Published May 17, 2018
A trans man, who was granted asylum in Iceland in large part for being trans, learned yesterday that he is registered as female. This is also despite immigration authorities previously issuing him an ID that genders him correctly.
Grapevine spoke yesterday with Prodhi Manisha, who had returned from the offices of the Directorate of Immigration (UTL) to pick up his refugee identification card. To his great surprise, the ID marks Prodhi as female, despite the fact that the asylum seeker ID they had issued him previously had correctly identified him as male.
In addition, Grapevine reviewed Prodhi’s asylum case work. In the dozens of pages of documents on his case, immigration authorities outline how a large part of the reason why he was seeking – and was ultimately granted – asylum was on account of being a trans man, for which he would have faced concerted persecution in his country of citizenship.
Prodhi’s asylum seeker ID, with his gender marked as male (“karl”). Country of citizenship censored out of privacy concerns.
“I was told ‘Well in the registry you’ve been put as female since your passport says you’re female’,” Prodhi told us. “I pointed out that I had literally gotten asylum here based on the fact that I’m a trans man, and I would not have been able to change my marker from female to male on my passport. FTM transgender folks aren’t recognised in my passport country.” In addition, being told that he was already registered as female in the system was even more confusing given that it was UTL – the same institution that previously recognised him as male – who processed his registration in the system in the first place.
The UTL worker Prodhi picked up his ID from offered a suggestion: that he endure the trans evaluation process, which has not only been criticised for being unnecessarily invasive; one of the ways in which a person gets their true gender legally recognised in this process is to have gender markers such as an ID listing their true gender.
Prodhi asked to speak to a supervisor on duty.
“They told me ‘I don’t have time for this right now. UTL cannot change any genders. UTL cannot issue gender markers for identification.’,” Prodhi told us. “Both of which they already did. And they gave me asylum based on the fact that they recognise me as a trans man. They pointed to my asylum seeker ID and said ‘That was a mistake.’ Basically telling me that gendering me correctly on the ID was a mistake.”
While legal options are currently being explored, in the meantime, the situation is imminently frustrating, hurtful, and confusing for him.
“What the Icelandic system is doing to me, as a refugee, is they de-recognised a trans person as being trans,” he said. “I’m obviously terrified of having the law held against me. This isn’t the same thing as just a foreign person coming in with a passport. This is me having run for my life based on my gender identity. Having had that fear recognised, having had my identity recognised, being granted refugee status on that case, given the correct gender identification for almost a year, and then having that stripped away? That is inhuman. What kind of a developed country supposed to be a pioneer in LGBT rights does that? Trans rights are bad in a lot of places, and not being recognised is terrible and hard. Recognising a trans person, giving them the correct identification, giving them the space to live as their true identity, and then stripping that away from them – what kind of refuge and safety is that?”