwise we would have had to stop every time to take care of the necessities. For me it did not matter. I left everything behind. I had no friends in Syria who supported me. So I never regretted my return. In Germany, I first came to Legden, a small village in Wesmunsterland. When I handed myself over to the immigration authorities, they locked me up again at the age of 19, as they did then.

I will never forget the name of the employee of the immigration office. She locked me up and with the help of a judge, whose name I will also not forget, organized the order for detention pending deportation. At first I thought that this is how it is regulated in Germany when foreigners enter Germany illegally. But there I was wrong again. They wanted to deport me from Germany again. I had fought for years, saved and had the goal to return to my home country Germany and then again my goal should burst like a soap bubble?

When I arrived in deportation custody, I wanted to apply for asylum again. For me the imprisonment was half as bad because I was imprisoned in Syria for 7 years. I was never able to leave Aleppo because the Syrian authorities banned us from leaving the country. Therefore the imprisonment was half as bad for me. Nevertheless I was imprisoned again innocently.

Sometimes I wonder what I have done wrong in my life that I am constantly locked up. But I want to lead a normal life, like all other people. When I had the hearing in custody, I was released 2 months later, because my asylum follow-up procedure should be carried out. Nevertheless, the foreigners authority of the district of Borken did not release me and wanted to deport me as soon as possible. To be honest, I never participated in the process of obtaining a passport.

I have arrived in Germany and it will stay that way. I would rather spend my life in jail than be deported to Syria. After a total of 100 days, I was finally released from deportation custody. Afterwards I found my way back and started a new life. I started buying women’s clothes. I wanted to live my dream and make it come true.

Since I was so deterred by the time in Syria, I could not live out my true identity in public. When you live in the country, everyone knows everyone else, so you don’t want to be the main topic of the village. So I felt free in my first apartment and did and do what I was never allowed to do: and that is to be a woman. In 2010 I got my right of residence in Germany and I was allowed to stay here. I started attending school again and worked my way up until I had my high school diploma in my hand.

From the 9. Class up to the Abitur. At that time I lived as a woman in my 4 walls. I got in contact with the Aids-Hilfe Westmunsterland. There I was advised and supported and I was recommended to move to Cologne, because Cologne is a very open city for LGBTI people. This I have on 01. August 2014 also done and moved to Cologne. There I became more and more self-confident, open, relaxed and saw life with different eyes again.

A minority within the minority

During this time I was a man in disguise during the day and a woman in public in the evening. The looks of the people have nevertheless always eaten me up, as if I were an alien from another planet. Yet all I want is to be accepted as a human being. Also in the discos and pubs in the Schaafenstrabe in Cologne I wore women’s clothes and wig. In the LGBTIQ scene, it’s the same way. As LGBTIQ refugees are often discriminated against and especially trans people. Thus I was a minority in the minority.

When I was looking for an apartment in Cologne, I was also discriminated against because of my appearance and origin and the housing company preferred German citizens as tenants. These moments are really just a part of my life. Discrimination and bullying have become everyday life for me. At that time, I was constantly watching video tutorials on YouTube on how best to put on makeup and cover my beard with makeup.

Unfortunately always unsuccessful, because my facial whiskers grow so thick and very strong. Now begins another suffering in my life. Because it is a torture to live as a woman with a male beard. I contacted several institutions for LGBTI people and was advised that now is the right time to come out and start transitioning. After several conversations with professionals and therapists, it was determined that I am a transsexual. On 11. May 2017 I came to the decision to come out in front of everyone.

I had the strength and the energy and the courage for a long time, but I didn’t know when the right time was for me to do it. So I decided to come out to my circle of friends, family and university on my 27th birthday. I have to be honest, it wasn’t easy, but it made me feel like a stone had fallen from my heart. Thus, I was completely free of fears, have strengthened myself and am now more authentic. I don’t need to hide at all anymore. Actually, coming out should be a matter of course, but unfortunately it is difficult in our society.

Sometimes I wonder why straight people don’t come out, why do LGBTI people always have to?? I am lucky that all of my family accepted me and said that I alone can decide how I want to live my life without worries. All my friends also accepted me and supported me. Since then I live at home as well as in public as a woman. Before I wore wigs.

Today my hair has grown and I don’t need the wig anymore. Unfortunately, I am still missing a lot of hair on my head, because I have had a severe hair loss for 7 years. The reason is the male hormones that my body produces. I got rid of the old male clothes and clothes and replaced them with women’s clothes. Now a new stage in my life began. I am getting closer and closer to my dream: the life of a woman in Germany. Since May 2017, I finally decided to continue living as a woman also during the day and chose my psychologist.

I got the appointment in September and finally found myself in psychotherapeutic treatment. I received the indication for hormone treatment in November 2017. Since November I take the estrogens and the testosterone blocker hormones Androcur. I dress like a woman every day now, I pierced my ears and bought a lot of make-up. I now also wear jewelry and everything that a woman would like to wear so much. After all, I am a woman, but find myself in a process of optimization of the male body.

In the beginning it was difficult for me to show myself in public. But by now I am used to it, because I don’t have so much expectations from the people living with me and in the society. Because I also don’t expect from other people how they should, must or can look like. I want to live my life as a woman and hope that other people who are in contact with me can understand me. Except for my beard and head hair, I am happy about my appearance and therefore more self-confident. Since January 2018, I also go to cis clubs (clubs frequented by heterosexual people).

At that time I did not dare, because I was not at all satisfied with my appearance. But now quite normally as a woman. I also think it’s fabulous that men and women perceive me as a woman too. Unfortunately, many people still look and understand on the day that I walk around as a man in women’s clothes. The reason for this is my beard, which destroys the real me very much. This makes me very sad and depressed. I really want to get rid of the hair on my face (epilation or laser). Although I am very happy about my appearance, the hair on my face is killing me. Every day I shave my face and in the evening they have grown back again. This is mentally unbearable, a woman with a beard.

After the change of personal status I will have the gender reassignment surgery done. This is what I look forward to the most. Because gender dysphoria has been with me since childhood. I have never liked my male sexual organ, not even used in sexual intercourse. After the health insurance has covered the costs, I would like to arrange a consultation with a doctor in Essen, so that he can explain to me how such an operation takes place. Ever since I was a child, it has always been a dream for me to unite my body and soul so that I can live on as a proud woman. To reach this goal I will do my best. Cause I’m getting closer to my goal, thanks to your help. I want to lead a normal and dignified life with a partner and maybe adopt children later on.

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