Coming to America as a transgender man

shadow of mans head in front of window

My name is Ali. I am 35 years old and I am a transgender man.

I came to New York 6 years ago as a refugee and now I am a new American citizen. I was born with a great challenge as my body’s sex is different than my brain gender, and that’s what medically called gender dysphoria. My journey started 7 years ago when I decided to have a future as a transgender man and come to the United States.

My home country is torn by wars and economic disaster, making it hard for people like me to speak up or seek for help. I needed answers but I couldn’t ask questions as I was always scared of others judging me. Even worse, I was worried someone might physically harm me and shame my family and that made me feel I had no future there, as I was pretending to be someone else just to stay safe. In my heart I know I am harming no one and all I needed is someone to explain to me why others do not see me the way I see me. I just wanted to be normal.

I always wanted to leave my war zone hometown but wasn’t motivated enough until horrific news reached me.

A new hate wave was sweeping gays and lesbians and whoever in between.

Without fair trial, without questions, local militias start executing individuals from a list written by locals for the crime of being different. It was horrible and I was scared and I knew at that time I had to make a decision and I had to make it right away, so I left.

I fled to a nearby country and applied via the United Nations to be a refugee. In my application, I stated I am transsexual and I need help. This was the very first time I spoke up about what I truly feel. It was so uncomfortable to talk to strangers about my situation during my interviews with the UN as I was afraid of judgment and I was ashamed.

Most importantly I needed to understand why I decided to leave. All that knowledge empowered me and make me stronger in a time that I was feeling so weak.

So why did I decide to come to the United States?

First, I wanted a community that accepts me as a transgender man and laws that protect me. Second, I wanted to have access to the best doctors and medical treatment available for my condition. Third, I needed an opportunity to start again, in a country that treats me equally and gives me a chance to have a future.

So I wanted to come here, to the land of freedom.

I made my choice and followed the UN process as a refugee. I was granted settlement within a year.

My biggest challenge when I came to here was how to start again! I had many changes hit my life at once and was forced to adapt. My gender changed and the whole world around me as well, including language, culture and health system I learned to take it piece by piece so I do not collapse. Even though I have been here for a while, there is still more to learn and more to understand.

Being in America for 6 years, I am a US citizen now working as a professional IT analyst in a global company, and yes, I am finally the same inside and outside and I was able to be the man I always saw myself as. The only difference is now others can see it too and treat me accordingly. If you come across me, you would not think twice about my gender.

I no longer hear mean words from others and am no longer in the middle. I was able to freely pursue my future and be just a normal guy. I came to America to be myself and I am glad I made that choice.

Opinions expressed and advice given in USAHello’s Voices and Hello blogs are the writers’ own. USAHello offers impartial information and online courses to help newcomers in the USA.