by By Ivan Ramos (a pseudonym)
I met my friend Rose 10 years ago when we worked together in a restaurant in Sanarate, Guatemala.
Several years after we met, Rose moved to the capital, Guatemala City. She started working at a place selling wine and cheese and began dating a man who owned a tailoring shop. Over the next few years she began to live more openly as a transgender woman. She started doing events and shows, but always suffered discrimination and harassment in Guatemala due to her gender orientation.
Some time after the relationship with the tailor ended, Rose met a new man and disappeared completely. There was no trace of her. I kept trying to find her with no luck until a few summers later.
She contacted me and told me her boyfriend had abused and raped her and forced her to turn tricks so he could have money for drugs and alcohol. He’d even tried to kill her on multiple occasions. The last time, after he attempted to strangle her, she ran as fast as she could to the local hospital. After she was treated, she called her former boyfriend, the tailor, who brought her to his house.
“He’d even tried to kill her on multiple occasions.”
While she was staying with the tailor, her abusive ex threatened to kill both of them because Rose had left him. For her own safety and the tailor’s safety, Rose decided she had to flee to Sanarate.
Even though I tried to calm her, she was still very worried because her abusive ex still wouldn’t leave her alone. He even threatened to show up at her mother’s house in Sanarate and cut Rose into little pieces.
As a gay man, I also felt unsafe in Guatemala due to discrimination and harassment. Rose and I decided to flee Guatemala and head for the United States.
It was a difficult journey. On our first try, the Mexican immigration authorities caught us and sent us back to Guatemala. We decided we couldn’t stay in Guatemala no matter what, so we set off again for the United States. After a few weeks of traveling through Mexico, we finally reached the border and crossed near Yuma, AZ.
Just a few minutes after we crossed the border, Border Patrol caught us. They held us in the “icebox” for a day and then took us to federal court. Finally, they transferred us to Florence Correctional Center, a private prison owned by Core Civic.
One of the most traumatic parts of being in detention is the confinement. We spent most of the day in the “tank” with about forty other people. We were allowed outdoor time for only one hour a day.
The food is also terrible. It’s technically edible, but it’s disgusting. Sometimes, they serve food that looks like vomit or tastes so bad that people can’t eat it.
Rose is very expressive; she likes to dance and sing. Many of the people in detention didn’t like that so they called us faggots and other derogatory terms.
We could tell there were a lot of people who were disgusted by us. We’d sit down at a table and people would get up and leave. There was a person who threatened to sexually assault me.
Once, a man attempted to sexually assault Rose, but she pushed him away and was able to escape him. She didn’t report it because she was afraid the incident might negatively affect her immigration case. I think she really felt the brunt of the harassment because she is more feminine and expressive.
I was lucky. I got released on bond in November and am now living in Maryland while I wait for my final court hearing. I talk to Rose regularly. All she can say is that she can’t stand it and is miserable she won’t go into details because she knows the calls are being recorded and others are listening so she doesn’t want to get in trouble for anything she says.
I last spoke to Rose a week ago. She called me, crying and feeling desperate. She just kept saying, “Get me out of here, I can’t stand it anymore, please get me out.”
Rose is a very humble and helpful person. She’s kind, honest and sincere. She’s the type of person that if someone else is feeling down, she’ll try to lift their spirits. But she’s had a hard life.
“Rose wants to live as a free and open woman — as herself.”
Rose’s biggest dream is to have gender confirmation surgery and to live openly as who she truly is. Rose wants to live as a free and open woman — as herself.
Editor's note: Thanks to help from many supporters, Rose was released from detention on January 14.