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Origin: Mongolia
Host: Thailand 

Though bullied and beaten in her past for her binary gender identity, Ashley still chooses to keep in her heart the beautiful memories with her family and of riding horseback alongside her brother over flower-laden hills. Though caught in the middle of her journey of finding true belonging, it is in the welcome respite of Ashley’s small rental room- the imaginary home shielding her from outside troubles- that she momentarily feels at peace with the world, and with herself.

Ashley’s beautiful memory of home is kept deep inside her heart. It is always Mongolia where she spent time with family members, mainly her brother, riding horses in rural landscape among hills and flowers. However, relationship with her brother was not very smooth back then. Her gender identity has put pressure on the family relationship. She was always hiding her own self, not only from the public, but from her most trusted companion. Though she understands the harsh judgment of society, she did not feel the sense of self, safety, belonging in Mongolia. After facing various types of physical and mental harassment, she is now in Thailand with hope of being just herself, get a sense of acceptance and belonging.

Thailand is seen among LGBT+ community as a place of freedom where they can freely reveal their feminine look and become integrated into the community. But what Ashley later found out is not as she expected. The well-known illusion of Thailand for LGBT+ community was uncovered. The lack of acceptance and belonging reminds her of the situation in Mongolia, from where she tried hard to run away. Moreover, her identity as a refugee has also worsened because of the dire situation in Thailand where urban refugees are not recognized and restricted to legally earn a living. They often fall into the gaps and have no access to basic services. Language barrier was one of the factors she is struggling to find a job. Though her job applications were refused, she has never wanted to engage in illegal activities and risk herself to arbitrary arrest and detention. She is now relying on assistance from organizations that are helping urban refugees in Thailand.

My soul is painful outside, I am always bullied and hurt by people. It was like in Mongolia. But I feel safe alone inside here.

Though all experiences in Thailand are not perfect, she insisted that she has made the right decision. She wants to call Thailand home, her life here has formed a new safe space which is the closest thing to “home” for her. It is an imaginary home that is stuck in the middle of her journey from Mongolia to Thailand — inside her rental room in Bangkok. Though it is not luxurious, it gives her a sense of safety, warmth, and belonging. It is the only place where she can take refuge when the outside world; others, surroundings, and situations are not welcoming her. Her room is protecting her soul. “My soul is painful outside, I am always bullied and hurt by people. It was like in Mongolia. But I feel safe alone inside here.”

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