I Escaped Female Genital Mutilation

I Escaped Female Genital Mutilation

[Trigger warning: The story below addresses the very real violent experiences that our Trans siblings across Africa have been faced with. This story is emotionally intense and at times, graphic. We urge you to put any discomfort you have into action so that no one is subjected to these injustices again.]


Article written by a community author living in Kenya, named N*

Hi, my name is N*. I remember exactly how it was when we left South Sudan due to wars in 2013 and I was 9 years. When we got to Kenya, I finished my primary education here and joined high school. 

I have been in a single-sex school since my high school education started. That’s when I realized that my sexual feelings and attachment were so much in my fellow girls rather than boys. I identify as a non-binary queer South Sudanese person living in Kenya right now as a refugee. 

Unfortunately, 1 year ago in March 2023, one of my closest friends outed me to my family members. I had kept a low profile and none of my family members knew about my sexuality for some years. They got so mad at me after knowing of my gender identity, they punished me and outed me to the rest of the entire South Sudanese community in the camp.

 This put my life at risk. I got a lot of hate speech and most of them were suggesting I should be killed. They tied me up with ropes and made me walk all over the camp, setting me as a bad example to other girls. They were calling me all sorts of names and some of them were beating me as a mob. The police luckily appeared and they dispersed a group of people that had gathered. 

They walked me to the fields where they were to practice Female Genital Mutilation in public (I had refused this practice some long time ago when I was getting into my teenage years) and then stoned me nearly to death. My sisters and brothers helped me escape too in the dispersed mob and I got to town. In much fear, I had no one to trust at that moment and nowhere I could feel safe. 

I immediately got a bus to another area to hide for some time. I had a few fellow South Sudanese friends there. When I reached the town, they had already been told what had happened in the camp and none of them were allowed to host me. I felt more unsafe and I continued my way to Nairobi. I stayed with a Kenyan friend who was once my partner. 

Her financial status wasn’t good to allow me to keep staying with her, so, I had to go back to the camp after staying together for 1 year. I sneaked back to the camp where I am living right now, in a certain place where I can’t move freely, work freely, stay safe, or trust everyone around me.

 I decided to come back here because at least, I get free shelter and water other than in any other place though my safety isn’t good at all. Right now, I am stuck, I have nowhere I can run to. I am caught up here and I am worried what will happen if anyone notices that I came back to the camp. 

My life is at risk and I have faced enough. In this Pride month as we are reflecting, empowering and uniting, I call on the whole Transgender community to reflect on what it means for us to get displaced and survive through such dehumanizing practices like FGM. 

Let’s empower each other because it’s not sweet everywhere. Then lastly, all we need to do is to stand in solidarity and unity from all parts of the world to resist such persecutions. We are all potential victims but we are all potentially empowered to condemn and bring a stop to this.


If you’d like to join us in building power for community members like N* who are living in Africa, please visit our TEP Africa group page. 

Take Back the Narrative: El & Elliott – A Love Story

In the burgeoning digital age, it is not uncommon for couples to meet online, and this is exactly how El and Elliott first connected. Elliott submitted a personals ad looking for friendship and dates, and El excitedly answered the call. During their first in-person hangout in January 2019, El suggested that they spend time in their pajamas drinking tea and watching their mutual favorite show Bob’s Burgers. Afterward, the two were practically inseparable!

Their second hang out was spent at the local kumquat festival in El’s hometown, and yes, it is as cute as it sounds. During the festival, Elliott got to meet El’s brother, who happily invited Elliott to his stepdaughter’s 11th birthday party, despite having only met Elliott for the first time that day. Later that evening, Elliott had the choice to go home or attend the party with El. In that moment, Elliott had a thought: wherever El goes, I want to follow. It was not long after the kumquat festival that Elliott slowly began to realize his platonic fondness for El was the start of a romantic crush. Unbeknownst to Elliott, El had started off the relationship with a crush on Elliott! Over bowls of delicious pho at the local Thai temple, Elliott confessed his feelings for El, which sparked the love of a lifetime!

Although every moment feels memorable when El and Elliott are together, there are some peak highlights. In an eager attempt to woo El, Elliott, who had never baked before in his life, made El’s favorite type of pie, stuck candles in a pie slice, and told El that each candle represented the birthdays that El had spent alone during college, but now that Elliott was here, El would never have to be alone on his birthday from now on. On Valentine’s Day in 2020, El took Elliott to the city aquarium and purchased an extra experience where the two got to go behind the scenes and meet the resident penguins!

In addition to their local fun, the love birds have also spent quite a bit of time traveling out-of-state: an arts therapy conference in New York City; a Tobe Nwigwe concert in Atlanta; a memorial service for El’s beloved professor in Rhode Island; an exclusive tattoo session in Brooklyn; and so much more!

After two full years of love, softness, and healing, El proposed to Elliott via a stunning wood-burned box with handcrafted resin mahjong tiles that spelled out “Will you marry me” on Lunar New Year 2021. Being Chinese American, Elliott had a strong nostalgic connection to the game of mahjong, and in the time of coronavirus, the Lunar New Year felt extra special and sacred. As a multimedia artist, El wood-burned significant Chinese characters that represented him and Elliott, along with an image of two ducklings, which symbolizes everlasting love in Chinese culture. In addition to the beautiful imagery on the box, El painstakingly created a number of mahjong tiles from resin and a set of tiles that helped pop the question.

In March 2020, El and Elliott nervously but excitedly started their transmasculine journey. They started off with calling each other by their chosen names in private, then using their names at coffee shops, before confidently coming out as El and Elliott in social and professional settings. About a year later, El and Elliott took their first shots of testosterone on the same day. In September 2021, El underwent gender affirming top surgery, and in the weeks after, Elliott took gentle care of El during his recovery. In mid-2022, El and Elliott went through the process of legally changing their names, and the two of them could not be happier in watching the other grow and transform into their most authentic selves!

El and Elliott got married on February 20, 2022, and it was absolutely magnificent and beautiful to be openly queer and trans on the wedding day. The venue host, photographers, DJs, and guests were affirming of the joyous couple—never failing to use their correct pronouns and names. Rainbows and trans pride colors were woven into nearly aspect of the wedding: the flowers, the table centerpieces, the decorations, the horse carriage. Yes, El and Elliott rode up to the wedding ceremony in a horse- drawn carriage decorated with gay and trans pride flowers and ribbons! The entire wedding was truly a euphoric celebration of queer trans love.

When friends and family ask about married life, El and Elliott like to say that every day feels like a honeymoon. After four years of being together, the two still have not tired of one another. If anything, their relationship has grown stronger as the days, months, and years pass. The pair have gone through their generous share of ups and downs, but it feels like each moment together makes them fall more and more deeply in love with one another.

Currently, El is attending graduate school in art therapy and counseling, while Elliott remains on the look out for a fulfilling long-term career. The love birds are enjoying their sacred space filled with queer trans love, creating art, reading books, playing games, engaging in thoughtful conversations, and spending time with each other and their loved ones. In the future, El and Elliott anticipate writing a joint memoir that explores their individual and shared experiences with race and ethnicity, gender, sexualities, and more.

See what else El and Elliott are up to here:

El’s website: eltapiakwan.com
Elliott’s website: etapiakwan.wixsite.com/home

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