My name is Nikki, I am from El Salvador currently living in Sweden; people often ask me ”why did you choose Sweden out of all the countries in the world?” My answer is always the same: I didn’t choose Sweden, Sweden chosed me.
Since I was a child I knew I was different. I was always attracted to boys and liked girly stuff, and that created a lot of conflicts in my heart and my head because El Salvador is a very conservative country. My parents are religious, and society has no acceptance for LGBTQ people. Boys have to be tough and play soccer and love cars. Girls must be submissive, play with dolls or become a mother. I never fit in the “tough boy category”, I was into dolls, houses, lipsticks, art, poetry and deep inside grew a fear of my parents realizing I was gay. I got bullied because I was different, and boys attacked me or yelled hurtful things at me. I lived with so much fear, and I held myself back to such an extent that I promised myself that as soon as I am an adult, I will leave this country and escape somewhere I can be me.
Time passed by and I never forgot the promise I made to myself. Especially because when I was no longer a child I was in a bigger risk of being LGBTQ in a country such as El Salvador. It is one of the most dangerous countries in the world due to gangs, and these gangs are beyond homophobic, and that meant a threat to me and my wellbeing. So I worked really hard to escape the hell I was living in.
I arrived in Sweden in June 2019. I came only with a bag of clothes, a couple of hundred dollars and many dreams and goals. I thought it was going to be easy but reality hit differently. It has been one of the hardest decisions I made, to start from scratch with no money and no friends. I struggled a lot being an asylum seeker, not understanding the language and being a foreigner is not easy. I couldn’t find
a job, and then next year the Coronavirus hit our world and made it harder for me to find a job or fix my legal status here; I wanted to give up so many times, I had many sleepless nights crying, wondering if I had made the right decision, questioning myself and I felt like a failure. I felt trapped.
The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I started my transition here. During this process, I came to realize I am a trans woman. And I could not go back to my country and be so different. I was going to get killed in El Salvador just by being a trans woman, so I had to stay in Sweden. But staying was also really hard. I was denied asylum and that really broke my heart, my dreams, and I felt
I didn’t have a purpose anymore. Being an immigrant made it way harder. Just imagine being so far away from home in a place where you are considered “illegal”, therefore you don’t count, you don’t have access to study, you can’t get a job, you can’t travel, you can’t really be happy. I had to keep on fighting even when I was feeling tired and weak. This prolonged situation lasted about two years.
On June 26, 2022 I was a victim of a transphobia attack in a club. The guards in the club subjected me to a brutal assault. They hit me, pinned me to the ground and dragged me all over the floor. Two big muscled men against a tiny woman. When police arrived they asked for my ID. Since I was considered “illegal” I was taken to a detention center and my process of deportation started. On top of being assaulted I was the one put in jail.
Being in jail is one of the worst experiences I ever had to go through. I felt lonely, I felt defeated. My dreams of becoming someone, of being a known photographer or a fashion designer, all the places I imagined traveling to, all the laughter and happiness I used to fantasize about to experience, were at stake. I was detained and waiting for a date to be sent back to my country. This scared me to the core. How will I be able to go back to El Salvador looking like a girl? Will my parents and friends accept me? Will they still love me? What about my dreams? What about my safety? If I go back I will be an obvious target for the gangs. I was in a very dark place. My fathers words when I was kid came to my mind: “you are a champion, a warrior and you are destined for greatness”. So I decided to appeal and to fight with all the strength I could muster. Along this process I came across amazing people. Organizations working for asylum seekers and people without documents came to help, and I got the best lawyer who really cared and fought with me. After 3 weeks in detention I got my asylum case re-opened. I had a new chance, a new opportunity which was what I had been praying for the whole time.
Not only am I sticking out my cheek for me, but also for others that are part of the LGBTQ community and for asylum seekers that struggle for their rights. I am happy to be an activist in the No One is Illegal Network. I want to help others, to make a difference, to impact others peoples lives for the better.
I am telling you this to inspire people like me, who once were told that we are not worthy, that we can’t make it, that we don’t deserve a spot in this world; for all of you I write today to tell you: You can make it! You are worthy, and your dreams are possible to achieve, if you have support, try to work for it, stay true to yourself and dare to be you.