Argentina has appointed the very first transgender Chief of Police in Latin America.
After having been dismissed from the police force for coming out as trans several years ago, Analía Pasantino returned to the force after a change in the administration.
Pasantino joined the police force in 1988, working as a male police officer during the day and spending her evenings in dresses. In the video above Pasantino speaks about hiding her identity and not having the courage to even get out of her car dressed as a woman. She eventually found the courage to be her true self, especially with the support of her wife.
In 2008 she finally came out and revealed to her job that she was trans. They swiftly put her on a leave of absence after having given 20 years of her life to the force. According to the Associated Press, she spent nearly a decade trying to prove her mental fitness in order to come back.
Much of Pasantino’s reinstatement is due to change in sentiments and laws in Argentina, which has become a leader in LGBT rights after making same-sex marriage legal in 2010 and passing laws allowing citizens to change their gender without having to jump through legal hoops in 2012.
There is lots of support on social media for Pasantino.
Pasantino sees her appointment as a victory for not just herself, but for others in the trans community as well, saying “At first I was a bit overwhelmed by so much attention. But I’m proud to tell this story and I hope it helps others as well.”
Trans rights in Latin America are an uphill and often heroic battle. Conservative social norms and Catholicism, both of which are generally dogmatic when it comes to any sexual or gender diversity, has shaped Mexican society into a mostly CIS-gendered, patriarchy-led society. However, there are promising signs that long-lasting change could be near and that Mexican culture could shift the tide towards a legal and everyday framework in which rights are respected.
Trans women in particular are vulnerable to discrimination, verbal abuse and physical violence.
Mexico is almost as dangerous as Brazil for trans women.
As the Associated Press reports: “Mexico has become the world’s second deadliest country after Brazil for transgender people, with 261 transgender women slain in 2013-2018, according to a recent study by the LGBTQ rights group Letra S.”
This is just appaling, as is the fact that most crimes go unpunished and that corruption in the Kaflaesque Mexican bureaucracy often leads to even more instances of abuse and trauma for the victims. The Associated Press reported late last year: “Like most crime in Mexico, nearly all such slayings go unsolved and unpunished — less than 3% of the killings of LGBTQ members have resulted in convictions since 2013. So transgender community leaders and activists are largely on their own in pursuing long-denied justice.” And remember there is no peace without justice.
Trans activists in Mexico City shut down the city’s busiest road to protest the killing of a community member.
El Periférico is one of the busiest roads in the world. Around 20 trans activists blocked it while carrying a coffin. They were protesting the killing of Paola Buenrostro in 2016. The authorities, activists claim, have done close to nothing to solve the case. They blocked El Periférico after delivering documents to the National Human Rights Commission. As CE Noticias Financieras notes, the letter states that: “It accuses the Attorney General’s Office of Mexico City (now the Prosecutor’s Office) of not recognizing the gender identity of the victim and Kenya Citlali Cuevas Fuentes, an indirect victim of the crime, as well as of discriminating them against them for being trans women and sex workers. They also noted that they failed to investigate with a gender perspective, negligence in the imputation within the initial hearing, raising evidence and chain of custody, among other misconduct.”
Paola’s friend, the aforementioned Kenya Cuevas, is leading the protest. She was there when Kenya was shot and she was close to experiencing the same fatal fate. Even though Kenya was actually there the authorities did not validate her first-hand testimony. The case turned cold and no one has been blamed for the transfeminicide.
Kenya Cuevas herself got into the coffin to stand for murdered trans and CIS women.
Sometimes the best way to fight for a cause is to be daring and doing things that can have a strong visual and symbolic impact. That is what trans rights activist Kenya Cuevas did by laying inside a coffin in broad daylight. It was a brutal image to remember. Paola’s legacy also lives on through a house for trans women in need set up under her name: this house helps trans women escape drugs and sex work that they might not want to engage in for any other reason other than survival. Kenya’s message while blocking El Peri (as the freeway is commonly known) was clear: “We are tired of being unseen, tired of being violent, tired of not being given us opportunities to succeed, we also support our families. We too are awaited by our relatives and no one cares”. We hear you, reinas hermosas!
The protest was successful and the women were granted a meeting with the Attorney’s office in Mexico City.
