I am Gul Panra, a bisexual male to female transgender from Afghanistan. I love wearing makeup and cross-dressing. Since my childhood, I used to practice to dress like a girl and wear daily makeup. In my childhood, my family considered my gender expression’s acts as fun. It made them to laugh. After I grow up, they got sensitive and asked me to stop it. Sometimes, I received punishment.
As a custom in Afghanistan, I got married when I was too young at my 17-year age. Marring a girl gave me a chance to get access women's clothes and cosmetics. Secretly, I wore makeup and dressed my wife’s clothes when she was out. Someday, she found me accidentally in her dress with make-up. She got shocked and reported it to my father and uncle, although she admitted it afterwards in a year.
There were huge rumours among people of my village. They kept talking about me, my appearance and desire. They called me hijra (very offensive word means shemale and faggot in our language) which made me to be very upset. Being a hijra is not allowed in Islam (Haram) and according to Shariyat (Islamic laws), I should be killed. By circulating people’s talks, my life turned to be like a hell. One of my uncles was extremely furious hearing about me. He had sworn to God that would kill me.
I was under huge pressure and high danger. They could nothing do to change me, I tried as well but no success. It was my nature and reality, and I could not deny it. My father eventually decided to send me to Europe. I started my journey from Afghanistan to reach a safe place and after crossing nine countries with very harsh situation and extremely dangerous pathways experienced long-term hunger, pushed back and beat by police, utmost chill, sexual and verbal harassment and passing lots of hardships, finally I arrived in Belgium after a year and half and claimed asylum.
I have been sent to an asylum center and in a short time, I found that it impossible to live there. People residing in the center were verbally and physically insulting and teasing me. After being patient for a long time, I have been transferred getting aid by my social assistant to a social house. The danger of living in the asylum center was even more than the challenges that I faced in Afghanistan. I was threatened to be killed by knife only because I dressed different and wore make up.
Here in Belgium, I found hope to start a new free life in Belgium. I figured out here that I was a transgender and I found that I have right to change legally my gender. I started my transition process by only having access to hormonotherapy with no additional support. My asylum procedure is delayed, and I am waiting to receive an interview for a long time. I am hugely stressful having lots of physical and mental health problems. My family keep not accepting me and adding more stress and pressure on me. I cannot hide my gender transition and still receiving persecution and harassment by some people even in Belgium.
I wish I could explore my own world here in Europe. I am hopeful to breathe freedom and be myself someday.