Transgender Experience in Latin America

To the general public,

 

The inequality in the world is vast. Extreme poverty, religious conservatism, and oppressive regimes and some things you might experience in Latin America as a queer individual. However, it is not always this way and many people living in this part of the world have very different life experiences. Acceptance, equality, and happiness are all things that, sometimes fought hardly for, do exist there as well. This exhibit is to show the different aspects of being a transgender person in Latin America and will show profiles whom we can examine and analyze so that we may have a better understanding of their life experiences. The goal of this exhibit is to show an underrepresented and purposely hidden group to the world, various support systems for them, and the emergence of their identities in media.

Argentina

Zephyr D Merkur Herrera Oral History.jpg

"Zephyr D Merkur Herrera Oral History" interview with Lorenzo Van Ness, 2018. From the NYC Trans Oral History Project.

Zephyr Merkur Herrera is a Latin American transgender Man from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He grew up there and describes the attitude of the people there towards him. Mis-gendering was common, and it led to sometimes embarrassing shows of “proof” of his gender. He has since moved to New York City and works as a barista with a heavy presence in the punk rock scene.

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"Cecilia Gentilli Oral History" interview with Michelle Esther O'Brien, 2017. From NYC Trans Oral History Project.

Cecilia Gentili is another person from Argentina. She was raised in Rosario and describes her experiences during the “dirty war” years caused by a coup d’état that happened in her home country between 1976 to 1983. She not only had to deal with non-acceptance from her family, which she described as “conservative”, but also the fear of imprisonment or death from the regime at that time. She mentions it as a political climate based around fear. This fear was based around the fact that many people were “disappeared” and whose children were sold for having different political ideals. People who also didn’t conform to their social ideals were also in danger of meeting this same fate, which could have been the case for Cecilia.

Mexico

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"Bianey Garcia Oral History" interview with Michelle Esther O'Brien, 2017. From NYC Trans Oral History Project.

Bianey Garcia is an immigrant transgender woman from Veracruz, Mexico. She currently resides in New York City and is a vibrant contributor to the local activist groups. She came to the US as a young person and left her native country due to threats against her life. Even in the US while searching for the American dream she did not have an easy life. She faced police harassment and abandonment from her family due to her sexual and gender identity. Eventually she found a community that she thrived in and is working towards getting hers and other marginalized people’s experiences to the public.

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"Alejandra Rodriguez Oral History" interview with Tamara Oloya-Santiago, 2017. From Digital Transgender Archive.

Alejandra Rodriguez describes in her interview with Tamara Oyola her experiences growing up in Mexico as a transgender person. She describes her family as very conservative and religious, with little tolerance with how she chose to present herself. In the state of Mexico, she found herself isolated and depressed due to the rejection her family and neighbors showed towards her that finally made her decide to immigrate to the United States. Even in the US she was still outcasted by her family but fortunately was eventually drawn to transgender community where she felt acceptance.

Chile

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Interview with Lee, 2019. From Digital Transgender Archive.

Lee is a transgender man from Chile. He didn’t start transitioning or coming out until they had come to the US. He is very much active in his home country as an activist as best as he can while also studying for his master's degree in New York. In his interview with Aviva Silverman he explains the struggles of dysphoria growing up and feeling confused not only by gender but his sexuality as well. He maintains strong connections to Chile as more and more progressive measures are being passed like the recent law that allows minors of at least 14 years of age to legally change their birth certificate to reflect their identity.

Support Centers

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An Interview with Fernando Serrano, 2010. From Digital Transgender Archive.

While things sometimes seem bleak and dark there are bright moments and places people to turn to. Such is the case with Fernando Serrano who runs an LGBT support center in Bogota, Colombia. He helped not only run this center but also to help write legislature about LGBT policies in the city. This shows that there are resources for transgender or queer people to turn to if escape is not an option.

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Ingersoll Message, March 1996, by the Ingersoll Gender Center, CC BY-NC 4.0. From Feminist Community Archive of Washington (FCA-WA).