The protest only lasted ten minutes, but in a road as busy as El Periférico that feels like an eternity. Things got tense between drivers and activists. The police arrived and escorted the trans women to meet with Mexico City’s Attorney General Ernestina Godoy. If we measure activism by the success of their actions in terms of real political change, which can amount to having your voice heard, then we can argue that these trans women made a breakthrough that would probably not have been made without altering the public order.
And that’s what some people, mainly dudes but also some CIS women, do not understand: that trans women and feminists have to resort to methods that might be deemed as extreme, such as painting public monuments and stopping traffic. In the case of Paola’s murder, almost four years went by without the authorities being able or willing to have any developments on the case. Without becoming a real threat and momentarily disrupting traffic flow in Mexico City’s main artery, perhaps they would have never been heard.
At the beginning of 2019, Empire actor Jussie Smollett famously reported that he had been the victim of a hate crime. About three weeks later, Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report—it had been discovered that the attack was staged, and that Smollett himself had planned the whole thing. Although the charges against Smollett were dropped, he was all over headlines last year, earning a national reputation as a liar and ultimately being fired from his role on Empire.
In August of 2019, a similar situation arose within the Los Angeles Police Department, when a sheriff’s deputy falsely claimed that he was shot by a sniper outside the Lancaster police station. After days of searching for the alleged gunman, it became clear that Angel Reinosa had fabricated his story. He had not been shot, after all—instead, he had used a knife to create fake bullet wounds in his uniform, asserting that his bulletproof vest had saved his life.
“There were many things that didn’t add up,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Kent Wegener. No bullets had been recovered from the scene, and they had no leads on a suspect—they searched a nearby apartment building, assuming that the shooter was inside, but of course they found nothing.
But this didn’t exactly surprise investigators and colleagues, who were suspicious of Reinosa’s story from the very beginning. A number of sheriff’s officials told the LA Times that “his radio call about the incident was too calm even for a veteran, a hole in his shirt too big for the minor wound he claimed to have suffered.”
The LA Times also reported that by the end of the day that Reinosa made the report, the search for the suspected gunman had been halted. Homicide detectives, assisted by forensic experts, instead turned their attention to Reinosa. And by 9:30 PM, Reinosa’s involvement in the case was considered highly suspect. Not long after, he admitted to the police that he had fabricated the incident, though he didn’t reveal his motives for doing so.
In the case of Jussie Smollett, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a press conference that the motive for feigning the hate crime was fiscal in nature. He claimed that “Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career, because he was dissatisfied with his salary.” Folks have speculated that Reinosa’s situation was rather similar—it had to do with a certain dissatisfaction at work.
Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said that sheriff’s officials had divulged details about Reinosa’s difficulties with his first year in the field. Typically, the first year constitutes a probationary training period that all deputies must complete before becoming deputies, and Reinosa was struggling to keep up.
“He was not advancing through the training program at an adequate pace,” Parris said. “There had been a lot of attention on him.”
And just a few days ago, Reinosa was taken into police custody when he was served an arrest warrant during a traffic stop. He was arrested for insurance fraud and for filing a false police report, and he was transferred to Los Angeles County Jail. His bail was set at $40,000, and unlike Smollett, Reinosa was not able to immediately settle his case with a payment.
Authorities say that the charges of insurance fraud are related to the workers comp claims Reinosa made after the incident. If he is convicted of these charges, he could face up to five and a half years in county jail.
As soon as authorities discovered that the shooting had been a hoax, they called an 11 PM press conference to address the situation. In an interview, Sheriff Alex Villanueva confirmed the desire to ensure that Reinosa’s actions were met with what they deemed the appropriate legal response.
“We are all appalled and disappointed. We took the deputy at his word at first,” Villanueva said. “We intend to hold the individual responsible for breaking the law and most importantly for betraying the community.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by authorities in Smollett’s case, as well as Smollett’s fellow Empire cast members. Lee Daniels, the creator of Empire, referred to the “pain and anger and sadness and frustration” that he and his cast endured, adding that he and his team “really [didn’t] know how to deal with it.”
He also said that Empire “was made to bring America together” and to “talk about the atrocities that are happening right now in the streets”—a message that was in direct contrast with Smollett’s actions.
The Lancaster sheriff’s website expressed a similar sense of disappointment, yet also emphasized the importance of community in situations like these:
“We are saddened by the outcome of the investigation, but are so grateful to our community for their cooperation on Wednesday and your ongoing support everyday. The actions of one individual are not indicative of who Lancaster Sheriff’s Station Deputies are.”
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