An Open Letter Concerning Nina Chaubal of Trans Lifeline #freenina

Nina Chaubal, co-founder of Trans Lifeline, trans woman of color, and new American, was detained by US Customs officials at an internal checkpoint in Arizona. Learn more here.

To Whom It May Concern:

I have had the distinct pleasure of knowing Nina both as a friend and colleague. As a transgender American, as a social scientist researching social relationships and suicide, and as the leader of a non-profit promoting the health of transgender individuals, Nina serves as a constant inspiration to me on both a professional and a personal level. In 2011, I made a suicide attempt because I could not deal with the abandonment I experienced by my family and my partner when I came out as transgender. I felt so isolated and alone and believed I had no future. At the time, the only option for transgender folk was to call the National Lifeline. However, because of my gender identity I was afraid to call because I did not want to end up in a psychiatric unit where I would be psychological abused because of my gender identity. For many transgender Americans, this fear is all too real, and prior to 2014, the options we faced were risking a life-threatening situation in a hospital or making a suicide attempt. In 2014, Nina, along with her wife Greta, founded the Trans Lifeline, the only suicide hotline for transgender Americans. As a result, transgender Americans who feel on the brink of life and death can call and talk to other transgender people and feel safe in knowing that they will be affirmed.

Because of the essential work Nina does, lives are being saved every day. In spite of rising call volume and lack of funding, Nina tirelessly fights to keep the hotline open to keep people alive. Work done on behalf of the transgender community is often exhausting and thankless work. Indeed, given her credentials and experience Nina could make much more money working in the private sector. Yet, Nina continues to fight to save lives because that is the type of person she is. She gives of herself generously and courageously every single day with little regard to the personal cost.

When I think about what defines an American, it is not where a person is born, how much money they have, nor the color of their skin. An American is a person who courageously takes a leap of faith to build a world worthy of living in, a person who sees a lack and seeks to fill it, and a person who generously and compassionately fights for the ineffable joy which comes with life, liberty, and the power to pursue a life which affirms individual happiness. By this definition, Nina embodies all that it means to be an American.

As the wife of an American citizen, the co-founder and director of operations of a national charity, and a woman of integrity Nina poses little to no risk to the community nor is she likely to fail to appear before a court. Conversely, her status as a transgender woman of color, one of the most at-risk groups in the United States, makes her current detention a significant risk to her own personal and psychological safety. I respectfully request the court release Nina to her wife’s care or transfer her to the ICE Detention Facility in Santa Ana, California.

Do you want to help Nina? Here’s how you can help:

  • Please join Darcy and others in calling for the US Government to #FreeNina by visiting this page and sending an email of support to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
  • Make a donation to the essential work Nina does at Trans Lifeline
  • Follow Trans Lifeline on Twitter for updates
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