Things That Matter

This Trans Inmate Was Denied Access To Gender Reassignment Surgery But That Could Change With This Recent Court Ruling

Black and Pink / Facebook

In a surprising turn of events, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Friday that the state of Idaho must provide gender confirmation surgery for its transgender prison inmates. This upheld the original decision made by the US District Court: that denying inmates the surgery amounted to a violation of the US Constitution. While this is definitely a momentous step forward for trans rights, despite the rise of conservatism in today’s America, the story doesn’t end there. No, that would just be too simple. 

It’s worth knowing the background to the case.

Facebook / Black and Pink

The decision didn’t just appear out of nowhere. The original ruling came as a result of a lawsuit an inmate of Idaho State Correctional Center, Adree Edmo, brought to the Idaho Department of Correction and its medical provider, Corizon, in 2017. Having struggled with her gender identity, attempted suicide and also tried to castrate herself, Edmo contended that the state’s refusal to provide her with the gender confirmation surgery she needs amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Ultimately, it’s a contravention of her Eighth Amendment rights.

Edmo has been forced to live as a male in an all-male prison.

Instagram / @kneffertiti

Despite the fact that Edmo has been living as a woman for years, she has been housed in a men’s prison during that time, and so far been denied what is clearly needed medical care. “They certainly would treat a prisoner with cancer, they treat a prisoner with diabetes, or other chronic conditions,” Deborah Ferguson, an attorney for Edmo, said in a recent interview. “So, we have a medically recognized condition that’s very treatable and we have been trying to get her the treatment that she very much needs.”

Nevertheless, the state says that it’ll take the case to the US Supreme Court.

Instagram / @governorbradlittle

“The court’s decision is extremely disappointing,” Idaho Governor Brad Little said in response to the decision. “The hardworking taxpayers of Idaho should not be forced to pay for a convicted sex offender’s gender reassignment surgery when it is contrary to the medical opinions of the treating physician and multiple mental health professionals.”

With this verdict, Edmo could be transferred to a women’s prison.

Youtube/ 6 On Your Side

Granted, it would seem that this statement flies in the face of other known facts related to the case. So, let’s clear it all up, now. Firstly, Edmo was diagnosed with gender dysmorphia back in 2012. Considering that she has been living as a woman for years, now, despite the risks this would pose while she is being detained in a men’s prison, would suggest that she is in need of support and treatment. In other words, as the decision determined, Edmo should undergo gender confirmation surgery and be transferred to a women’s detention center afterwards.

The state government doesn’t want to pay for the surgery.

Instagram / @7pmfortune

As far as costs to the state go, that’s a little more complicated. The contract that the state currently has with Corizon sees that necessary medical care is already covered. And, naturally, that contract was paid for with money collected from taxes. But, the contract is also designed to provide for the healthcare of many other prison inmates, too. Because, at the end of the day, imprisonment isn’t designed to violate an individual’s constitutional rights. And you know what? If Little was so concerned about taxpayer dollars, then maybe the state wouldn’t have forked out over $300,000 to fight a procedure that, at most, would cost $30,000.

But wait a minute … Edmo is a sex offender?

Instagram / @projectfluxdance

Yeah. She pled guilty to charges that she sexually abused a 15 year old when Edmo herself was about 22 years of age. The fact of the matter is that, simply because she committed a crime – and a heinous one at that – doesn’t mean that she waives any and all needed medical care. This case is about upholding the tenets around basic human rights.

This court decision could lead to more inmates getting the care they require.

Instagram / @crazyfactorypiercing

Part of the problem with Little’s statement to the media isn’t just that he has provided inaccuracies. It also ties into a larger narrative concerning the LGBTQI community that paints queer people as pedophiles and predators. Recent reports of people posing as gay men on Twitter in an attempt to associate queerness with pedophilia continue to propagate that false narrative. And this isn’t a new thing, either – last year a fake LGBTQI account was set up to promote pedophilia at an Oregon Pride Parade.

Chances are Governor Little is less concerned about the current case, and more worried about the precedent it sets for the future. Currently, five other inmates in the state of Idaho have requested for gender confirmation surgery. As Edmo is set to be the first person to undergo gender confirmation surgery while in custody, her victory may forge a pathway forward for others in a similar position.

