After a lifetime of rejection and violence for being different, Jasmine is now free to be herself

“Back home these things are not acceptable. People get killed. It was like hell for me because there was no safety, no support and no help.”

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To protect her identity, we have changed Jasmine's name and cannot show you a photo that could identify her.

“Even in 2018, most people don’t understand transgender people. They think it’s a choice but it’s not.”

For reasons both cultural and religious, in her home country Jasmine was forced to keep her secret.

“If I had the option, I would never choose this. I have no connection with my biological family—just because I wanted to be myself.”

Though she’s identified as a girl since childhood, Jasmine—who was born biologically male—lived as a boy for the first 17 years of her life. Her survival depended on it.

“I would be dead by now if I didn’t.”

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“Back home these things are not acceptable. People get killed. People get caught by police. It was like hell for me because there was no safety, no support, no help. I felt alone, even in my house with my family. They would never ever support me.”

Despite her best efforts to disguise her true self, Jasmine was still taunted and isolated for being different.

“At school, I was bullied every single day – even by my teachers.”

“My mom took me to three different psychiatrists. I’m surprised even educated people think you have a mental illness just because you aren’t what society wants you to be.”

Then when she was 13, Jasmine was attacked after school by seven older boys.

“They assaulted me. I somehow survived and ran to my mom. But she said it was my own fault for talking and behaving the way I did, like I provoked them somehow.

From that day, I felt I didn’t have anyone. Not even my own mom.

I tried to take my life.”

That experience convinced Jasmine she wanted actually did want to live, but it had to be somewhere else, as the person she was meant to be.

Two years ago, Jasmine came to Winnipeg as an international student. It wasn’t long before she also discovered a new sense of belonging at the Rainbow Resource Centre—an agency partner that supports a proud, resilient and diverse LGBTQ2S+ community with help from United Way donors.

“I reached out to them and they all became my family now and they all support me.” It’s where she also met Mary, a counsellor at Aurora Family Therapy Centre—another United Way agency partner—who has been helping Jasmine work through her struggles with depression and feelings of rejection.

Mary was also there for Jasmine when her father suddenly stopped paying her tuition, forcing her to apply for refugee status.

“I was so scared they wouldn’t approve me and would send me back. I was even thinking, ‘can’t they just put me in jail here because it’s gonna be better than back home. Back home they’re just going to torture me.’ “

With legal help from yet another United Way agency partner—this time Welcome Place—Jasmine was approved.

“That day changed my life.

“Now when I see my body, I’m happy. This is how I should have been. I feel like I’m at home. I feel comfortable. I don’t feel like I am in someone else’s body or trapped. I still have a lack of confidence but at least it’s better than before.

I’m really grateful to everyone who supported and helped me since the first day.”

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EricaA life changed through three United Way Winnipeg agency partners