THE VULNERABILITY OF THE TRANSSEXUAL COLLECTIVE IN HONDURAS
Tegucigalpa, Honduras, June 2011.
“Many nights I dream of waking up as a woman”, I am told by Shantal, a member of the transsexual community in Honduras. She was born trapped inside the body of a man, a body which she never recognized as her own. As a teenager she decided to transform externally into the woman which she had always felt herself to be. A long process with constant problems and complications.
At first, she had to face the lack of acceptance from her family and social environment. The intense identity crises and not wanting to keep on living without being accepted arrived later. But it was only the beginning.
Shantal tells me indifferently of how she suffered all kinds of aggressions: illegal arrests, abuse from State squads, rape, assaults, gender violence and transphobic actions. She even witnessed the deaths of some of her prostitute colleagues.
Most transsexual women find themselves obliged to earn a living on the streets due to a lack of economical and labour alternatives (because of the transphobia prevalent in society) and due to the high costs of the hormonal and cosmetic treatments they use to feminize their bodies.
Few are able to leave prostitution, where, exposed and vulnerable, the aggressions are constant, weekly or even daily. During the two years before working on this project, the LGTB (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community in Honduras suffered the loss of 34 colleagues, most of them transsexuals, due to violent deaths.
The transsexual community has been stigmatized and attacked everywhere but in Honduras there are certain factors which increase its vulnerability. Above all, Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America; besides, violence has gone up over the last few years to the extent that its two big cities, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, have been catapulted amongst the top positions of the ranking regarding the world’s most dangerous cities. One of the causes is the fact that the country maintains intact the coup structures created by the June 2009 coup d’état. This has increased the impunity of those who attack this social collective, the assailants usually being State forces.
With this photographic project I wanted to emphasize this collective’s vulnerability in its life on the streets. While working on this photo essay, a transsexual woman called Violet Fabiola was run over various times by an unhappy client. This incident caused her numerous contusions and wounds all over the body. Xiomara, her housemate, also appears in the report; a few months earlier she was stabbed by some of her clients and, on another occasion, she was shot.
Two examples, amongst many, of the exposure to danger which these women undergo. Women who will continue to self-assert themselves and struggle to gain the respect and recognition that they deserve from the rest of society.