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Eliana Rubashkyn

Woman who lose her citizenship after hormone replacement therapy
The basics
Occupation Chemist Pharmacist
Country New Zealand Statelessness
Date of birth Bogota, Colombia
Residence New Zealand
The details

Eliana Rubashkyn (born Luis Alexánder Rubashkyn, 25 June 1988) is a Colombian–born New Zealand resident of Ukrainian Jewish ancestry known internationally for being the first birth-assigned male to female transwoman legally recognised as a woman under international law without undergoing sex reassignment surgery. She is a pharmacist, chemist, human rights and transgender advocate and blog activist. Rubashkyn's gender was recognised under the United Nations' 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Rubashkyn's case attracted international media and legal attention after her mistreatment following her detaintion at Hong Kong International Airport because of the lack of congruence between her gender identity and her passport photo, resulting in over eight months of statelessness in Hong Kong, moving from one centre of refuge to another.

Personal life

Rubashkyn was born in Colombia to Ukrainian Jewish parents who had moved there in the 1970s. She was assigned and raised male, with an intersex condition, and named Luis Alexander.

Rubashkyn obtained her degree in pharmacy at the National University of Colombia. She was then granted a scholarship to Taipei Medical University, and started her gender transition in Taiwan. Within a year, hormone replacement therapy changed Rubashkyn's physical appearance dramatically due to her intersex condition, and the Taiwanese immigration authorities required her to update her passport at the closest Colombian consulate before she could begin her second year of master's studies. She travelled to Hong Kong to do so, but when she arrived at Hong Kong International Airport's immigration facility, she was detained for over eight months because her appearance did not match her passport photo.

Unable to seek asylum to be granted protection as a refugee in Hong Kong due to that government not having ratified the UN Refugee Convention, she faced deportation, and suffered severe mistreatment in the airport's detention centre. She was also tortured at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kowloon, where she was placed in restraints and made to endure various abusive treatments.

Rubashkyn currently lives in Auckland, New Zealand, where she was eventually granted asylum as a refugee.


On 2 June 2015, Rubashkyn was married in New Zealand to an Israeli man named Itamar but was forced to use her birth name of Luis Alexander on the marriage registration rather than Eliana.

International response

With the help of Amnesty International and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), she was granted refugee status. However, because Hong Kong is not a signatory of the 1951 refugee convention, it did not recognise her as a refugee and sought to deport her to Colombia. In 2013, the UN sought another country to resettle her because of the lack of protections for LGBT people and refugees in Hong Kong.

Her case drew international attention, particularly in Southeast Asia and Colombia, where transgender people are often persecuted. Her case was also noted in New Zealand, a country known for its stance on equality for LGBT people.

On December 16, 2013, the UN passed a resolution recognising Rubashkyn as woman under the UNHCR refugee system. She became the first transgender person recognised as a woman in China or Hong Kong without having undergone sex reassignment surgery.

In May 2014, New Zealand accepted Rubashkyn as a refugee and granted her asylum, extending a universal recognition of her gender. Her case was the first in the world in which the gender identity of a transgender person was recognised internationally.

A CNN story about her struggle and a short documentary about her life in Hong Kong won a GLAAD Media Award in May 2015.

The contents of this page are sourced from a Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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