Things That Matter

During Pride Month, Let’s Remember The Trans Latinas Who Have Recently Died While In ICE Custody

Trans people are likely the most vulnerable and persecuted population in America. Add race and status discrimination to the mix and trans mortality dramatically shortens. Eight black trans women have been murdered in the U.S. so far this year. And yet, the United States might be the safest, geographically accessible country in the Americas for trans people.

In the last few years, there has been an influx of trans people seeking asylum from the violence they experience in Central America and Mexico. When they arrive, they’re placed in ICE detention centers where their abuse and mistreatment has resulted in two reported deaths in just over a year.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviewed 28 transgender women held in ICE and released its report.

@bdnews24 / Twitter

In 2016, the HRW reported “serious and disturbing allegations of sexual harassment and abuse, of mistreatment, of the dangers of being placed with the male population, and [lack of access] to medical treatment.”

Women were being forced to endure strip searches from male guards. The solution to the abuse they faced in male populations was to place them in solitary confinement, rather than a female population.

Johana Medina Leon asked for medical attention for weeks before she died on June 1st.

@Dr_Whomever / Twitter

She pled for medical attention for weeks. On May 28th, ICE finally complied and she found she tested positive for HIV. ICE released her on parole, to be sent to an El Paso hospital with chest pains and died days later. Officials haven’t released a cause of death yet.

Medina Leon had passed the first round of the interview process to gain asylum from El Salvador.

@NMACCommunity / Twitter

She was held in detention over a month before her first interview and was going into her second month at the Otero processing center–a privately owned facility notorious for its abuses against the LGBTQ+ community.

Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez traveled from Honduras to seek asylum in the U.S. She died in ICE custody.

@ajplus / Twitter

Hernandez Rodriguez died on May 9, 2018. The official autopsy reports that she died of severe dehydration–a shockingly preventable death. Independent autopsies commissioned by civil rights activists discovered the proof of abuse Hernandez Rodriguez faced during her 16 days in ICE custody.

Hernandez Rodriguez had anonymously shared her stories of rape as a trans woman in Honduras.

@aflores / Twitter

She was part of the migrant caravan that the media decided to cover last year. The independent autopsies revealed that she had been beaten while in custody. ICE denies the allegations.

Medina Leon, 23, and Hernandez Rodriguez, 33, exemplify ICE’s inability to provide appropriate medical care to trans asylum seekers.

@MaketheRoadNY / Twitter

There is currently no policy that forces ICE to place transgender immigrants in the gender population of their expression. HRW reports that the most significant danger to a trans woman in ICE custody is being misgendered and placed in the male population. One trans woman interviewed revealed she was raped by three men in a detention center in Arizona.

More than 26,000 people have petitioned to release Alejandra Barrera, the longest detained trans woman.

@sonsandbros / Twitter

Barrera has been in an ICE facility since November 2017 when she first reached the border seeking asylum from El Salvador. In the last 19 months, she has had no opportunity to build a new life and is at increased risk of sexual violence while in ICE.

The Trans Latina Coalition is working to make sure Barrera is released.

@TransLatina_C / Twitter

Barrera experienced sexual assault by a gang and the Salvadoran military before leaving her work of trans right advocacy in El Salvador for a semblance of safety. Yet, her request for parole has been denied and she remains behind bars, without adequate access to medical care.

While LGBT people make up .1 percent of ICE detainees, they account for 12 percent of the victims of sexual assault.

@AlturiOrg / Twitter

ICE reported to Congress that 40 trans people were placed in solitary confinement in 2017. Twenty-five of whom requested the confinement, which is internationally recognized as torture because being in gen pop was unsafe.

Trans people seeking refuge are only finding abuse and death in U.S. detention centers. ICE refuses to accept any responsibility for these preventable deaths, perhaps because they think nobody is watching.

READ: New York City Is Finally Dedicating A Memorial To The Two Trans Women Of Color Who Started The Gay Liberation Movement

Puerto Rico’s LGBTQ Community Is Under Attack And The Government Is Doing Little To Help

Things That Matter

Puerto Rico’s LGBTQ Community Is Under Attack And The Government Is Doing Little To Help

Gabriella Baez

The Coronavirus has shaken Puerto Rico as it’s faced more than 2,000 cases and 114 deaths. And this health pandemic has come amid the island’s ongoing recovery from a string of earthquakes and Hurricane Maria. But the island is also suffering from an epidemic of anti-LGBTQ violence.

In 2020 alone, there have been more than 10 murders of LGBTQ individuals – five of them have been trans women and authorities have solved only three of them. For many in the community, it’s a shock to see that the island is right back where they were ten years ago when the island suffered another rash of LGBTQ-targeted killings.

Hate crimes have risen amid the island’s struggle to contain the Coronavirus pandemic.

Credit: Gabriella Baez / Getty

Puerto Rico has been hit by an “epidemic of violence” with five transgender murders in two months.

Opposition lawmakers and campaigners called on the government to publicly acknowledge and investigate the violence, after the bodies of two trans women were found inside a charred car last week and another trans woman was killed in February. 

