Shane’s story: “You are more than society has told you you are”

Like so many trans men that today form the community of HT El Salvador, Shane Mejía Iraheta grew up feeling like he didn’t fit — into society, in his own body and even in his family. He had a grandfather who respected him and sheltered him from his family’s disapproval. But when Shane’s grandfather died suddenly, he had no one left to protect him; his family disowned him and brutally kicked him from their home. He still remembers that first night, sleeping under a bridge, with only the clothes he was wearing and no money to his name.

Shane found a job hauling vegetables in a market, and saved up enough money to rent a small, empty room, where he slept on a flattened stack of cardboard boxes. Slowly, he felt like his life was getting on track: he was in a relationship with a cisgender woman, he reconnected with his brother and he worked for a shipping company. But after a friend introduced him to street drugs, he lost everything yet again, falling deep into the grips of addiction.

It was then that he heard whispers about a group for trans men — and he cautiously began attending sporting events held by HT El Salvador, an AJWS grantee mobilizing trans men to fight for their rights and build a supportive community. Shane got more and more involved with the HT community and weaned himself off of drugs.

“When I first stepped through the doors of HT, I remember how scared I was. And I still remember the first words (HT founder) Villy told me: You are not wrong. We are not wrong. You are more than what society has told you you are. You have skills. You have power. You have strength,” says Shane. “And now I finally believe him.”

When HT’s leaders offered him a job as the organization’s membership coordinator, he accepted.

“HT is paving the way. We are building a path so that other trans men don’t need to live through what we have. So that the world of the future is better,” says Shane. “If I ever asked myself: why am I here? What am I good for? What will I leave on this earth? I can die happy knowing that I gave my all here. Through my work with HT, I have left my mark.”