Thea, 23 years old, She/Her
Thea loves to dance. She lets us know that during the first few minutes of our meeting. She arrived well dressed, her blonde hair nicely styled, with a bow tie ribbon on top, wrapped like a gift. Because Thea constantly gives of herself, she embodies the love of the other, the desire to live, to learn, to dance.
Thea was locked up by her father in one of the rooms of the family home for 4 and a half months, after he had fired guns shots at her a few times, but never fatally, perhaps for fear of complications. In her own isolation, Thea could listen to the family’s morning conversations and hear her father wishing her dead.
But in her lockup, Thea was mostly worried about missing her college academic year in geology.
As for her father, she wasn’t sure if she should resent him or not. The war was in full swing in her province. Their house was destroyed and repaired a few times. A local religious squad had already kidnapped Thea, freed her after threatening her, making it clear to her that they knew her two names. The father claimed that he locked up his daughter for her safety, for fear that people would harass her in the street, or that she would harass someone herself who would react violently to her advances, because he considered his child’s sexual desires not only out of the norm, but also out of control.
Without any mercy, the father was planning to take his child near the Jordanian border and shoot her in the head. People will think that Jordanian border patrol killed her for drug trafficking or smuggling, a common occurrence in this region of Syria.
Refugee in Lebanon, winter 2020
Thea was miserable in the family home. Scalded by her father, she was freed by her mother who got wind of the murder plan on the Jordanian borders. Her Mom proceeded to help her flee to Lebanon, and Thea arrived in Beirut in January 2020, with severe burns on her skin. During their last conversations, her mother addressed her in the feminine, which left Thea with a mixture of pride, sadness and affection.
As in a Greek tragedy, a merciless fate sends Thea into the wolf’s mouth, to the home of a transgender matron who rents rooms near the Beirut port. Hell began for her well before the explosion, six months prior to be precise, a period during which Thea made three suicide attempts. A hefty dose of sexual harassment, rape, verbal abuse, physical abuse, humiliation, sacrilege, were all on the menu as a daily offering at this apartment.
The explosion of August 4
On August 4, the apartment’s owner was not home. Instead, her mother was present, a lady Thea describes as “a pious woman”. On social media, people were talking about a major fire at the port.
Despite the harsh fate that seems to be constantly descending on her, Thea believes in providence. She tells us that a strange sensation reigned over the city on the day of the explosion and she has a vivid memory of everything that happened. She can still recall every detail of the apartment and the moment, the air conditioning unit that was on, all the closed windows, and this strong intuition that told her to go open the window in her room. She sees the smoke above the port, she hears strange sounds in the air similar to a plane flying by. Then, silence. In an instant, she recalls losing all sense of reality, she does not know what happened before she found herself on the floor, thrown across the room, injured in several places, in the midst of an obliterated apartment. The force of the explosion must have stunned her. She is convinced that opening the window saved her life. Otherwise, the pressure from the detonation would have wreaked even more havoc around her.
Her memory of the events becomes vivid again for Thea and like a meticulous technician, she recounts her actions one by one:
“I immediately thought of the old lady. She was sitting down, with a wounded arm, about to pass out. I had to act fast. I unplugged all the electrical appliances, gathered all the money that was around the apartment, put it in my purse along with my ID and the house keys. I was in shorts, but I had neither the time nor the garments to cover my wounds. I carried the lady on my back and went down the stairs to the street. I proceeded to bandage her wounds and I stayed by her side until the arrival of her daughter, who slapped me in the face…”
The landlady slapped Thea for failing to adequately protect her mother. According to her, Thea should have shielded the mother from the explosion with her own body and taken the blows and the shards of glass all by herself… “As if I was the cause of her injuries and the reason for the explosion” she sighs.
The chance of surviving
Thea stayed in the destroyed apartment for a few weeks to help repair and rebuild the place before leaving. She told anyone who wants to listen about the hell she lived through in this place, to denounce the situation and to prevent anyone else from ever experiencing what she had gone through. Now she lives alone in an apartment where she currently hosts another transgender refugee from Jordan. As the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran wrote: “There are those who possess little and give everything. They have faith in life and in the goodness of life, and their chest is never empty.”
Since the explosion and her move, Thea has become a homebody and hardly goes out anymore. Depression, sadness and fear of tempting fate all keep her inside. She considers herself lucky to have survived the first explosion, and she fears she will not have the same “luck” a second time.
There was aid from abroad and from some local philanthropists that got distributed to those affected by the explosion, but she received very little of it.
“Perhaps it’s because I don’t fit into any one category. But I don’t want to complain. Maybe this is my destiny and I should consider myself fortunate to have survived it all. I’m fine and I’m not well at the same time. Sometimes I get very depressed and sometimes I am just serene. I am a person who does not want to dream, because dreams do die. I know I can’t realize any of my dreams but I must admit I continue to dream anyway. I dream of a society that accepts me as I am, a society in which I can be a full participant without anyone annihilating who I am, where I can just be Thea. A society that does not annihilate my personality, my sexual orientation, my desires, a place where I am not criminalized for it. I refuse to be judged for who I am; judge me on my actions if you must. My dreams can be realized instead abroad, where I could first and foremost finish my studies, because I love learning, studying and reading so much!
Thea on Study, Work and Dance
“I see a better tomorrow, I’m going to travel, finish my studies, get a degree with my name engraved on it. This name, I want it to be the one that represents me. My name is Thea. My dreams take place abroad, I want to finish my studies not only because I love to learn, but also so I can be proud of myself, and prove that nothing and no one could ever prevent me from earning my diploma. I also want to nurture my talent, the dance. I love to dance. I’ve been dancing for the past 10 or 12 years. I dance the “baladi” because I feel that it allows me to reveal my femininity; I express myself very well with my body and the dance. If I feel the urge to cry, to laugh, to say something that I don’t know exactly how to express, then I put some music on and I say it with a dance. Everything that is in me, I can express it in dancing.
There are also dreams for two, the emotional and romantic side of life, but for now what matters most is what concerns me directly: Study, work, being independent and autonomous. I want to make a living and have a roof over my head, and not have to do things I don’t want to do to earn money. Securing these things is more important to me than love right now. I want an economic independence, and a social independence adapted to who I really am. The affectionate side of life will then become simpler; it will be easier to find a lover when I am feeling comfortable in my own skin. »
Message from Thea
“I would like to send a message, addressed to everyone, LGBTIQ or otherwise: In moments of weakness, you should not consider ending your life. When we hurt ourselves, we hurt others around us. Out of love for the people around me, I should not have tried to commit suicide, even if the circumstances were excessively harsh for me. No one should end their days; the clock keeps on ticking, time passes, days continue to go by and there is nothing in life that is always bad or always good. Life is like waves and tides. There are high tides and low tides. Have faith in God, trust in yourself and continue on living…”
6 months rent, transport, food, clothing: CAD 6,000