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Entries in trans (3)

Thursday
Nov202014

We All Deserve Justice

@HuffPost

You don't have to be a human rights activist to know that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans can get you killed pretty much anywhere.

Tragically, we can cite numerous examples: the 2012 assassination of LGBT activistErick Alexander Martinez Avila in Honduras; the brutal 2013 murder of Eric Lembembe, an activist and openly gay man in Cameroon; and just weeks ago, the sickening murder of Jennifer Laude, a trans woman in the Philippines.

In addition, there are the countless nameless cases--the depressing statistics in numerous reports by local and international human rights groups, as well as theUnited Nations.

Commonly, those responsible for the violence are rarely brought to justice. Prosecutions occur only (when they do) after long and sustained pressure by LGBT activists who are putting their own lives and liberty at risk in this cause.

Yesterday, the United Nations sought to remedy this situation.

The U.N. General Assembly's main committee dealing with human rights adopted an updated version of a biannual resolution to demand justice for all killings based on discriminatory grounds, including murders motivated by a person's real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Only one country voted against the resolution--the Pacific island of Kiribati, although its no vote was later sought changed to "abstain." The 2012 version of the resolution had had 35 cosponsoring countries--this year, it had almost twice as many, at 63.

The vote reflects an evolution in thinking that has become a broad consensus among the world's nations: no one should be killed because of who they are, and murders and extrajudicial killings should be promptly and independently investigated.

This view alone, though, misses an important nuance of the process around the resolution's adoption.

During the negotiations over the resolution, a group of countries led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia proposed to eliminate language referring to the groups of people who, research shows, are most at risk of being killed.

The text these countries wanted to delete made reference to those subject to racially motivated violence; persons belonging to national or ethnic; religious and linguistic minorities or those targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; persons affected by terrorism or hostage-taking or those living under foreign occupation; refugees; internally displaced persons; migrants; street children; members of indigenous communities; human rights defenders; lawyers; journalists; demonstrators; and those targeted for reasons related to "honor."

On the surface, it might seem reasonable to eliminate specificity in a resolution dealing with extrajudicial killings writ large. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and others, argued that getting rid of the specific groups in the text would open it up for a broader interpretation.

Experience shows otherwise. At IGLHRC we know full well that unless people targeted for violence because of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity are explicitly included in protection efforts, they will be left out.

This is for example clear in a new publication by IGLHRC and its partners, MADRE and the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq. The publication, When Coming Out is a Death Sentence, exposes grave human rights violations and brutal violence against LGBT Iraqis, where killings based on sexual orientation and gender identity go unpunished. Last June, for example, two adolescent boys thought to be gay were killed and beheaded in Baghdad, their heads tossed in the garbage. No one has been prosecuted.

Justice is often equally elusive for the other categories mentioned in the resolution adopted yesterday at the U.N. Therefore, last week, 30 human rights organizationsjoined together to protest elimination of the specific language, sending a direct plea to all U.N. member states to protect the right to life for all through voting against the proposal from Egypt and others.

Fortunately, the plea was heard, and the proposal to eliminate targeted protections was rejected by an 82-53 vote.

Importantly, the real target of the proposal was not the list as such, but rather just one subgroup within it: individuals killed because of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This became very apparent in the debate preceding the vote on the resolution and the proposed change, in which a small handful of countries desperately attempted justifying why they would eliminate protections for human rights defenders and those under foreign occupation just to avoid extending those same protections for LGBT populations.

Let us be clear. What Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the 51 other countries who voted to exclude vulnerable groups from the resolution were saying, is that some people don't deserve justice. Those people include Erick Martinez, Eric Lembembe, Jennifer Laude, and countless other LGBT persons and activists killed because of who they are.

The U.N. resolution sends a signal across the world: no matter who we are, who we love, or where we live, we deserve justice.

Friday
Jun202014

Retrocesos y Avances en Derechos LGBT

(Con María Mercedes Gómez en alternos)

El 7 de mayo, el Tribunal Constitucional del Perú emitió un fallo que pone en evidencia el desconocimiento de los asuntos trans en Latinoamérica. El Tribunal negó a una mujer que ya había cambiado legalmente de nombre, la posibilidad de registrar su sexo en el documento nacional de identidad. Con esto, condenó a la mujer –identificada como P.E.M.M.– y por extensión a todas las personas trans, a vivir bajo el riesgo permanente de ser víctimas de violencia y discriminación.

Seamos clar*s: por orden del máximo tribunal del Perú, P.E.M.M. tendrá que declararse trans en situaciones de supervivencia diaria porque su documento la registra con sexo masculino, mientras lleva aspecto y nombre de mujer. En países como el Perú, el documento de identidad es necesario para acceder a los servicios básicos de salud, educación, trámites bancarios y atención policial, entre otros; por eso, la decisión que nos ocupa expone a esta mujer a la constante violación de su privacidad, a la discriminación y a la violencia. En la región con mayor número de asesinatos de personas trans en el mundo, la sentencia en el caso P.E.M.M. es, en la práctica, una potencial condena a muerte.

Desgraciadamente, las autoridades peruanas no son las únicas en demostrar incomprensión e intolerancia en América Latina. En Colombia, organizaciones como Colombia Diversa, Santamaría Fundación y Caribe Afirmativo reportan frecuentes asesinatos de mujeres trans sumidos en la impunidad, y múltiples formas de abuso policial dirigidos en particular a quienes se dedican al trabajo sexual, o a quienes son percibidas como trabajadoras sexuales por el simple hecho de ser trans. Hay pocos procesos, mucho menos detenidos, y miopía en la recolección de datos por parte del Estado. Lo que sabemos, lo sabemos, ante todo, por la documentación que hacen los defensores de derechos humanos. En consecuencia, el asesinato de personas trans es el crimen perfecto, porque no importa cuán brutal y común sea, es con la misma frecuencia invisible.

