• The Star Staff

Rights groups call for ‘collective outcry’ at Capitol to commemorate lost trans lives

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

Content warning: This article mentions violence against trans people and femicides.

Trans-feminist organizations are calling for a “collective outcry” today starting at 4 p.m. in front of the Capitol to commemorate the trans lives violently cut short as a result of transphobia throughout 2020.

As part of demonstrations that will take place during International Trans Day of Remembrance, collectives such as La Sombrilla Cuir, Pólvora Colectiva Cuir, the Trans Collective, and March 8 Coalition invite members of the LGBTQIAP+ community and allies to join and advocate for better welfare for the trans community.

La Sombrilla Cuir member Marielle de León told the Star that the name of the event comes from the “feelings of frustration and anger amid the moments we have faced throughout this year.”

“This year has been the most violent that I have seen toward the trans community,” de León said as she mentioned the names of Neulisa “Alexa” Feliciano Ruiz, Yampy Méndez Arocho, Michellyn Ramos Vargas, Penélope Díaz Ramírez, Serena Velázquez Ramos and Layla Peláez Sánchez, who were slain due to their gender identity.

Meanwhile, the event will also commemorate survivors of transphobia such as Nicole Pastrana, who was beaten and stabbed by two 18-year-old men in Río Piedras on Oct. 8.

De León said the event will also have a space to include “invisible” members within the conversations that will take place in front of the home of the Puerto Rico Legislature in Puerta de Tierra. She said the event will bring light to issues that face trans men, and non-binary and intersex people on the island.

“Although trans women have always been the most violated in our society, we want to raise awareness on more invisible communities that also tend to be violated in different ways,” she said. “We’re a very diverse group that will try to deliver the message to the rest of the people.”

The member of La Sombrilla Cuir added that the event will also include performances to demand justice and respect, and for the island government to take concrete actions “that are aimed at guaranteeing civil and human rights for trans people.”

“Not only will we be there to call for justice, we will be protesting against the lack of action from the government,” de León said. “There hasn’t been an arrest in Alexa’s murder, or in Michellyn or Yampy’s case. There were some arrests for Serena and Layla’s murders, but that’s because the FBI intervened; and in Penelope’s case, although we know who killed her in jail, which was her cellmate, we must point out that a person like Penelope was not supposed to be incarcerated in a men’s detention center, which endangered her life.”

Meanwhile, Pólvora Colectiva Cuir member Steph Guzmán Piñero said via a written statement that other demands made at the event will be for “access to quality health services that take into account our needs and identities, public policies that really protect us from labor discrimination, public policies that facilitate the change of name and gender in official documents, access to safe housing, and access to accessible, quality education that puts gender perspective into practice, among others.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), 37 transgender and gender-non-conforming people have been fatally shot or killed by other violent means. HRC reports that the majority of the deaths were Black and Latine transgender women.

“Since HRC began tracking this data in 2013, advocates have never seen such a high number at this point in the year,” the organization said.

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