Latest Blog "I know that if I can live just one day in the body I belong to, that will be good enough for me" To mark Transgender Day of Visibility 2022, we wanted to share UJ's story. They are supported by Hestia's Modern Slavery Response Team. Trigger Warning: The following story may be upsetting for some readers. I came to the UK from Pakistan when I was 22. Life back in Pakistan was incredibly hard. When I was a child, my teacher raped me. I tried to tell my mum, but she didn’t believe me. The teacher would give me extra time in lessons, and was charging my parents less, so they thought he was a good man. Even when my mum took me to a counsellor, I didn’t have the power to tell him what I’d been through. It’s very painful to think about. "When I arrived in the UK, my family stopped supporting me financially. I had no money to pay my university fees, no money to pay rent. I was desperate to work. I did several jobs, including construction work and window cleaning. When I started these jobs, I was so lonely, and I trusted the people I was working for very quickly. I was wrong." At every job I did, I was abused mentally and physically. I was given very small wages and the only thing I could afford to eat was biscuits. They got away with torturing me because they knew I was too scared to go to the police. I kept quiet and didn’t tell anyone. I cried a lot, and my mental health got worse. In 2020, I received a call from the Home Office. I was asked to attend a reporting session and was then placed in an immigration removal centre – that’s when I was told I was going to be deported. A lady from the Home Office called me and asked if I’d ever been abused or mistreated while in the UK. At first, I said no, as I thought that telling her about my experience would make things worse. After a bit of time, I called her back, and told her everything. That’s when I was entered into the National Referral Mechanism and was referred to Hestia. When I came to Hestia, I was feeling suicidal. The team helped me so much. My first advocate, Tina*, was an angel. I remember asking her: “Do you know anything about the LGBT community?” "I don’t like to put a label or a tag on my sexual orientation or gender identity, but Tina was the first person I told that I wanted to transition. I felt so down and I told her everything. The body I’m in isn’t mine – I feel like my true body is in jail. I have something else inside of me. I feel more feminine inside." I know that if I can live just one day in the body I belong to, that will be good enough for me. Tina helped me to get in touch with LGBT organisations, and now I do counselling with an LGBT charity every week. I really feel able to talk to my counsellor about things. I do get worried about what will happen though. I remember saying to Tina: “What happens if I start to transition, and then they send me back to Pakistan?” In Pakistan, nobody mentions being LGBT. It’s still not accepted – there are laws against it. It would be very hard for me to start a new life over there, to have to hide myself every day. I wouldn’t be safe. Living here in the UK – this is my life. I know that if I get Leave to Remain, I will feel free, and I can live my own life without fear and judgement. I’m hoping to go to film school and I want to use films and documentaries to raise awareness of the LGBTQ+ community as well as exploitation and child abuse. This year, I also plan on going to my first Pride parade. I want to learn new things, make new friends and build a new independent life. I want to be remembered as someone who contributed in society. My soul is still in a lot of pain. But If I can stay here, I have a future.