Amelio Robles Ávila Was Mexico’s First Trans Soldier And A Revolutionary Hero, More Than 100 Years Ago

Culture

Amelio Robles Ávila Was Mexico’s First Trans Soldier And A Revolutionary Hero, More Than 100 Years Ago

Today is Mexico’s Independence Day! After a war that lasted over 11 years, Mexico achieved independence from Spanish rule and would begin a path toward self-determination. On September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, launched the Mexican War of Independence. Yes, decolonize! 

To celebrate Mexican history, we’ll be focusing on one hero today, not of the Mexican War of Independence but of the Mexican Revolution. Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila is recognized as the first trans soldier in the Mexican military’s history. A decorated colonel, Ávila lived as a man from the age of roughly 22 or 24 until the day he died at 95 years old. 

While some believe it was Ávila’s wealthy family that allowed him to live life as his truest self, it certainly may have helped, but his courage in battle and in life must be honored and celebrated. Ávila’s identity was not always met with kindness, but the soldier was well-equipped to deal with challenges to his gender. The pistol-whipping colonel was a ladies man, skilled marksmen, and hero. This is the story of Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila. 

Amelio Robles Ávila

Amelio Robles Ávila was born to a wealthy family on November 3, 1889, in Xochipala, Guerrero. In his youth, Ávila attended a Catholic school for little girls where he was taught to cook, clean, and sew. However, at a young age, he began to express his gender identity. He showed an aptitude for things that were, at the time perceived to be, masculine like handling weapons, taming horses, and marksmanship. 

Perhaps, it was a natural response, if not the only response, to being pressured to conform to a gender identity that isn’t yours —  Ávila was perceived as stubborn, rebellious, and too much to handle for the school nuns. But it would be his tenacity and obstinance that served him in the long run. 

In 1911, when Ávila was arranged to be married to a man, he enlisted as a revolutionary instead. 

Not a woman dressed as a man, just a man.

To force the resignation of President Porfirio Dîaz and later, to ensure a social justice-centered government, Mexico needed to engage much of its population in warfare. This meant that eventually women were welcomed with many limitations. Soldaderas were able to tend to wounded soldiers or provide food for the militia but were prohibited from combat and could not have official titles. 

Ávila legally changed his first name from Amelia to Amelio, cut his hair, and became one of Mexico’s most valuable and regarded revolutionaries. 

“To appear physically male, Robles Ávila deliberately chose shirts with large chest pockets, common in rural areas, and assumed the mannerisms common among men at the time,” according to History.com

While he was not the only person assigned female to adopt a male persona to join the war, unlike many others Ávila kept his name and lived as a man until the day he died. 

“After the war was over, their part in it was dissolved along with whatever rank they held during the fight, and they were expected to return to subservient roles. Some did,” writes Alex Velasquez of Into. “Others, like Amelio Robles Ávila, lived the rest of their lives under the male identities they had adopted during the war.”

You come at the king, you best not miss.

Ávila fought courageously in the war until its end. Becoming a Colonel with his own command, he was decorated with three stars by revolutionary general Emiliano Zapata. He led and won multiple pivotal battles where his identity and contributions were respected. 

However, that respect was sometimes earned through empathy other times through the whip of his pistol. Ávila was a man and anyone who chose to ignore this fact would be taught by force. On one occasion, when a group of men tried to “expose” him by tearing off his clothes, Ávila shot and killed two of the men in self-defense. 

Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila

Unsurprisingly, Ávila was a bit of a ladies man, though he finally settled down with Angela Torres and together they adopted their daughter Regula Robles Torres. In 1970, he was recognized by the Mexican Secretary of National Defense as a veterano as opposed to a veterana of the Mexican Revolution, thus Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila is considered the first trans soldier documented in Mexican military history. The swag is infinite! 

After the war, Ávila was able to live comfortably as a man where he devoted his life to agriculture. He lived a life, that still for so many trans people around the world seems unfathomable. Colonel Ávila lived to be 95 years old and the rest  — no all of it — is history. 

Mexico Has Become The World’s Second-Deadliest Country For Transgender People To Live

Things That Matter

Mexico Has Become The World’s Second-Deadliest Country For Transgender People To Live

Ted Eytan / Flickr

In Mexico, many in the trans community have become fearful for their lives as a record number of trans people have been killed in the country. Even with a pro-LGBTQ+ rights government at the helm, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office Dec. 1, has yet to put out any protections that would protect transgender people. 

