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Afra’s story

The incidents portrayed in this story are inspired by real stories, but all names and other identifying details have been changed.

'My whole existence of being transgender was denied. I was told by other Muslims that I would go to hell after I die.'

‘I was raised in a conservative Muslim household. As early as seven years old, I knew that I was different.

I first began my transition while attending a religious school. Following my transition, I was sent by staff members to a rehabilitation centre along with other trans students.

Their hope was to force me and others to conform with our sex assigned at birth, and to brainwash us with intense physical activity to ‘toughen’ us up. In the evenings we had to attend religious lectures, counselling, and psychotherapy.

In this centre, my whole existence of being transgender was denied. I was often told by other Muslims that my sex assigned at birth was the will of God, and that I would go to hell after I die.

Despite this, I decided to embrace my identity and have found the inner peace I never knew was possible. I am accepted by my family and continue to practice my faith as my true self.

Today, transgender Muslims in Australia make up the highest number of trans people fleeing persecution from their own countries. Trans people especially from culturally and linguistically diverse, and refugee backgrounds, are still facing violence, poverty, unemployment and are at risk of suicide.

We need to reclaim our identity and rights in a way that allows us to be both a Muslim and transgender. I am not trying to pass as a woman. I am a woman, and my sex assigned at birth does not define my identity.

One of the principles of my faith is that you must be an activist and speak up for any form of injustice.

I hope that sharing my life and learning will encourage more Muslims to come out and break the dominant frameworks that deny their gender identity, faith identity or sexuality.’

How does the law apply to Afra’s situation?

Under the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021, it’s against the law to try to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

This means that the rehabilitation centre that undertook activities to change or suppress Afra’s gender identity engaged in a change or suppression practice.

In addition, the staff members at Afra’s school have engaged in a change or suppression practice by sending Afra to a rehabilitation centre, for the purpose of changing her gender identity.

The school could be held vicariously liable if they cannot show that they have taken reasonable precautions to prevent the staff undertaking change or suppression practices with their students.

Are you in a similar situation?

You can make a report to identify a person or an organisation who has tried to change or suppress your sexual orientation or gender identity.

A report is made with the intent to:

  • show the harm of these practices
  • have your story heard
  • seek an outcome (facilitation, education or investigation)
  • stop these practices from happening.

Read more about how you can make a report.

Support services

Reading this story may have caused distress. These services can help:

Rainbow Door is a free specialist LGBTIQA+ helpline providing information, support, and referral to all LGBTIQA+ Victorians, their family, and friends.
Contact: 1800 729 367 or 0480 017 246 (SMS) or support@rainbowdoor.org.au

Beyond Blue provides 24-hour information, advice and support for people affected by anxiety, depression, and suicide.
Contact: 1300 224 636

A full list of affirming faith organisations, LGBTIQ support organisations and crisis and mental health services can be found on our ‘Have you experienced a change or suppression practice?’ page.

Read more about LGBTIQ rights

Change or suppression (conversion) practices

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