Transphobia and poverty – a statement by Chilean trans activist Andrés Rivera

A statement on transphobia and poverty by Chilean trans activist Andrés Rivera.
Andrés Rivera

How can we make our human rights be respected if we are hardly considered as human?”

In many countries around the world, trans people (transgenders, transsexuals and transvestites) are still murdered, beaten, and neglected and their human rights are violated.Today there are still states which do not respect human rights, which do not have trans inclusive public policies and, what is worse, which are irrational in their treatment of trans people and trans-phobic.

The situation in which trans and intersex people live in Chile is similar to other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, where poverty and violence are part of our lives from birth. In our country, Chile, there is no public policy that respects gender identity as a human right or that recognizes the existence of people who cross gender and who cannot necessarily be classified as male or female according to the socially imposed heteronormative and binary model.

Trans people are faced with a development model imposed by a patriarchal society, therefore the vast majority of the trans population live in inhuman conditions and in situations of economic and social vulnerability. Often they do not have access to the enjoyment of fundamental rights such as: equal access to health, employment, social protection, housing, food, the environment, culture, recreation, social and political participation, sexual and reproductive rights, the freedom to decide about our lives and our bodies.

The social problem that us trans people face can be summarised in the so-called “transphobic circle”, a vicious circle that starts with work. To be allowed to work you need a national identity card, which specifies your “sex” and matches with your external appearance. However, if you are trans you need to modify this document, which means that you have to undergo surgery and sex reassignment. In order to have access to this expensive surgery, you must have financial resources, and to access those resources you need to have a job.

There are undoubtedly different kinds of violence that we regularly face, and one of the most damaging to us is the “Institutional Violence”, the one that ignores the socio-economic discrimination against the Trans community: by simply not speaking about us, by making us invisible, by abstracting us from society given the fact that we are not even included or reference in national statistics. If we ask: “Why it is so difficult to integrate trans kids in schools or make parents accept them”? The answer is simple: “Because we are an ignored reality”.

How can we make our human rights be respected if we are hardly considered as human?  Mistreated, isolated, forcibly sterilised, without identity or rights, violated by the justice system and the public institutions, trans people are raped just by existing, and deferred to a position of vulnerability and poverty. We struggle every day to validate ourselves as “human beings”, and for this struggle to be successful we need the international community to make a stand on the issue. As seen through other examples like in the case of discrimination against women, when a group is included in the category “Human with Rights”, people slowly begin to think and accept the existence of diversity and how important it is to respect the dignity of each of its members as part of the society.

We cannot keep being brutally discriminated against, waiting for the international community to take action. We cannot remain part of statistics on murders and assaults, of hate crimes and hate speech. We cannot remain victims of religious authorities’ speeches, which encourage hatred and transphobia, without governments’ reaction. We cannot remain considered the “dregs of society” when we are actually part of it.

Poverty must be eradicated and violence must be punished. There must be major changes in legislation, public policies, conventions and treaties as indicated by the Yogyakarta Principles. We must move to lay the foundation of respect and non-discrimination and especially restore a fundamental right within a category that should have not disappeared from the world: “humanity”.

We do not want to remain inert in the legislative and political realm; we do not want people to speak on our behalf or decide who we are. We are OUR VOICE, and we demand respect for our human rights, enshrined worldwide.

Trans People in Chile and throughout Latin America urgently need the approval of laws that validate our freedom to express and live according to the gender we feel like, in plenitude, and facilitate love and respect for our bodies.


Andrés Rivera Duarte
Transexual Activist
A man with vagina

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