Nadine: “I refused to succumb to his filthy desires, so he accused me of theft and harassment!”
I am a woman. I am a woman who feels and thinks the same way any other woman would. I am a woman even when I think about my future. What distinguishes me from other women are some parts of my body which show I am a man.
I tried very hard to undergo a gender affirmation surgery, but it did not work. I do not possess enough money, and my income was not enough for me to cover the expenses of the surgery. I am just trying to live like a normal person. Is that too much to ask for?
I was always scared of my parents because they frequently abused me. I continuously dreaded how society viewed me, gossiped about me and mocked me. I seriously feared how life would treat me. In a nutshell, I am not in control of my fate.
As if this were not enough, I was scared for my life and that of my beloved ones because of the problems that my country, Syria, has been facing, which pushed me to flee the country and seek refuge in Lebanon.
Many were the hardships I faced in the new country. Every time I met a person, whether Lebanese or Syrian, and asked him/her to help me find work and housing, I would be mistreated and laughed at. Some would tell me bluntly that they were ashamed of me and they would ask me not to talk to them anymore. Others would avoid talking to me; even some others would injure my feelings with cutting inhumane remarks.
At a certain point of my life, there was no hope for me on any level. I tried to find work and housing in vain until one day I came across an ad in the newspaper. A fashion designer was in urgent need of a seamstress after one of his employees left him without prior notice. Then and only then did life start to smile at me. The monthly income was tempting, and soon I found a decent place to live in.
I worked for years in this company and I excelled at my job which distinguished me from all the others. My manager was even aware of that, and he was proud, but it was crystal clear for me that my colleagues disliked me; I got used to it though and decided to ignore them and just focus on my work even more.
However, when fate stands in the way, nothing can be done. One day, when I arrived at work, all the employees were gathered around someone talking to him enthusiastically and laughing out loud. As soon as they spotted me, they started pointing at me and whispering incomprehensible utterances. That day I really hoped I would not get in trouble as if I felt deep inside that my happiness will not last long.
The man approached me and introduced himself in a very respectful manner as a partner in the company. He told me he had heard a lot about my work and then proceeded to his office.
Nonetheless, this man’s presence was a heavy burden. He followed me wherever I went and if he was not next to me, I would see him observing me all day long. Whenever he had the chance to touch me, he did in an artificially spontaneous way. I always felt anxious and perplexed every time he got closer to me.
He would give me extra work which I got to finish as quickly as I could, so I did not have to stay overtime. However, his intention was to keep me extremely busy in order to take advantage of me after all the employees left.
At the beginning, I resisted him and stood my ground insisting I did not wish to have any relationship with him. However, he refused to listen and did not want to understand. He considered it a competition and decided to win. That is how sexual harassment developed into sexual assault at the end of which he got all the satisfaction while I felt terrified and wrecked.
Thus, I started hating my job and calling in sick in order to avoid seeing him. But he began calling me and threatening me saying that if I skipped work one more time, he would tell everyone that I was the one who harassed him. I had no choice but to surrender. I needed to make a living. Consequently, he continued to sexually harass and assault me. I was afraid to take any decision because whatever I did was going to affect my stability and livelihood. However, I had to speak up even though I needed money to survive! My body and dignity were being violated! I could not remain silent!
Everything happened so quickly, and I felt so angry all the time. One day, he called me into his office and locked the door behind me. He wanted what he was usually accustomed to take from me by force. It was the first time he asked this of me while the employees were still at work. Of course, I refused because I was scared of being exposed. I kept on refusing until he hauled me towards him, so I started screaming and I threatened him to tell everyone about what he was doing to me. Then, as if I just gave him a dose of strength, he started shouting at me, pulled me by the hand, pushed me towards the door of his office and started accusing me of horrendous behavior such as stealing and harassing him in front of everyone. Appalled, I shut off. I just stared at the employees who were looking at me with despise; now they are able to express their opinion about me freely. I was numb; I only could think about what will happen next.
You guessed what happened next. I was fired and I never got either my salary or any compensation. What infuriates me the most is being helpless because I was not able to sue him to get compensation, nor was I able to find anyone who would listen to me and believe what I went through. Obviously, who would believe a Syrian transgender?
Today, I am trying my best to start over. I was able to purchase a sewing machine and I make a living out of sewing jobs. I hope one day I will be able to succeed on my own because I refuse to be at the mercy of another exploiter!
This story was documented as part of the “Enhancing the Inclusivity of the LGBTI community in Workplaces in Lebanon” project funded by the European Union and executed by SIDC in partnership with ACTED.