Upon taking office, President López Obrador made promises that his administration would conduct “effective” investigations into LGBTQ+ hate crimes and physical attacks. So far, these promises haven’t led to any changes violence has continued to increase against the LGBTQ+ community, according to a recent study by the LGBTQ+ rights group, Letra S.

From 2013-2018, 261 trans women have been killed in Mexico. Brazil is the only country more dangerous than Mexico for trans women.

Credit: @AP / Twitter

While the study reflects numbers over a five-year span mostly before President López Obrador took office, death rates for trans women have already surged this year. 16 transgender women were reportedly killed from January to April this year already and at least six more since then, according to the Associated Press

These growing numbers aren’t just a reflection of the dangers in Mexico but in Latin America as whole where these trends have continued. Trans women in Latin America are some of the most at-risk citizens facing sky-high rates of violence, sexual abuse, and homicide. An Amnesty International survey found that 88 percent of LGBTQ+ asylum-seekers from these areas have suffered sexual and gender-based violence in their countries of origin. From 2006 to 2016, 1,654 trans and gender-diverse people were killed in Central and South America.

So what is being done to help curb these homicide rates and pursue justice for those being killed? Not much. 

Similar to other homicide-related crimes in Mexico, most of these attacks on the LGBTQ+ community have resulted in little to no actual convictions. According to the AP, less than 3 percent of LGBTQ+ homicides have resulted in a conviction since 2013.

In 2014, Mexico City became the first city in the country to allow trans people to change their gender and names on their legal birth certificates. This law has since been adopted by six of Mexico’s 32 states. Despite the progress in trans rights, a lot more needs to be done to protect people from violence and death.

There is still little being done to help the LGBTQ+ community in Mexico leaving community leaders and activists to pursue justice on their own. 

Credit: Unsplash

Kenya Cuevas, a trans sex worker in Mexico, became an activist for the LGTBQ+ community when a fellow trans sex worker was killed in front of her. On Sept. 29, 2016, Cuevas’ friend, Paola Buenrostro was shot multiple times as she entered a john’s car. Cuevas ran to her friends rescue only to have the gun pointed at her but even though man pulled the trigger, she survived as the weapon jammed. She would hold the man until authorities came. She recorded everything that happened on her phone for evidence. 

Despite Cuevas recording the incident and multiple witnesses on hand, the gunman was released from custody within a week. The incident lit a fire within Cuevas and inspired her to take matters into her own hands. She left the sex work industry and founded the organization Casa de Muñecas, a group that focuses on promoting protections for transgender women. 

Cuevas has quickly become one of the most recognizable trans activists in Mexico who is calling for legal change in the country that would protect the trans community.

“When that happened to Paola, I protested and I did it publicly, asking for justice the entire time,” Cuevas told the AP. “I don’t want special treatment. Just give me justice — do your job.”

Women are leading the charge when it comes to supporting LGBTQ+ rights and protections in Mexico. 

Credit: @sentinelglobe / Twitter

The fight for the protection and equal rights for trans women in Mexico has been an uphill battle for many activist organizations. When it comes to finding jobs, employers have openly refused to hire transgender women which has resulted in many looking for sex work. In return, these limited opportunities have led to many of these women being on the streets where there are dangerous conditions. 

The increase in violence against trans women in Mexico is a reflection of the overall dangerous situation in the country where homicide rates have reached record highs. Murders in Mexico have spiked in the first half of this year and at this current pace, it will most likely be the highest on record, according to official data.

Lina Pérez, president of the pro-LGBTQ organization Cuenta Conmigo, told the AP that the trans community is constantly left behind when it comes to receiving help because they are often shunned by police.

“It’s easier to grant impunity because the same people that oversee the law think that they’re sick, that there is something wrong with them,” Pérez said.

Cuevas said she will do whatever it takes to support LGBTQ+ rights and fight on behalf of the memory of her slain friend. This means having to deal with constant death threats if the Mexico government won’t take action. 

“If I don’t do it, the government isn’t going to do it,” Cuevas said. “And if I wait for the government to do it, how many more people are going to be killed?”

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