I am an FTM (female-to-male) trans person. Until two years ago, I thought at my identity as if it were a crime I should have been ashamed of. I lived in a country where homosexuality, or being trans, are not accepted by society, and LGBT persons are being arrested.

In the third article of ILGA’s #TurnItOff campaign, Mazen tells his experience as a trans person who had to flee his country. “We live with you. We can’t and don’t want to live in a world that is isolated from yours.”

My family has never accepted me. They always told me I was a girl, and I should have lived as such.
When I was 14 years old, they forced me to wear a headscarf and to dress like a girl, but I always resisted that.

Being an LGBT person in a country such as Libya equals being an outcast. You can get killed in cold blood, especially after the fall of the Gaddafi regime in 2011 as extremist Islamic groups seized the country.

Me and my friends tried so many times to do something to change hearts and minds of people. Three years ago, then, I had to flee Libya and escape to Egypt, but the situation worsened there, too. I fled again, until I arrived in Italy and I found people who are supporting me along my path.

Here, a gay Muslim guy and his partner hosted me first, and then a Catholic family. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a real family and real friends who care about me, and give me the confidence to go on. I could have done nothing without them. Try and imagine the life of a refugee who has just arrived in a foreign country, doesn’t know the language, has no money, has nowhere to rest their head and, most of all, is an LGBT person.

The persons who welcomed me not only gave me concrete support, but also helped me change mentality. Before, I was convinced that believers, whichever their religion, could not reconcile their faith with their homosexuality or being trans. I had this opinion because, when people do not spend time together – nor talk, listen to each other and exchange opinions – it is impossible for them to really see others, or to understand their lived realities.

Be there for LGBT people, I beg you. Talk to them, get informed about what homosexuality is, about what being trans means.

Our fight as LGBTIAQ people is still long and we need your support: having a law to protect our rights is not enough to silence discord and prejudice.

We live with you. We are your children, your friends, your cousins and neighbours.
We can’t and don’t want to live in a world that is isolated from yours.

trans man and human rights defender from Libya

This article is part of ILGA’s #TurnItOff campaign, where human rights defenders share their experiences and advice on how to speak up to silence the noise of LGBTI-phobia

Disclaimer: These articles are meant to offer a place for views, ideas and debate.
The views expressed by authors do not necessarily reflect the policy of ILGA, or the views of its board members or staff.