Transgender girl from Russia commits suicide in a refugee camp

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The Twitter account of the Feminist Resistance Movement (a grassroots anti-war organisation originated in Russia) published tragic news about the death of a transgender girl from Russia who committed suicide in a refugee camp in the city of Drachten in the Netherlands.

A transgender girl from Russia committed suicide in a refugee camp in the Netherlands.  Khina Zakharova applied for asylum in the Netherlands in December 2022.  Earlier, the girl complained that there were serious problems with the queue for hormone replacement therapy in the country.

Khina Zakharova applied for asylum in the country in December 2022. At the time of the application, she needed hormone replacement therapy, the queue for which in the Netherlands, as Khina was informed, was long, with the approximate waiting period of over two years. The burden of accumulated problems turned out to be unbearable for Khina, resulting in tragedy.

This terrible case exposes the problem of access to psychological and medical care in refugee camps. Representatives of the LGBTQ+ community are at high risk when it comes to suicide. According to one study, 41 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide. Such risks increase many times over in the situations of extreme uncertainty and stress in which refugees often find themselves.

Maria (not her real name), an LGBTQ+ activist who left Russia for Europe, believes that the lack of timely psychological support and negative social pressure might be leading causes of suicides in the community:

Большинство людей в России относится к ЛГБТК-сообществу предвзято, не вникая в детали. В случае с трансгендерными людьми эта предвзятость напрямую влияет на скорость социальной адаптации человека. Несмотря на то, что в Европе ситуация в целом лучше, всегда можно столкнуться с людьми, отвергающими тебя.

Most people in Russia are biased towards the LGBTQ+ community, reluctant to understand the pains and struggles of the community. In the case of transgender people, this bias directly affects the speed of a person's social adaptation. Despite the fact that the situation in Europe is generally better, one can often face people who reject them.

The Netherlands is a country known for its tolerance and attention to the problems of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as for its respect for the idea of psychological support for everyone who feels the need for it. However, LGBTQ+ people living in this country evidently face certain problems. According to Wouter Kikens, doctoral researcher at the University of Groningen: “The number of reported cases of discrimination and violence against LGBTQ+ people has increased from 428 in year 2009 to 2471 in 2021. […] Seven out of ten LGBTQ+ people are subjected to discriminatory violence, both verbal and physical.” Kikens believes that although in general the Netherlands is a fairly tolerant country, it has a lot to learn from other cultures in respect to its attitude to the LGBTQ+ community. For example, berdashi or people with two souls have long lived in the Indigenous peoples of North America, identified as people of the “third sex” and they were fully accepted in the community.

What can possibly be done to prevent tragedies like Khina's suicide from happening?

First of all, it is necessary that a person going through a difficult period in life should be able to find timely help, at least remotely. In particular, for English/Dutch speakers in the Netherlands, there is a telephone hotline for psychological support for suicide prevention: 0800-0113 (English/Dutch). There is also a local Support Service telephone line (0800-0333), which employs multilingual specialists, including Russian-speaking ones. They also have an application.

Further, the help services need volunteers who can support those who do not speak the language of the given country, as well as help to find the right medical specialist. Some of the volunteers must be ready to accompany new arrivals to a doctor's appointment as an interpreter.

Finally, the direct participation of the state authorities of the hosting country is equally important. Medical hormone therapy is vital for transgender people, and psychological assistance can be attributed to basic needs in this case, along with food and other basic necessities.

The number one cause of suicide is untreated depression. Depression is treatable, and suicide is preventable. You can get help from confidential support lines for the suicidal and those in emotional crisis. Visit to find a suicide prevention helpline in your country. 

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