After spending almost a week in police custody for allegedly chopping off his mother’s hand, a 15-year-old student was released from police custody yesterday.
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Milly happy after being granted asylum
Deyone "Milly" Guiseppi fled this country five years ago after being bullied, harassed and victimised for her sexual orientation and sought asylum in a European country.
Guiseppi has since been granted asylum and is happy.
"I am in an environment where it is more positive and I think more clearly and it is conducive to me progressing, I can grow as a human being," Guiseppi told the Sunday Guardian.
"I think it's the best decision I ever made," she said.
Guiseppi, who was born a male, said at age three she realised that something was different with her.
"I knew but I just didn't have the words to say what that was."
It was only when she turned 16, Guiseppi said she was actually able to find the words to describe what she was going through.
"I was struggling to find my identity or to at least fit in or feel like I belonged somewhere. I always thought that I was gay but then I realised I was transgender, many people just don’t understand in Trinidad and Tobago and they try to put everything into the box of being gay," Guiseppi said.
Guiseppi said that being transgender has to do with your gender, while being gay has to do with who you are attracted to.
Eventually as Guiseppi grew older, she decided she wanted to transition.
"I decided that I wanted to transition and didn’t want to stay living an unhappy life as somebody I wasn't," she said.
Guiseppi approached a private doctor for hormone therapy to assist in her transition.
The process, however, was extremely expensive and Guiseppi eventually sought therapy at a public health facility.
She also had to undergo psychiatric analysis.
"I was gradually changing myself, nothing extreme, by using make-up and wearing clothes that was more feminine," Guiseppi said.
Things, however, became problematic when she got a new boss who was also a pastor.
"He started to harass me about how I chose to express myself in the way I dressed and I was even given a document highlighting the dress code for men and women," she said.
The company's human resource department also got involved.
"The harassment was becoming continuous and I really didn't want to go to work any more. It was a nuisance, and if I can't work then I can't support myself," she said.
The Equal Opportunity Commission could not help
Guiseppi approached the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) and filed a complaint about victimisation.
"I stood against the victimisation because I thought it was wrong, I was doing my work and I couldn't understand why I was being harassed like this, but I think it is part of our society in Trinidad where it is seen as being bad to be transgender, gay or lesbian," Guiseppi said.
"People should be able to be themselves, they shouldn't have to change for other people because I was not harming anybody."
However, according to the EOC Act, people who claim to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation have no recourse.
The act prohibits discrimination against individuals on seven grounds (race, ethnicity, religion, sex, marital status, origin and disability), but sexual orientation is expressly excluded from protection.
Although the act includes sex as a status ground, Section 3, the interpretation section, provides that "sex does not include sexual preference or orientation".
Both EOC chairman Lynette Seebaran-Suite and head of The Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO) Colin Robinson have called for this to be changed.
Guiseppi said this hurt.
"The EOC told me they couldn't help me because gender in T&T is limited to being male or female. It made me feel like that with me being transgender that the EOC was telling me I wasn't a citizen because of my gender, it was like they were saying they are unwilling to protect me because in the laws of Trinidad and Tobago it says that there are only two genders," she said.
"My gender was not protected under the act. It is a shame that all Trinidadians cannot be protected from discrimination and it's a shame that all Trinidadians can't live in their country and be happy. I'm still proud to be a Trinidadian and nobody can take that away from me, but I think in changing some of the laws we will be more inclusive to people who are from the LGBTQIA community. It is protecting your citizens, which is basic human rights."
While going through the EOC process, Guiseppi was also physically attacked.
Lack of support from her family was also an issue.
"It all reached a breaking point," she said.
Guiseppi bought a ticket and left the country for greener pastures.
When she landed, she filed for asylum and had to undergo the requisite interviews.
She has since been granted asylum.
"If Trinidad and Tobago couldn't protect me and it is my own, then what could I do again. If my own didn't care about me and want to see the destruction of me because of only one aspect of me then I had no choice but to move away and get out of that negative situation," she said.
"It was extremely overwhelming when I reached because, of course, I didn't speak the language, there was different weather, different people and a different culture, it is still a bit overwhelming sometimes but I’m getting accustomed to it," Guiseppi said.
Guiseppi is currently in university.
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