If people from Latin America do choose to immigrate to the US, there are resources and communities for them that they might otherwise not have had in their home country. Seattle’s Ingersoll Gender Center provides a safe space for transgender, questioning, and transitioning people to gather, ask questions, and find a community of which they can be a part of. This is just one of many different groups that can help people not feel the isolation or rejection they may have felt in their home countries.

Emergence in Media

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"MJ Rodriguez Lands High-Profile Spot on Cover of Vanity Fair" by Kiko Martinez, 2022. From Remezcla.

Traditionally transgender people have never made appearances on the main stages of media. This includes film, television, or even mainstream magazines. That is especially the case for transgender or queer people of color. However, there is a cultural shift that is happening and more and more LGBTQ+ people are being brought to the attention of these far-reaching mediums. Such is the case with Latina actress MJ Rodriguez who has recently been named as the one of the first transgender person nominated for an Emmy.

As a final note and takeaway, transgender people still face many difficult obstacles in their life journey. As the audience I hope I have imparted their point of view and helped you realize those struggles so that you may have a better understanding of their life experiences.

About the curator:

Jesus E. Celestino(he/him) is a first generation Mexican-American majoring in applied computing with a minor in economics. He is a native to the Pacific Northwest and a lover of the region.

Archives & sources linked from archives:

“Digital Transgender Archive.” Digital Transgender Archive, www.digitaltransgenderarchive.net. Accessed 9 Mar. 2022.

“Feminist Community Archive of Washington (FCA-WA).” Feminist Community Archive of Washington (FCA-WA), cdm16786.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16786coll12. Accessed 9 Mar. 2022.

“The Latinx Project at NYU — Digital Resources.” The Latinx Project at NYU, www.latinxproject.nyu.edu/digitalresources. Accessed 9 Mar. 2022.

Martinez, Kiko. “MJ Rodriguez Lands High-Profile Spot on Cover of Vanity Fair.” Remezcla, The LatinX Project, 18 Feb. 2022, remezcla.com/film/mj-rodriguez-vanity-fair-magazine-cover.

References for artifacts:

Ingersoll Gender Center, “Ingersoll Message, March 1996,” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 9, 2022, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/admin/items/show/240.

“NYPL Community Oral History Project | NYC Trans Oral History Project | Alejandra Rodriguez.” NYC Trans Oral History Project, wayback.archive-it.org/14173/20200911115251/http://oralhistory.nypl.org/interviews/alejandra-rodriguez-448jfv. Accessed 9 Mar. 2022.

“NYPL Community Oral History Project | NYC Trans Oral History Project | Bianey Garcia.” NYC Trans Oral History Project, wayback.archive-it.org/14173/20200911224748/http://oralhistory.nypl.org/interviews/bianey-garcia-z2a1r7#20:24. Accessed 9 Mar. 2022.

“NYPL Community Oral History Project | NYC Trans Oral History Project | Cecilia Gentili.” NYC Trans Oral History Project, wayback.archive-it.org/14173/20200911120735/http://oralhistory.nypl.org/interviews/cecilia-gentili-4cpt6d#21:22. Accessed 9 Mar. 2022.

“NYPL Community Oral History Project | NYC Trans Oral History Project | Lee.” NYC Trans Oral History Project, wayback.archive-it.org/14173/20200910231020/http://oralhistory.nypl.org/interviews/lee-o95swr. Accessed 9 Mar. 2022.

“NYPL Community Oral History Project | NYC Trans Oral History Project | Zephyr D Merkur Herrera.” NYC Trans Oral History Project, wayback.archive-it.org/14173/20200911153105/http://oralhistory.nypl.org/interviews/zephyr-d-merkor-herrera-q2eyn1. Accessed 9 Mar. 2022.

“We Who Feel Differently - Interviews.” We Who Feel Differently, wewhofeeldifferently.info/interview.php?interview=42. Accessed 9 Mar. 2022.