Empowering undocumented young people to achieve educational and career goals
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF TRANS BODYBUILDERS
Project Leader: Neo Sandja (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Neo L. Sandja
The International Association of Trans Bodybuilders (IATB) is an organization for Transgender bodybuilders. Since 2014, we have organized three bodybuilding and one powerlifting competition with a total of 32 competitors and media attention from major networks like Al Jazeera America and CNN. IATB competitors are ambassadors of change who inspire beyond body image and educate our society on Trans issues.
What initially drove me to create the bodybuilding competition were the questions I received from other Trans people. Those questions stemmed from one place: Fear. It was the fear of being negatively outed, the fear of being rejected and the fear of being misunderstood and judged. Through IATB, I want to take the shame that has been ingrained into Trans people and turn it into pride. Instead of hiding because we are worried that society is not ready to accept us, I want us to see, understand and show the positive side of who we are so that society will see us under a new light and learn from us.
I came in the U.S. in 2004 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo with a student visa to begin my college career. I was secretly hoping to find out what was really “wrong” with me and how I could find a cure for it. Growing up in Central Africa, anything related to the LGBT community was completely unheard of, and somehow I had convinced myself that I was sick while the church was convinced that I was possessed. In 2011, after being diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria, my father disowned me and I lost not only all financial support, but also my immigration status. Being undocumented has kept me from getting a driver’s license and health insurance, finding a stable job and decent housing, and being able to qualify for many surgery grants.
As an undocumented immigrant, an entrepreneurship mindset has been, more often than not, my only option for survival because I have been forced to think outside of the box. And yet, in doing so, being undocumented has given me a much bigger sense of compassion and a desire to make a positive impact in the world.
For more information about the International Association of Trans Bodybuilders, please visit our website or connect with us on Facebook: @FTMFitnessWorld