Whereas celebrating her sixteenth birthday at a homosexual bar in Puerto Rico a number of years in the past, Lina, a trans girl, mentioned an older man drugged her and tried to rape her. She then sought out the police to report her expertise.
“After I turned to the police station, they mentioned, ‘You have been in a homosexual bar, what have been you anticipating?’” she mentioned in an interview with CBS Information. “And it’s stuff that will, to them, be so insignificant, however for us, it adjustments our life.”
She now works at Loverbar, an LGBTQ-friendly bar situated close to a busy space in San Juan. Now in her early 20s, Lina mentioned it’s one of many uncommon locations she feels protected as a trans individual on the island.
“The moment that I am going out, I really feel scared, as a result of I don’t know what some man can do to me,” Lina mentioned. “What if the police sees me and assaults me?”
She is just not alone. Activist teams and victims say transgender persons are targets of violence from each Puerto Rican residents and from native police for expressing their gender id, and that police are sometimes dismissive of crime victims who’re transgender. Of the 44 transgender or gender non-conforming individuals who have been fatally shot or killed by violent means in 2020 within the U.S., six have been killed on the island, accounting for 14% of the deaths — greater than any state or territory, in line with monitoring by the Human Rights Campaign. Not less than one trans individual was killed earlier this 12 months, the group mentioned.
Along with Lina, two nonbinary individuals advised CBS Information that their associates have been additionally victimized.
Ínaru Nadia de la Fuente Díaz, who’s a part of La Sombrilla Cuir, an LGBT advocacy group, mentioned that after a trans girl was stabbed in her house in Rio Piedras final October, she ran to police bleeding and bare. De la Fuente Díaz, who labored with the lady, mentioned she was misgendered by police — including that officers “didn’t do something.”
“As trans and Black individuals too, we get invisibilized rather a lot in our communities,” de la Fuente Díaz mentioned.
Dania Warhol, founding father of a bunch devoted to telling the tales of girls, LGBTQ and Black and Brown individuals, mentioned that whereas driving with associates one 12 months round Christmas time in Trujillo Alto, simply outdoors of San Juan, considered one of them mentioned she was raped by police on a close-by highway.
“One of many girls who was with me, she was like, ‘Oh, you understand, that is the route the place police take us after they wish to rape us,’” Warhol mentioned, including that the buddy mentioned she was additionally a sufferer.
Officers with Puerto Rico’s police power didn’t deny allegations of sexual assaults by officers.
When requested about whether or not officers have sexually assaulted trans individuals, Lieutenant Aimée Alvarado, director of the crimes towards girls and home violence unit on the Puerto Rico Police Division, advised CBS Information that “it might have occurred.”
“Contained in the police there are rotten apples, which we remorse that there are, however that may occur,” she mentioned in Spanish. “We aren’t good individuals. I’d love for my cops to be good. However we’re not.”
Alvarado mentioned police who conduct such crimes don’t belong within the police division. However she additionally mentioned she believes that there was a “change of tradition” inside the power, and claimed any situations of rape possible occurred years in the past.
And whereas Alvarado acknowledged issues within the police power, she mentioned “the numbers don’t inform us” that there’s a widespread tradition of violence towards transgender individuals on the island.
However statistics on violence towards the LGBTQ group are troublesome to search out — or don’t exist in any respect. The Puerto Rico police’s most up-to-date crime statistics don’t include hate crimes or whether or not victims of violent acts have been members of the LGBTQ group.
Puerto Rico’s first-ever hate crime prices have been filed last year by federal prosecutors within the case of two transgender girls, Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, 32, and Layla Pelaez Sánchez, 21, who have been allegedly by two males. On August 6, federal authorities charged for the 2020 assault of a transgender girl. Activists recognized the sufferer as “Alexa” Negrón Luciano, a homeless trans girl who was discovered killed on a highway in Toa Baja on February 24 of final 12 months – the identical day of the assault. However greater than 18 months later, her homicide continues to be below investigation, police mentioned.
Many activists say there’s a lack of general cultural acceptance for trans people.
Whereas Puerto Rico has the identical federal protections for LGBTQ people as the remainder of the U.S., help for the trans group on the native and state degree isn’t there, activists say. Earlier this 12 months, governor Pedro Pierluisi issued a state of emergency to stop and shield girls towards sweeping gender violence amid a wave of femicides. After preliminary backlash from trans girls for not particularly naming them within the order, Pierluisi clarified in a “Good Morning America” interview that they’re a part of the measure.
Marielle Nicole De León Toledo, who can be a part of La Sombrilla Cuir, advised CBS Information that the island has not embraced trans individuals, together with herself.
“You may inform that the tradition right here continues to be not prepared to just accept us…They pity us once we once we die, once we get murdered, and when violent issues occur to us, however not often, they’re there for us, once we want housing, we want medical assist, we want all of the important providers that everyone else on this island wants,” De León mentioned.
Police officers say they’ve labored to fight prejudice inside the power. After coverage adjustments in 2019, officers obtained coaching on dealing with incidents involving transgender victims, together with figuring out them by the gender with which they determine. Sergeant Yvette Rivera, who oversees the unit of crimes towards girls and home violence, advised CBS Information that personnel, particularly older ones and a few of these with conservative non secular beliefs, have been immune to observe by.
“They needed to assimilate to terminology within the insurance policies, which is breaking what they understood culturally,” Rivera mentioned in Spanish. “The definitions went towards what we discovered as youngsters and what we’ve discovered culturally of what’s right or not.”
To Rivera’s data, there has not been a criticism from a trans individual concerning misgendering — however she insisted that anybody with a criticism ought to come ahead.
Throughout American states and territories, Puerto Rico was rated as “medium” by the Motion Development Undertaking, a nonprofit suppose tank that points scores primarily based on the variety of legal guidelines and insurance policies that promote equality for LGBTQ people. Trans Puerto Ricans can change their gender on driver’s licenses and delivery certificates. Nevertheless, Puerto Rico lacks legal guidelines explicitly defending trans individuals from discrimination in housing, credit score and lending and public lodging, corresponding to a restaurant denying lavatory service to a trans individual on the idea of their gender id, in line with the venture.
Although former Governor Ricardo Rossello issued an govt order in 2019 that requires establishments in search of a license to observe medication to certify that they won’t provide or carry out conversion remedy, Puerto Rico’s legislature has not handed a full ban on the process, leaving the door open for a future governor to overturn the chief order. The debunked observe seeks to alter an individual’s sexual orientation and gender id by psychological methods.
Activists say discrimination is rampant, notably towards those that don’t bodily current as what’s usually anticipated with gender. Activists say many trans and non-binary individuals face restricted job alternatives due to discrimination, prompting many into decrease paying jobs and even prostitution, which is prohibited in Puerto Rico.
That’s why for Lina, Loverbar is so particular – it’s extra than simply work. It’s a “protected area for my id to be free,” she mentioned.
“It feels such as you’re simply there having an excellent time with associates and folks, folks that perceive you, perceive your troubles,” she mentioned. “And typically you could be unhappy, you’re gonna be annoyed, however individuals will know. They usually’re gonna hear you as a result of the issues that you’ve, are similar to them.”