As a transgender woman in Honduras, Lincy Sopall, 33, faced abuse, violence and persecution.
After fleeing to the United States, she was granted asylum in May 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona, where she is building a new life as a fashion designer with the support of the International Rescue Committee. There, she met Kim Mundis, 39, who became one of Lincy’s first customers, and is now a close friend.
Below, the two share how they first met, who is the most fashionable and how different their lives would be without each other.
Kim: I was very nervous about my outfit today. Lincy’s always much better dressed than I am. So I wanted to make her proud with my outfit. [Laughs.]
My husband and I went to an International Rescue Committee event, World Bazaar, and we were introduced to Lincy, who was one of the designers featured in their upcoming fashion show. I saw one of her dresses, thought it was gorgeous and immediately wanted it.
Lincy: After the event, I received a call that she wanted the dress and that was super emotional for me.
Kim: It’s exciting for me to hear how excited she was because one day she’s going to be famous, and I’ll get to say that I have a Lincy original and I was maybe her first customer.
Lincy: I arrived in this country and began to work again doing what I love so much. Kim is the person who opened the doors to my business, the first person to ask me to create one of my designs. I know she is one of the many other clients I am going to have in the future.
Kim: To hear Lincy say what that meant to her means a lot to me. I still remember moving here to Arizona from the other side of the country, and it was very difficult to leave everyone I’ve ever known behind and come to a new place.
When I’m having a bad day I think about her courage and everything that she’s fighting for and through, and it just inspires me to want to be like her: strong and courageous and just not give up—never give up!...I’m lucky to know her. I mean look at this smile, this laugh! How do you not smile and laugh with her?
Lincy: When people recognize what you’ve gone through, it’s like saying, ‘If she got through it, I can, too.’ Today the sun rises and later it will set. Tomorrow is another day. We need to keep smiling because each day is one second of your life and you should live it to the fullest.
If I didn’t have Kim’s friendship or the friendships of many people I’ve met in this country, I would feel like I did when I was a young girl: completely alone. It’s beautiful and very moving when you arrive in a country and language isn’t a barrier to create a friendship. It’s moving when someone opens their doors to you. I don’t have my mom, dad or my sisters, but I have friends.
Kim: I would encourage anyone who feels strongly that someone like Lincy shouldn’t be here...I would take them both for coffee, for tea. I don’t know how anyone could spend five minutes with Lincy and not have a change of heart.
Lincy: It was so wonderful and emotional when Kim took me to a Honduran restaurant for my birthday. It was a big surprise.
Kim: I do worry a lot about Lincy. I do know that she came to the U.S. to be safe and I do hope that she is safe here. The reality is that transgender women of color face disproportionate rates of violence, even in this country...It is worth noting that even after all she’s been through and all the challenges that she’s faced, it can still be a scary place for a woman like Lincy.
Lincy: I want to say that we all have a story in this life, very different, but we all have a story to tell. Unfortunately, society and countries have made thousands of divisions. Don’t make divisions yourself, make a union.
Editor’s note, October 16, 2020: This interview was conducted in the fall of 2019 but Lincy and Kim remain close. Not only have they supported one another through the pandemic, they’ve worked together on a project Lincy spearheaded to send much-needed items to her native Honduras in time for Christmas. The six boxes she collected of clothes, toys, and other items were sent in October.
“She had this wonderful, beautiful, generous idea and she made it happen,” Kim says.
Lincy, for her part, is grateful her friend is always beside her.
“For everything I want to create, Kim says, ‘Yes, I’ll support you,’” Lincy says. “ It’s very wonderful because she is always here.
“I just want to ask people who have friendships right now to take care of them. Value them. Check in on them. You have to enjoy every moment and every second. Where there’s a friend, there’s an open door...always.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
"Stories of Welcome" is a series of portraits and conversations that showcase the growing bonds between refugees and their fellow Americans. Read more of these moving stories.