Education, gender perspective seen as vital tools to counter violence against trans people

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

After a grand federal jury in San Juan returned a three-count indictment last Friday against Jordany Rafael Laboy García, Christian Yamaurie Rivera Otero and Anthony Steven Lobos Ruiz charging hate crimes in the assault of 29-year-old transgender woman Alexa Negrón Luciano “because of her gender identity” in February 2020, a trans activist says education and the implementation of the gender perspective in the social environment are essential to mitigate the violence faced daily by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer plus (LGBTQ+) community.

La Sombrilla Cuir (The Queer Umbrella) spokesperson Marielle de León told The STAR on Sunday that although Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urritia and the Prevention, Support, Rescue and Education (PARE by its Spanish acronym) Committee are looking to implement the gender perspective in the island’s public education curriculum, it will take a long time “until society recognizes trans people.”

“I consider this is the most important action to take because what happened here was due to lack of knowledge,” de León said. “I think it is necessary to implement this vision in our society and with the acknowledgement that trans people exist, along with the experiences and challenges we live with and the fact that there are trans women who use the women’s bathroom because they fear using the men’s bathroom for many reasons.”

Negrón Luciano, who was homeless, was slain in Toa Baja at her makeshift campsite hours after various social media posts went viral falsely accusing her of peeping in a woman’s bathroom with a mirror she usually carried to keep track of anyone who might violate her privacy.

“I don’t want to sound like a person in favor of the prison system, but knowing that this was one of the resolutions available to seek justice, I was surprised that this took so long because these were the same people who recorded the video harassing her that also went viral,” de León said.

Noting that the three individuals were not indicted for Negrón Luciano’s slaying, de Léon said if they are found to not have been involved with her murder, she hopes that further actions do not delay any efforts to achieve justice for Alexa.

“I still think that between everyone who recorded and posted the video harassing her, the people who posted pictures and videos of her on social media while she was in Toa Baja earlier in the morning, all those events led to her murder,” the activist said. “The indictment even states that these were not separate events; it showed that social media and the collective transphobia that ignited among people led to this, with all of that happening in less than a day.”

However, when the STAR asked if the legislative branch should seek stricter public policies to discourage people from making false accusations on social media, de León responded that although it is fundamental to tackle defamation in different outlets, such legislation could be used against grassroots movements and safe spaces that seek reparation for gender violence victims.

“I wish that something like Alexa’s case would never happen again, but knowing how the system works, when laws that aim to tackle defamation on social media are created, I fear that those who will take advantage of this are people who have the means, who do not live in the streets, who are very privileged, even though they could have a series of accusations against them,” she said.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice press release, the three conspirators identified Negrón Luciano by means of the viral social media posts.

The indictment also alleges that after identifying her, Laboy García, Rivera Otero and Lobos Ruiz verbally harassed the victim, then drove to get a paintball gun and paintballs, returned to the same place where they had spotted the victim and fired paintballs at her.

“During both encounters, the men used a cell phone to record their actions,” the indictment reads. “The men then shared these recordings with others.”

The indictment states further that after the alleged assault, Rivera Otero directed Lobos Ruiz to delete at least one video recording of the paintball gun assault and verbal harassment of the victim from his cellular phone and that Lobos Ruiz, in response, did so.

Rivera Otero and Lobos Ruiz were also charged with obstruction of justice.

If convicted, the three defendants could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the hate crime charge, five years in prison for the conspiracy charge, and a fine of up to $250,000 with respect to each charge.

Meanwhile, Rivera Otero and Lobos Ruiz could also face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for the obstruction of justice charge.

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