Content warning: The stories throughout this issue may be especially activating for some readers. Many of these pieces involve descriptions of traumatic experiences including sexual violence, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, queer/transphobic violence, in addition to the violence of states and false borders.
I came to America as part of an LGBTQ group seminar 3 years ago. Coming from Africa, this was the best moment of my life. Filled with excitement, we began the journey and on getting here I wasn’t disappointed at all. I was happy with what I saw and the idea of sticking around wasn’t that bad, at that moment.
Time passed and I was supposed to head back to Africa, but decided to stay around even though I didn’t have documentation. With a few referrals I finally got a host—his name was V and he also promised to assist in getting documentation to be an American citizen.
I thought this was a good deal and, although it had to come at a price, I thought it was totally worth it. We planned out how this would work and even agreed on the payment. I gathered together my savings from my previous job and a few loans from friends and family. Within a few months I was able to raise the agreed amount and I paid V in cash—he insisted on cash. I should have read that as a sign that this was not heading in the right direction.
Days after I had made the payment, my worst fear became a reality: V went missing. His phone was off and attempts to trace him through his close friends bore no fruits. No one seemed to know his whereabouts, or maybe no one was willing to snitch. I got the feeling that this was just a scam that they all run as friends, that the studio apartment we were living in was just a temporary house for him to be able to dupe me. I tried asking the landlord and apparently V was not even his real name, he had used different documents.
I sunk into a world of desperation, anger and depression. I did not know anyone else in San Francisco apart from this kind hearted man who turned out to be my worst nightmare. The worst part of it all is that V had even stolen my passport so I didn’t have any identification documents on me. Reporting this to the police was not an option because I was already living in America illegally. With no money to pay rent or buy food, I had to leave the house and head for the streets.
Life out here is not easy and every passing morning I contemplate whether to just surrender myself to the authorities and deal with the consequences or continue living in these streets. Thanks to Jocey and others like us here we support and encourage each other hoping that one day things will get better. It’s so painful when you have to go through what we go through because of someone else’s greed. Being a member of the LGBTQ community doesn’t make the situation any easier. Sometimes we have to do sex work in exchange for even a plate of food. Please, help us find a place we can call home!