Sharing Our Story: Aisha and Hadeel
Although they come from two different cultures, Aisha from Mali and Hadeel from Syria, they have a common LGBT experience. Additionally, they are both committed to helping others and creating positive social change that will allow for all people to live freely. Aisha and Hadeil also share their story to inspire those that may be struggling and to advocate for the acceptance of all human beings.
Aisha and Hadeel have both encountered struggle and loss, but in the face of persecution and discrimination, they both have hope for the future and a strong belief in the power of human connection and capacity for growth. Although they come from two different cultures, Aisha from Mali and Hadeel from Syria, they have a common LGBT experience. Additionally, they are both committed to helping others and creating positive social change that will allow for all people to live freely. Aisha and Hadeil also share their story to inspire those that may be struggling and to advocate for the acceptance of all human beings.
My name is Aisha, and I am from Mali. From a very young age, I have always known and had strong feeling that I was a woman. People would ask me when I was little, “Why do you play with girls-instead of boys?” “ Why do you like to wear women’s clothes? Sometimes I struggled with the thoughts and questions in my head of why I was born as boy when I felt like a girl. But I am a Muslim, and I believe that Allah always has reason of doing things in certain way.
Fortunately, my mother is a very kind and loving person. I knew she loved and accepted me for who I was, and that kept me strong. She taught me to accept people regardless of who they are, and to help them if they are struggling. She taught me to love people because we are all human beings. That made me strong enough to face my own father’s rejection, as he tried to poison me because he was ashamed of whom I was. I had to leave my home because I was not safe, and I was in constant danger just for being who I am.
I was not accepted in Africa, and I thank God that I live in the United States now. Although I have suffered a great deal of shame and rejection, I am grateful to be here in the U.S. now, and my difficulties have made me want to help others that are in need. I would take them in. I would make sure that they were not alone and that they knew they were loved. Despite my past, I am hopeful for my future. I hope one day I will have my own family and share my love with them as my own mother loved and nurtured me.
My name is Hadeel. I remember as a child, I loved playing with Barbie and would dress up in my mother’s clothes, but only inside my house. I had many boy cousins but never felt comfortable playing with them. I felt out of place and stayed to myself. I was very isolated. This was difficult for me because I am very sociable and enjoy being with people, but it was too uncomfortable to pretend.
The first time I fell in love was when I was sixteen, and it was then that I really felt like a woman. When my family found out, they disowned me and refused to associate with me in any way. My grandmother wished to help me, but my family would not allow it. I eventually had to leave and live on my own.
Living on the streets I met many different types of people who also struggled in the way that I did. They accepted me for who I was and understood how isolating it is to live unaccepted by society. I faced insults, sexual assault, intimidation and violence for being myself. Many of those I met were discriminated against and had to live as prostitutes because nobody would offer any other kind of work. I did not want to live that way, and I looked for a job cleaning. The discrimination and rejection the society put on transgender individuals, the only place that would hire me to clean was a brothel. I learned a lot in these years about how transgender people are treated, and it made me hope that I could help change the perception people may have. I understand that not everyone may agree with me, but what I ask for is to be treated with respect. We have the right to live freely just like everyone does. I can get along with anyone, and I accept all people regardless of their opinions. All I ask is to respect me as a human being and the way I want to live my life.
It is important for me to share my story because I want to speak for those that may be afraid to. This is not a personal goal, but rather I hope to inspire and empower others. I am an adult now, and I a fortunate to have made it here in US, and I worry for the many young people who are struggling or facing intimidation, and may hope for someone to help them. Being fearful there can be no progress. We all need to tell our story.
Aisha and Hadeel share their story of hardship and hope to let others that are struggling know; that they are not alone and to promote acceptance and freedom for all human beings. One of Hadeil’s favorite song by Oum Kalthoum’s “Sir el Hob” which means “The Topic of Love” speaks to Hadeel’s hope for love for all: Throughout my life I've feared love. And the topic of love, and the oppression of love to all those who possess it….” Whereas Aisha’s favorite song, expresses Aisha’s hope for acceptance for all: Michael Jackson’s “We are the world,” “Change can only come when we stand together as one. Send them your heart so they’ll know that someone cares, and their lives will be stronger and free as God has shown us by turning stone to bread, so we must lend a helping hand.”