Kenyan-born Biko Beauttah arrived in Canada to seek asylum because being considered homosexual is a criminal offence in her home country. Biko left Kenya a few years prior to attend college in the USA. Having come from a background where her entire being was against the law, and where there was no language or terms around non-heterosexual and non-cisgender sexuality or gender, Biko only realised while studying in America that she identified as transgender and not gay.
Fearing for her life if she returned to Kenya, she arrived at Toronto’s airport on 25 February 2006. Here she was put in handcuffs and detained by officials who humiliated her for 36 hours before she was granted asylum in Canada. She spent a further 6 months in a refugee shelter before a landlord agreed to rent an apartment to her.
After Biko received asylum, she became a human rights activist championing the rights of transgender people. Some of her achievements include being the founder of Trans Workforce in 2014, the world’s first job fair aimed at creating work opportunities for people who identify as trans or gender nonconforming, and becoming a board member of The 519 in 2015, a Toronto-based agency serving the trans community of Toronto by assisting with refugees, counselling, and training.
One of the highlights in Biko’s personal life was her appearance on ‘America’s Next’ Transgender Model, as part of the Tyra Banks Show, in itself raising awareness of trans equality and tolerance.