Things That Matter

A Trans Woman Recently Told Her Story About Her Surprising Romantic Relationship With A Colombian Drug Lord

We all know that narcos live a dangerous life of violent crime–it’s rare to hear a love story with a narco at its center. When you hear the words “Drug Lord”, the phrase that comes to mind is probably not “Knight in Shining Armor”. But for one Colombian trans woman stuck on the streets, her narco boyfriend ended up being just that.

Although Colombia has one of the highest murder rates in the world, (much of it attributed to drug trafficking) this trans woman found solace in the underworld that she couldn’t find from her family.

For one trans woman, her life was transformed from a life of violence on the street to a life of luxury and “glamour” because of her relationship with a Colombian drug lord.

A recent Vice article tells the story of Gabriela, a trans teenager who found herself on the streets to escape the horror of her home life. Gabriela’s story is riddled with tales of violence, homelessness, and constant danger. These stories, unfortunately, are universally common for trans women–but especially common in developing countries.

Gabriela chose to become homeless rather than live with her abusive, transphobic father. After becoming homeless, a fellow trans friend introduced her to a pimp whom she said could “help [her] earn some money.” Refusing to sell sex to earn an income, Gabriela instead acted as a sort of bodyguard for the other sex workers. According to her, she was given a knife and pepper spray by the pimp and told to “make sure that nobody came down the streets they operated on”. She was also told to rob drunk people by knife-point. Soon enough, Gabriela escalated her robberies to muggings and store-holdups at gunpoint.

But one day, everything changed for Gabriela. After months spent on the streets, a mysterious man named Carlos came down the street her and other sex workers were operating on. Although he was searching for trans sex workers to pay for, him and Gabriela ended up hitting it off. He took Gabriela for something to eat and opened up to her, admitting that he was “lonely”.

On their initial date, Carlos revealed that he was a “major player” in the Colombian drug world. In other words, he was a narco.

Carlos’s revelation did not deter Gabriela. Soon after, she and Carlos developed an intimate connection. However, elements of the relationship were still undeniably transactional. For instance, Carlos paid for Gabriela’s apartment and her lifestyle in general. But regardless of the power imbalance of their relationship, Gabriela insists that Carlos was a true romantic. taking her expensive dates across the country. He would take her on  “motorbike rides” in the countryside, to her favorite deep house raves, they would relax in his jacuzzi together.

What’s more, Gabriela’s relationship with Carlos was widely accepted within the Colombian narco underworld.

According to Gabriela, Carlos “never tried to hide” their relationship. “He introduced me to all of his associates, who were all okay with me once they got to know me,” she said in her interview. “The fact that I was transgender soon became an incidental detail.” In fact, Gabriela believes that her relationship with Carlos may have helped change the mindset of the more conservative members of the Colombian cartel community. “I would like to think that the fact I dated Carlos broke down a few barriers and lessened the stigma associated with going out with trans women,” she says.

Gabriela insists that she almost never saw the “darker side” of Carlos. Only once did Gabriela suspect Carlos’s violent tendencies–when an intoxicated woman disappeared after acting belligerent at a party. But despite the love between them, things did not last between Gabriela and Carlos. Wanting to improve her English as well as experience a “change of scenery”, Gabriela decided to move to the U.S. to stay with her mother.

Once she broke up with Carlos, he “went crazy” and started “shooting up his house”, according to Gabriela.

But despite his erratic behavior, Gabriela insists that she wasn’t afraid of him hurting her. “People have different ways of handling breakups,” she said. “And that was just his way of dealing with it”. Once Gabriela moved to the U.S., she tried her hand at drug-dealing too, selling benzos and amphetamines to make ends meet. Despite her moderate success at selling drugs, she ended up returning to Colombia. Once she returned, she discovered that Carlos was having her followed.

Now at 25, Gabriela says she is “glad she got to have” the experience of dating a Colombian drug lord. “He always treated me well and he helped me out when I was in a desperate situation,” she said to Vice. She looks back at her time in the drug underworld as a “fun stage of her life”. Despite the fact that Gabriela looks back fondly on her days in the narco underworld, there are countless others whose lives have been negatively impacted by Latin American cartels. It’s fortunate the Gabriela was never hurt, but her story is not one to be admired.

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