Kendall Ferdinand, 24, a transgender woman, is a Bahamian refugee living in Canada.
Ferdinand was born a male.
However, at the age of six, Ferdinand identified as a female.
“I would dress up in my mother’s clothing and stuff like that,” she said.
“I never identified as a male but I knew that for educational purposes that I had to put on my mask if I wanted to proceed in life. I knew that I had to protect myself from being around my parents and other folks and hearing them speak about people like me.”
In 2016, after three suicide attempts, Ferdinand said she decided to put herself first by seeking asylum in Toronto, Ontario.
“I tried to kill myself and I failed at that attempt again and then that’s when I realized, while in Princess Margaret Hospital, that I should try to save myself and by doing that the only way to survive, the only way to progress was to love Kendal and to take off the mask and be myself and to do that I needed to get out of The Bahamas,” Ferdinand told The Nassau Guardian.
She said she only had one bag in her possession when she got a on a plane for Canada.
Ferdinand said she did not have any friends or relatives when she moved there.
“I literally just packed up and left,” she said.
“I didn’t have any clothes. I just had one bag. Thank God it was summer at that time. When I came to Canada, I basically had a change in atmosphere. I had a change in the way people were approaching me. People were accepting of me…I just felt at home. I felt like this is where I belonged.”
Ferdinand said she lived in a shelter for her first few weeks in Canada and was later placed in “transitioning housing which is an accommodation for members of the transgender community who are transitioning”.
A recent report by the United Nations (UN) noted that more than 800 Bahamians sought asylum or refuge in another country last year.
The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada has reported more than 650 cases of Bahamians who applied for refugee protection in Canada since 2013.
Last week, Attorney General Carl Bethel said he has heard reports that Bahamians have sought asylum in other countries on the basis of homophobia in The Bahamas.
Ferdinand explained that The Bahamas needs to note that not only gay and lesbian Bahamians seek asylum abroad; but that many other members of the LGBT community also flee the country out of fear for their lives.
Speaking of her own experience in The Bahamas, she said, “The fear I have now existing is really based on being able to live a normal life in a society as a normal woman and not being judged based on my sexual orientation and not being verbally abused or physically harmed because of my sexual orientation.
“When I lived home, I would never go outside at night because I was afraid that someone would kill me for existing as me.”
Ferdinand praised efforts by members of the local LGBT community who are planning to host a series of pride events in The Bahamas next year.
“The whole thing is to show visibility and we need more visibility in The Bahamas so they can see us,” she said.
Ferdinand added, “People need to know that they have trans persons in the country, that we have trans persons going to the grocery store and walking around just like you and we’re not a threat to anyone.”