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I am a man and my name is Wissam

"When signs of femininity started showing on my body I was keen to hide them. Not even my own family accepted me."

Credits TEXT: Nasreen (Wissam) Ben Khemisa Översättning: Trifa Shakely September 11 2018

Nasreen (Wissam) Ben Khemissa , a trans man, born March 27, 1992. He is a semi-marathon specialist and chose to move to Sweden as he considers it to be the best country in the world for the rights of gay and transgender people. He wish Sweden will accept his case as a refugee seeking protection and he is afraid of being forced to return to Tunisia, where he is threatened to be killed by his family.

My story begins when I am four years old since that is when I discovered I was different. I lived in our village with my five sisters. My mother used to buy us each a doll, which I never appreciated: I would simply break it and throw it away. I much preferred to play with a toy gun or a toy car and I spent most of my time playing football with the neighbourhood boys. My suffering though began when I started school. My teacher treated me differently from the other students since I dressed like a boy and to make me look more like a girl she forced me to wear a ribbon in my hair. She would often hit me and treat me badly just because I was different.

I became convinced of my being different when I turned nine and fell in love with a girl. I experienced a pleasant pulsating feeling, but I daren’t show anything, afraid that she would not accept me, or that it might become problematic in some other way. Instead I retired into a fantasy world. In my fantasy world I could live the life I desired—was there really any alternative world for me? For four years, in my fantasies, I experienced a love affair with a girl whom I dreamt of each night. These were wonderful moments of tasting the sweetness of love, a love sensitive to the melody of life and to the rhythms of an infatuated heart.

But why was I forced into a world of illusion? Suddenly I could not bear these pretences—I wanted to experience love in real life. Puberty’s complicated labyrinth of course worsened the situation; I could no longer tolerate my body. I was a man imprisoned in a woman’s body.

When signs of femininity started showing on my body I was keen to hide them. Not even my own family accepted me. Even when it came to the most basic things my father treated me differently than he did my sisters. For example, if one of my sisters was late, her food was kept aside until she came home, but when I came home late to dinner there would never be anything left for me to eat.

My father’s harassments escalated over time and each day I was shouted at or physically violated. Like sharp knives hard words and hurtful discussions cut my heart to pieces. My loneliness and grief grew all the more the older I became. Each Ramadan I would anticipate the night of qadir and with my eyes turned to heaven I would spend this holy night in prayer—in serious discourse with God: I prayed to God hoping to wake up in the morning as a man. Waking up to find that no change had taken place was a paramount grief that filled my whole being. I was always trying to find a way out—and finally I did. Sports became the outlet that could release my inner pressure caused by everything that victimised me.

My sports career began at school and my hobby developed so fast that I was soon competing in the world championships. However, despite my successes I was unable to change society’s views of me. Society regarded me as a monster and my way of life as being against nature. Suddenly I could no longer stand it. What crime had I committed? Even my family abandoned me and refused to accept me.

Relief came when I decided to flee to Sweden. Here I found my human rights; I found a society that accepted my difference and respected me as a fellow human being with a right to live in freedom.

I arrived in Sweden in April 2017. Since I had a visa from France I was seen as a Dublin case. I preferred coming to Sweden because, concerning the rights of HBTQ people, I regarded Sweden as a leading nation. At first I lived in hiding for a long period, which was a very difficult time: I knew no Swedish, I had no money, and nowhere to live. So I started collecting return bottles and selling them to buy food—sometimes I could eat and other times I had no food. I slept in the street and my health suffered while all the time I was afraid that the police would get hold of me and send me back to France—or worse—to Tunisia.

Luckily I met a person who became my friend and who introduced me to the RFSL (The Swedish National Association for Gay, Bisexual, Transpersonal, and Queer Rights). At the RFSL I made some more friends, went to meetings, and learnt Swedish. Now I love Sweden immensely; it is hard to imagine such a humane society: a society that has helped me, that accepts me, and that treats me with respect. Sweden has boosted my self-confidence and when I finally get permission to stay I hope that my future will become even brighter. This country is good for me—here I can be free.

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