Transgender Ukrainians face violence from own people when trying to flee war

A transgender woman from Ukraine has revealed the struggle she faced trying to flee from war and claims she faced violence from her own people.

Zi Faámelu, who managed to escape to Germany, claims she found it difficult to leave Ukraine because her passport still recognised her as her gender assigned at birth and not her gender identity.

However, martial law in Ukraine declared that all able-bodied men ages 18 to 60 were required to stay and be available to join the army so despite living as a woman for a decade she would have been expected to fight because her ID still categorised her as male.

Faámelu told NBC News that she had tried to change her identity documents in 2016, but was told she would have to stay in a psychiatric facility for a month for examinations and an official diagnosis.

She chose not to because it would be “humiliating and demoralising” and she's heard stories of other transgender people being traumatised in the process.

Edward Reese, a project assistant at KyivPride, said the organisation is trying to improve transgender health care and update the i treatment.

So, when the time came for her to leave on February 28 with a friend, she was detained, her passport was taken, and she was refused a lawyer for a while before being denied passage.

She was then taken to the military enforcement office, where she claims officers laughed at her and called her homophobic slurs before being deemed her fit to fight against Russian troops.

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She went back to the car where her friend was waiting who told her she needed to swim across a short stretch of the Danube River to escape.

She said: “I couldn’t believe that it was really happening to me.”

She put her Ukrainian ID, her passport and her phone in a plastic bag in her bra and they went to the river to escape.

But two soldiers greeted them there, pointing a gun at Faámelu as she told the broadcaster: “They said: ‘Zi, are you ready to die tonight?'

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“I felt like a criminal like I’m doing something wrong. Yes, I was breaking the law, but I was a refugee, and I am a refugee.”

Faámelu took off running and heard the driver behind her yelling out in pain as the men started to attack him.

But she made it into the water and swam across only to look back and see 10 military vehicles on the other side.

However, Romanian police drove her to the police station, where she was given dry clothes and food. The next morning she was given back her ID and phone before being taken to Germany as a refugee.

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