“Trans people are living in fear, they are terrified,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesman for the Broad Committee for the Search for Equality, an LGBT+ rights advocacy group. 

“It’s as if they’ve opened hunting season against the LGBT+ community, and they’re hunting us, they’re looking for us and they are killing us,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Trans women have been particularly targeted in several gruesome attacks.

Out of the 10 deaths affecting the LGBTQ community, five of them have been trans women.

One woman was killed after being placed in a men’s prison after authorities refused to admit her to a women’s prison. There, she was beaten, tortured, raped and hanged. Her attackers have since been arrested and convicted.

Two trans women were shot and then burned alive in their vehicle. And then another trans women, Alexa, was brutally attacked after being followed by groups of social media trolls

”The killing of a person believed to be a transgender woman that has shocked and angered many in Puerto Rico is likely a hate crime,” Gov. Wanda Vázquez said Tuesday.

“Everything points to this being a hate crime, and that’s how it will be treated,” she said.

Homophobic rhetoric from politicians and religious leaders may have fuelled the bloodshed. 

The current Puerto Rican government has been embroiled in scandal after scandal and much of it has revolved around it’s obvious homophobic rhetoric. The government is working to roll back hard on protections, including adoption rights, hospital visitation, and abortion rights.

Puerto Rico’s leaders have also attempted to pass a ‘religious liberty’ bill that would legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

When a government gives permission to discriminate, you’ll see the spike in violence like the island is seeing. If the government isn’t going to do anything to stop the violence and the police are less likely to investigate, society feels like it can literally get away with murder.

For many, the growing violence is a shock considering Puerto Rico has been making progress against homophobia and transphobia.

Just ten years ago, Puerto Rico suffered another rash of homophobic violence after eight gay and bi men were killed in the span of a couple of months. Their murders shocked much of the country and led to the progress that many borinqueños are proud of.

While many other Caribbean islands outlaw gay sex, the U.S. territory has introduced legal reforms, legalising same-sex marriage in 2015 and allowing trans people to change their gender on birth certificates in 2018.

In fact, Puerto Rico enacted legislation and protections that secured it’s spot at number 20 among the 55 U.S. states and territories when it comes to LGBTQ protections.

Afro-Puerto Rican Trans Voguing Legend Leiomy Maldonado To Judge Voguing Competition Show

Culture

Afro-Puerto Rican Trans Voguing Legend Leiomy Maldonado To Judge Voguing Competition Show

wond3rwoman1 / Instagram

There’s no doubt that FX’s hit show “Pose” put voguing on the mainstream map. Queer people of color are the central characters of the show and the authentic and unflinching representation has changed the television landscape. So, of course, HBO is now bringing Ballroom culture to millions.

Afro-Puerto Rican voguing superstar Leiomy Maldonado is bringing Ballroom to the masses.

Trans voguing royalty Leiomy Maldonado, also known as Amazon Leiomy, will be a judge on HBOmax’s new competition show called “Legendary.” Eight houses will be competing on the show bringing Ballroom culture from underground and fiction to mainstream. The trailer for the show is already promising some gag-worthy moments as the Ballroom houses deliver incredible dancing.

Maldonado is a Ballroom veteran and house mother so her judgment on the show will hold a lot of weight.

Maldonado has been voguing in the Ballroom scene since she was a teenager. The Ballroom world gave Maldonado a chance to truly explore who she was and gave her a space to understand her trans identity.

As an Afro-Puerto Rican trans woman, Maldonado’s family had work to do to fully understand her. While Maldonado previously told mitú that it wasn’t until she was on “America’s Best Dance Crew” that they understood what her transition and dancing career meant.

Dashaun Wesley, also known as Dashaun Lanvin, will also be part of “Legendary” as the MC while Jameela Jamil will be a judge.

At first, Jamil was cast as the host and judge of “Legendary” but fans of Ballroom culture were not having it. The announcement faces instant and severe backlash and Jamil was suddenly no longer the host. It was shortly after the controversy that Jamil came out as queer and people questioner her motive for coming out.

There is so much love going to the people bringing this show to life.

This is a time of increasing representation on television. People want to see their stories and stories of the people they know and love reflected on big and small screens. HBOmax is taking the desire and offering people a chance to see their own queer identities and identities of those they love broadcast to the world.

Honestly, the name is perfectly fitting for the caliber of talent they have on the show.

Maldonado and Lanvin are among the most talked about and respected dancers in the voguing community. Maldonado is the mother of The House of Amazon, hence her nickname Amazon Leiomy. Lanvin’s own expertise in Ballroom culture landed him a spot on FX’s “Pose.” Lanvin plays Shadow Wintour in the series and serves the looks and moves to keep the show as exciting as it has ever been.

“Legendary” will be streaming on HBOmax on May 27.

Make sure you tune in to watch the various houses slay all day on that runway. They are guaranteed to give it all because that is just how voguers do. Thank you to all of the queer people of color who are putting this and other POC LGBTQ+ stories on the map one platform at a time.

READ: This Trans Puerto Rican Voguing Master Is So Iconic That Even Beyonce Imitated Her Dance Moves