Alexandra Reyes was born Carlos Reyes in Cenotillo, Mexico, in 1976. By the age of eight, Alexandra began to live as a girl. For that, Reyes was persecuted by family, abused, and even threatened with a machete, writes The Denver Post. So 10 years ago, Reyes escaped, crossing the border illegally into the United States with the help of a smuggler and then walking for four days and nights through the desert until she found herself in Colorado. Now, the 32-year-old is undocumented no longer. Officials have granted Reyes asylum based on the abuse she suffered as a transgendered woman in her homeland and a determination that the Mexican government would not protect her if deported. “It would be physically dangerous for her to walk down the street,” says her attorney, Bryon Large. “She could be sexually assaulted.” One case that figured in the ruling involved a gay Mexican who was denied asylum in Canada and deported back to Mexico, where he was then murdered.

That’s not to say Colorado is always a safe haven for the transgendered. There have been cases of violence in recent years, including the murders of Angie Zapata in Greeley and Fred Martinez in Cortez. A documentary film about Zapata, Photos of Angie, is nearing completion, reports Westword.