Las reiteradas omisiones a investigar estos delitos y la violación de los derechos humanos de las personas trans han hecho parte de la información presentada ante los comités de derechos humanos y de mujeres de las Naciones Unidas por varias organizaciones de la sociedad civil entre ellas la Comisión Internacional de Derechos Humanos para Gays y Lesbians (IGLHRC). Nuestra información prueba que los Estados han fallado en reconocer, atender y solucionar la violación de los derechos de las personas trans. Algunos Estados insisten en patologizar la identidad de género como una condición médica para acceder a los derechos fundamentales; otros crean obstáculos en los procesos de registro civil y emisión de documentos de identidad y, por lo tanto, niegan el acceso a servicios fundamentales. En América Latina parece ignorarse la terrible lección del siglo XX, que nos enseña que a las atrocidades contra una población específica preceden la estigmatización y la privación efectiva de la ciudadanía.

Sin embargo, también hay gestos de esperanza. Por ejemplo, en el mencionado caso peruano, la burda opinión de la mayoría contrasta con el salvamento de voto, pues, éste muestra la predisposición y los estereotipos en los que se basa la decisión y reitera el derecho de las personas a auto-definirse.

En Argentina hay un esfuerzo pionero en los derechos trans e intersexuales, a pesar de alguna ambigüedad en las protecciones legales con respecto a l*s menores trans. En mayo de 2012, la Argentina emitió la primera ley de identidad de género en la región. En junio de este año, el Congreso de Chile tendrá su debate final sobre un proyecto de ley similar. La ley argentina asegura que las personas adultas puedan definir su identificación de género de manera autónoma y sin someterse para hacerlo a la patologización de los discursos médicos o a la discrecionalidad del Estado a través de los funcionarios judiciales. Avances de este tipo no transforman de manera inmediata los prejuicios sociales, ni eliminan automáticamente la violencia, pero aseguran ciertos derechos y ayudan a construir una sociedad más justa.

Estos procesos legislativos, el activismo de los defensores de derechos humanos, y el valiente voto de la minoría en el Tribunal peruano, son avances fundados en el reconocimiento de nuestra humanidad compartida. Son –qué duda cabe- puntos de luz en un panorama de intolerancia y violencia. Es una tarea constante hacer que crezcan y derroten las sombras.

Friday
Mar282014

Enough With the Bathrooms: Stigma, Stereotypes and Barriers to Trans Equality

@HuffPostGay

Recently, attempts to effectively implement the right to non-discrimination for trans people in the United States has been met with fear-mongering about inappropriate use of public bathrooms.

In Maryland, a lawmaker reportedly expressed concerns that predators and pedophiles might enter women's bathrooms if that state passes a bill, currently under consideration, to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. In Arizona, some parents were worried about trans children choosing the most appropriate bathroom for themselves, lest this "infringe" on other children's "privacy." And opponents of a non-discrimination law in California, already in effect, are gathering signatures to have the law repealed, because, they say, it violates the rights of those students who may be uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a person who is trans.

In fact, integrated public bathroom use seems to be the top objection raised in the United States to advancing equal rights for trans people, especially children. There are 3 main reasons for this.

First, there is a general discomfort among many Americans with co-ed social interaction as anything other than (straight) "courting." Over the age of 5, co-ed sleepovers are seen as inappropriate by many, and school dances as early as 5th grade push the notion that you really should only show up with a "date" of the opposite gender. What children take away from these overly gendered (and hetero-centric) rules of interaction is anyone's guess, but it is clear that many parents view co-ed friendships with suspicion.

Secondly, there is a common conflation of nudity and sex in US media and public discourse. It is telling that the discomfort around trans people's public bathroom use is about potential sexual interactions rather than actually using the toilets.

As a logical proposition, the argument that bathroom use must be strictly divided on the basis of genitalia in order to prevent public sex has always confused me. For starters, experience shows that such interactions can and do happen without any connection to trans people. Most of us remember the 2007 bathroom stall incidentthat ultimately had Senator Larry Craig of Idaho resign, and news of cis straight couples having sex in public bathrooms surface with monotonous regularity. Moreover, it would be impossible to police genitalia-based bathroom use without engaging in precisely the kind of "peeping Tom" activity those opposed to non-discrimination protections for trans people claim inevitably would follow the adoption of such measures.

Third, and most importantly, the linkage between trans equality and public bathroom use surfaces the stereotyped notion of trans people as somehow over-sexed, "perverted" or perhaps just "making it up." I have previously written about the comment reportedly made by a lawyer who was arguing against a 6-year-old trans girl's right to use the girl's bathroom at her school, with reference to the notion that the girl might be lying about her gender identity and really just want to see other girls go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, such preconceived notions about trans people just making it up or being over-sexed are not isolated to this case.

To be clear: gender identity is not about sex, it is about who we are. The founder of the website "We Happy Trans," Jen Richards, recently wrote a great piece about the fact that the trans community is as diverse as any other. Shocking, I know (not). The truth of the matter is that everyone has a right to non-discrimination, and that trans people pretty much everywhere face unique barriers to exercising this right because of stigma, stereotypes and legal obstacles to changing gender markers.

It is ridiculous that one of those barriers consistently should be someone else's discomfort with sharing a bathroom with people whose genitalia may or may not look like their own. Especially because the main point of those opposed to non-discrimination measures is that no one should be looking at anyone else's genitalia in the first place.

I say, enough with the bathrooms. No one should not have to pay for someone else's prudish illogic.