Social Issues

Mexican trans grandmothers demand reparations for “dirty war” against them

Mexico City, Jun 1 (EFE).- They were hung naked from trees, thrown gagged into sewage, beaten, shot at, humiliated and discriminated against by police officers. Now, older transgender women – those who did not die along the way – are demanding that the Mexican government repair the damage, even though they know that their psychological wounds will stay with them forever.

“We’re looking for reparations. For us, it was a dirty war,” said Veronica Lopez from her small Mexico City apartment that she has made her own by placing dolls, figures and images of protest in every corner.

“We, the trans women, formerly known as the dress-wearers, were very discriminated against, very persecuted by the police. That war always underlay everything with us. So many crimes were committed that we ended up with nobody being able to speak up about it,” she said.

During the decades of police violence – which became especially intense during the 1976-1982 administration of President Jose Lopez Portillo and with Arturo Durazo Moreno as chief of the Police and Transit Department in the Federal District (now Mexico City) – and the decades of discrimination that are still going on, now they have organized and are calling for justice via the Deuda Historica (Historic Debt) organization.

“We’re never going to forget that psychological damage that they inflicted upon us. Even with the reparations, we’re not going to be able to resurrect so many friends, so many colleagues who didn’t have the chance to live,” said Veronica, who – accompanied by Valentina Telena, of the Ius Cogens Foundation, an organization defending and promoting human rights and which has a program for trans “grandmothers,” who shows the evidence of police brutality on her body: she lost her teeth, cannot hear well and can barely walk.

“Jus (or ius) cogens” is a principle of international law that bans genocide, torture, slavery and the slave trade, wars of aggression and territorial aggrandizement, refoulement and other such activities.

The reparations the women are demanding include compensation for the physical, emotional, psychological and economic damage they suffered as a result of their persecution.

The trans grandmothers say that the Mexican government owes them pension payments for life, access to dignified housing and to specialized healthcare, along with a form of asylum so that they can “spend their last years in dignity,” among other things.

Veronica is originally from Chiapas and at age 12 she came to Mexico City after having lost her mother at a young age. The capital and the violence to which she was subjected transformed her into a “rebel with a cause,” she said.

After many difficulties, at the age of 14 and while working at a juice stand, she heard on the radio that the 1979 film “Nora la rebelde” (Nora, the rebel) was to be shown and, after putting on eyeliner and lipstick for the first time, she headed to the movies.

The film ended “and I was still seated when I saw a lively, beautiful woman coming out of the bathroom. It scared me, but I thought she was very pretty, she was a girl,” Veronica said, and that was when she began to get involved in sex work.

She recalled that during one of her first days as a sex worker the police arrested her and she was held for two weeks, but she and her companions remember with special pain the agents of the Crime Prevention and Investigation Division (DIPD).

“We were the target of violence because of our (sexual) preferences. We were subjugated, we were unjustly jailed. They tied us up and hung us from trees … or gagged us and threw us into sewage,” said Alma Delia in an interview, who came to Mexico City from Guerrero state and saw sex work as a chance to earn money to help her family.

However, soon she began experiencing the high levels of police violence in the capital, and she also saw how some of her colleagues never returned home.

Both women make special mention of Tlaxcoaque, the DIPD basement facilities, where torture was carried out, where “you didn’t know if it was day or night.”

The trans women who were held there say that they were “all jammed together” in Cell No. 5 in Corridor 3.

The police made them clean all the toilets as well as the entire place, and nearby the officers would put people in drums of water and electrocute them.

The DIPD facility was dismantled in 1989, but the anti-trans violence continued “and continues” to this day, they say.

In 2005, Nefi – who has survived three attempted trans-femicides – was attacked on the street by two men who beat her into unconsciousness, blinding her in one eye.

“I don’t know why they did it, I don’t know exactly what the reason was. … They beat me so much that I couldn’t stand up,” Nefi said.

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