Have a name, get a job, survive. What is it like to be trans in Argentina?

Argentina | Job | Trans | 09th September 2021 | Virtual Wire


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Reporting gender violence in Argentina is a journey for the victim, who not only has to go through a tedious judicial process but also one that doesn't put the complainants at the centre.

Let's imagine this situation from the perspective of the transvestite-trans collective. What happens when you report violence at a police station and they don't know how to act? Or worse, what happens if the response is to belittle the victim, downplaying and discriminating?

Something similar happened in our country with the disappearance of Tehuel de la Torre, the 22-year-old trans boy who was last seen almost six months ago. As time went by, the media forgot about him, but different LGBT+ organizations continue to raise their voices on his behalf.

Teruel, a trans man from the town of San Vicente, was summoned on March 16 in Alejandro Korn, a city within the same town, for a job interview. There he met Luis Alberto Ramos, who was going to give him the job, and Alfredo Montes, both currently detained. Since that day, neither his girlfriend, family or friends have heard anything more about him.

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From the beginning, the case was full of conflicts, common when these types of complaints are made at a police station, such as trying to dismiss the request based on prejudice, especially in a case of trans violence.

In order to understand this a little better, it is necessary to understand how the search for a missing person is carried out. First, contact is made with public and private entities, such as hospitals and morgues, in order to access the registry of people who have recently passed through the place.

This is a problem in cases like Tehuel's, since these data are made based on a binary norm, female/male, making the whole identification process-oriented to describe a cis-male or cis-female, reducing the chances of finding a key result.

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Although the case does not have the necessary diffusion, the current relevance would not be such if it were not for the Gender Identity Law passed in 2012, which marked a before and after. But it also highlights the structural flaws that are still present.

Until almost three months ago, the Transgender Employment Quota Law had not been passed, in a country where job opportunities are reduced to daily survival for an entire group of people. Tehuel lived on odd jobs, cutting grass, pruning trees or reselling products that he bought and offered for sale, and the job Ramos had offered him seemed like a way out.

The spread of his disappearance, which gained momentum on social networks thanks to activism, was much slower and more inconsistent than that of other cases of disappearances. The flyer that accompanied the campaign expressed, almost ironically: "Share it as if he were cis".

When it comes to talking about the subject, many media choose a different way to refer to Teruel. They come up with morbid theories and try to get under his skin, positioning him as the one responsible for his own disappearance. This is not the first trans person to

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disappear, but it is the first case of a trans man who managed to have national repercussions, calling for justice to break with these "binarisms". Celeste Petrosino, the representative of the Collective intervention against violence (CIAV), explained that "Tehuel cannot be sought within the frameworks and logic of a patriarchal and binary system".

The CIAV is an organization that, since 2012, has been working on the disappearance and search for people. Together with the Prosecutor's Office for Trafficking and Exploitation of Persons (PROTEX), they are working on a project to identify people, in which they have already identified 340 and only one of them is a transvestite, which demonstrates the limits of access to justice within the group.

For Petrosino, the classic elements (searches, police operations) that are used at the scene of a disappearance end up being insufficient in the context of the victim is unknown. This raises the question of whether the justice system really knows the panorama of violence suffered by this person because this is what will be able to determine his or her disappearance."Let's think that trans men are at 49% in terms of labour informality. Tehuel's disappearance occurred when he went to a house looking for a job", explains Petrosino.

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The National Observatory of Hate Crimes against the LGBT+ community publishes an annual report with data on hate crimes against sexual minorities. The latest report records that during 2020, 152 assaults were committed against the LGBT community: from verbal violence to murder. Of that total 129 were against the trans community.

However, the number could be higher because it includes only those cases that have been reported by the media or have been denounced by the State. "Not all trans people who are murdered are registered as trans and their gender identity is respected, and not all hate crimes against lesbians, gays and bisexuals are made visible as such," the report clarifies.

At present, the information is diffuse and the data obtained is scarce. Meanwhile, the main suspect refuses to testify. The strongest hypothesis so far, and the one investigators are working on, is that he was killed. Who, when, how and where are unanswered questions.

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