Dulce (not her real name) grew up in the macho culture of Honduras knowing that she was “different.” From the time she was a little boy, she wanted to dress as a woman and had no interest in male games or activities. She suffered constant name-calling, beatings, and even sexual abuse because she was perceived as an effeminate boy. The one time she went to a gay bar with a lesbian friend, the two were chased by a mob outside the bar and had to run to avoid being hit by rocks and sticks which the mob threw at them. Recognizing the danger that Dulce was in, her bisexual brother helped her escape Honduras when she was just a teenager, making the dangerous journey across the Mexican border, and ending up in New York.
Once she arrived in the United States, Dulce began to dress as a woman full time. Dulce began taking hormones and had several surgeries to make herself appear more feminine. Because her extended Honduran family members felt that she was a bad influence on their children, she was kicked out of the house, and had to make it on her own before she could even graduate high school. Seeing no other options, Dulce turned to prostitution and was arrested several times.
In the spring of 2005, Dulce tested positive for HIV. Dulce’s mother had died of AIDS in Honduras, too ashamed to even tell her family what the cause of her illness had been. Dulce began receiving medical and mental health treatment at Manhattan’s Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, and finally received treatment for the depression and post traumatic stress disorder that had resulted from all of her previous mistreatment. In the fall of 2005, Immigration Equality represented Dulce, who is now in her 20s, in her application for asylum. Recently, the New York asylum office granted her asylum, so Dulce can remain in the U.S., free of fear of persecution.
“After everything I’ve been through, I really feel like I’ve been given a new start for my life,” Dulce said. “I was so scared when we submitted the application that I might get deported. Now I feel like I’m truly welcome in the United States.”
“Since 1998, the immigration law has required asylum seekers to file their application within one year of their last entry into the United States or prove that they meet a narrow exception to this rule,” states Victoria Neilson, Immigration Equality’s Legal Director. “It’s so difficult for asylum seekers to win if they miss the deadline, I’m delighted that the Asylum Office understood all the reasons that Dulce couldn’t file before and the danger she would be in if she had to return to Honduras.”
Immigration Equality (formerly the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force) was founded in 1994 and advocates for equality under U.S. immigration law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive immigrants, their families, friends and loved ones. Immigration Equality represented Dulce with the critical assistance of Belkys Garcia, a law student from CUNY School of Law.