The Mortal Danger Of Being Trans In Latin America
The murder of a trans activist in Honduras, and new report on violence against LGBTQ+ across the region, shines a light on the place where it's simply not safe to be a trans person.
BOGOTÁ — On September 26, Honduran trans rights activist Tatiana García was stabbed to death in her home in the western city of Santa Rosa de Copán. The targeted murder also put a tragic end to García's work helping LGBTQ+ people to file hate-crime complaints in Honduras — indeed, she was the 17th LGBTQ+, and fourth trans, murder victim this year in the country of 9.9 million people.
In a region with a long history of violence toward LGBTQ+, Honduras is among the most dangerous places in Latin America to be gay, lesbian or trans. In June, the Interamerican Court of Human Rights held the Honduran state responsible for the 2009 death of trans activist Vicky Hernandez. The court ordered the country to carry out a public act of recognition of responsibility and to adopt a procedure to recognize gender identity in identity documents, and other measures to defend LGBTQ+ rights.
Instead, during his first speech after the court's sentence, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández called those who defend the right to abortion and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, enemies of independence. He warned of the danger of "wanting to install in the schools ... anti-value concepts such as gender ideology, that seeks to ignore how God brings a boy and a girl into the world."
Honduras transphobia on the spotlight
Sin Violencia, a network that documents violence against LGBTQ+ communities across 11 countries of Latin America and The Caribbean, launched this June their report "Deciphering violence in times of quarantine," quantifying and comparing homicides of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans and intersex people in the region, in 2019 and 2020.
It was reported that Honduras was one of the three countries, alongside Mexico and Colombia, where violence against LGBTQ+ people increased during the pandemic year of 2020 in comparison to 2019. Since Vicky Hernández's murder in 2009, 390 LGBTQ+ people have died in the Central American country, according to Cattrachas Organisation, a human rights group that documents statistics of violence against LGBTQ+ people and monitors the media on these topics.
Violence against LGBTQ+ people continues to be a constant across Latin America.
La Prensa, one of Honduras' biggest newspapers, reported on the assassination of Tatiana García in a way that Cattrachas characterized as "transphobia accomplice journalism." Articles included putting quote marks around her name, and using her former name to refer to her as a man.
"They began to talk about a man, and Tatiana was not a man, she was a trans woman, an activist and a warrior," said Candance Chávez, a Mexican trans activist who decided to flee Latin America after suffering several violent attacks. "It is terrible that even in our own death, we are invisible."
Marlon Acuña, the regional coordinator of Sin Violencia, spoke to Worldcrunch about the importance of journalism for diversity. "Learning to differentiate terms and using assertive and dignifying languages which are distinctive and accurate, will be a tool for registering cases".
Candance Chávez protesting at 2020 London women's strike
Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra
The pandemic effect on the regional figures
Acuña said the organization's recent report confirms that violence against LGBTQ+ people continues to be a constant across Latin America, and was aggravated by the pandemic. Researchers found that the extended periods of confinement created isolation and the public focus shifted to maintaining health measures, while an uptick was registered in the use of firearms in prejudice-based violence during the period.
Sin Violencia found that at least 1,949 LGBTQ+ people have been killed in Latin America and the Caribbean from 2014 to 2020. Over the past two years, 689 LGBTQ+ people were killed, out of which 238 were trans women, in the 11 countries covered by the study.
Transfemale or transmasculine are important distinctions.
Acuña said it is important to work with authorities to better classify the people targeted: "It is an issue to find registers of homicide data that don't identify if the victim was transfemale, transmasculine, which are important distinctions for classifying the case."
Migrating to escape violence
Candance Chávez, like Tatiana García in Honduras, worked in her native Mexico to advocate for the rights of trans people. But she too was repeatedly a target. In the most recent attack, she sustained a permanent knee injury, and finally decided to leave the country, emigrating to Britain. "The last attack was simply for walking down the street," she recalled. "From episodes like that one you realize how far you are exposed."
Chávez is now planning workshops for health professionals on how to provide medical care for trans people. She also wants to create a consultancy to guide would-be trans women in a healthy transition.
She describes the energy that activism gives her. "That revolution is what keeps me believing, in order to turn all this fear, this pain, this anguish and this suffering for my sisters, into the strength to stand up." The only regret, however, is that for now being an activist must be limited to the county that adopted her on another continent. Back in Latin America, it's simply too dangerous.
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