Alexandra Rubera, a trans woman from Burundi, faced arrest and death threats from private citizens and the police in her native country on an ongoing basis. Alexandra moved between Burundi and Rwanda (she had a parent from each country, making access easier to both countries). When life became too difficult for her, Alexandra became fully nomadic and also moved between Kenya and Tanzania.
Alexandra would self-describe as travesti and she lived a fully independent life – her only trouble was her gender identity which led to constant harassment, public humiliation, and police arrests. She could not hide her identity when she was in an upper-class shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and was sitting in a coffee shop when police clamped down on her and arrested her under the guise of “public nuisance” and “impostering identity” [fraud]. She was further humiliated in the police cells when the police stripped her from all her female attire, wig, and make-up and allowed a journalist to take photos of her and publish the “scandal” in local newspapers.
Eventually, she was deported back to Burundi from Kenya, but the police confiscated her passport and all her documents and in doing so turned her into an undocumented citizen in her own country. She got into contact with people from Amnesty International and was also in contact with IGLHRC (the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, today known as OutRight International). Cary Alan Johnson (senior specialist for Africa, IGLHRC), struggled to find any established LGB[TI] organizations based in South Africa with experience in asylum matters to agree with assisting in the matter and eventually contacted Liesl Theron from the newly established Gender DynamiX to enquire about the possibility to assist and support Alexandra with her application for asylum in South Africa if she is able to make her own way to the country. With little experience, Theron replied: “She is a trans person in need, we will help her. I have no idea what I actually say yes to – but we will help her, and we will need your guidance in the matter”. They remained in contact, and Cary Johnson put Liesl in contact with Advocate William Kerfoot from the Legal Resource Centre in Cape Town and Judge Edwin Cameron for legal assistance.
Liesl personally assisted Alexandra to prepare her motivational letters and case and accompanied her on numerous trips to the offices of the Department of Home Affairs. Because Liesl and Gender DynamiX were new to this and there were no other types of guidance or best practice examples, Liesl prepared the information to serve as motivation about the difficulty of living as trans in Kenya (where she was arrested) and Burundi (her native country stated in the application to receive asylum).
Alexandra received asylum in South Africa on 31 October 2006.