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Faamelu’s Story Shows How War Amplifies Oppression Of Queer Folx

For most Ukrainians, refuge is available right across the border in neighboring countries but things are different if you are a trans person. Ukraine's laws still remain regressive and punitive when it comes to trans people.

TW: transphobia, misgendering, trivialisation of oppression

As Russia continues it’s aggressions in Ukraine, things continue to get more daunting for the latter’s citizens by the day. In a recent report by CBS News, the plight of a Ukrainian transgender woman who is stuck in her house in Kyiv as a war rages around her, came to light.

Faamelu is caught between a military aggression from a foreign country and the transphobia of her own people. “There is no way the Ukrainian border people will let me through the border” says a distressed Faamelu. She is terrified that leaving her house may make her even more susceptible to violence, given her identity. She says so despite the fact that in the past week she has run out of food and doesn’t have means to get it.

For most Ukrainians, refuge is available right across the border in neighboring countries but things are different if you are a trans person. Ukraine’s laws still remain regressive and punitive when it comes to trans people. You cannot easily identify as a gender different from the one assigned to you at birth. Many Ukrainian trans people continue to be misgendered on their State-issued documents. Faamelu is one of them. Her passport labels her ‘male’. According to the current directions available, Ukraine is not allowing men between the ages of 18-60 to leave. They’re being drafted into the military forces compulsorily.

Also read: Unheard and Undocumented: Queer Voices from Indian-Administered Kashmir

This complicates things for Faamelu greatly. It is very much possible that after a long and tiring journey riddled with active physical threat, she may not be allowed to cross the border at all. Which would mean that she took the risk for nothing. However if she stays indoors the airstrikes are a huge threat.

“This is not a very rainbow-friendly place that we live in and the lives of transgender people are already very bleak here.” said Faamelu indicating that the war has greatly made their lives difficult.

Ever since her tweet went viral on social media, there has been some support for her but also a massive amount of transphobic backlash. Interestingly (and perhaps, predictably), they were largely from white cis women (TERF alert!).

People have said all sorts of transphobic stuff from asking her to “fight like the man you are” to “stop taking up space meant for real women”. They are urging her to fight and questioning her patriotism towards a state which refused her the bare minimum of correctly gendering her all this while.

Post the backlash Faamelu broke down and took to her instagram stories to talk about her emotional state. “I am not a man in a wig. I’m a woman. I just want my rights. I am a human being, my life matters.” she said.

This incident is a horrifying example of how the existing queerphobic rot in institutions exaggerates the stakes of calamity for marginalized people greatly. However, not all responses to her have been negative.

According to some replies to her tweet there are a few trans women who have gotten through the border through some means. Here’s the link to the tweet that details the process.

Ukraine has been under attack for a week now. Ukranian people of all identities have their marginalization amplified by this invasion. The question remains that if and when the war ends what possible reparations will either of the countries be able to offer to these citizens whose already difficult life has been altered for the worse due to this conflict.

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Shivangi is a writer, poet, political activist, and a student of English Literature in Delhi. She writes primarily in Hindi and Bhojpuri and occasionally experiments with English and Urdu.
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