Guest Blogger

Video: Vigilante mob attacks transgender woman and gay man

Filed By Guest Blogger | March 21, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: anti-gay violence, gay rights, human rights abuses, LGBT community, Peru, transgender

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Dante Alencastre is a filmmaker and activist of Peruvian descent. He emigrated to the United States in 1976. Dante is currently working on a documentary on American transgender role models and recently premiered his documentary En El Fuego at LA OUTFEST.

On January 28th, 2009, a television news report showed an incident in which neighborhood watch patrols in the city of Tarapoto, Peru, chased and caught a travesti and her companion and then physically humiliated and insulted them. Neighborhood watch members cut their victims' hair and forced them to strip before subjecting them to a series of military training exercises until they collapsed from exhaustion. Throughout the ordeal, a crowd of onlookers made fun of the victims.

The perpetrators are seen on video insulting, and threatening the transwoman and boasting to the media about their way of getting rid off the "criminal" in their town.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) joins MHOL and RedLacTrans in requesting that you send emails asking Peruvian authorities to investigate this incident.

We ask that you publicly condemn this episode, ensure that authorities make a full and fair investigation into the crime, and guarantee that once the perpetrators have been identified, they will be punished to the full extent of the law. We also ask that you closely monitor the way in which neighborhood watch associations throughout Peru treat sexual minorities, insist that their members undergo mandatory training to diminish homophobia and transphobia, and do everything possible to ensure that similar crimes are not repeated in the future.

Peruvian authorities should respect and protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

We trust that you will give this issue the attention it deserves.

Please send your letters to:

Sr. Remigio Hernani Meloni
Ministro del Interior
Ministeriodel Interior Plaza 30 de Agosto s/n Urb. Corpac - San Isidro
ministro@mininter.gob.pe

Gral. PNP Luis Hugo Mezarina Ponte?Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos del Sector Interior
sp-cndh@mininter.gob.pe

General de Policía PNP Mauro Walter Remicio Maguiño ?Director de la Policía Nacional
dgdinfo@pnp.gob.pe


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I'm glad to see Bilerico covering this issue. But, I think it's also important to draw attention to the persecution of the victim as a sex worker.

Further information

I don't see this has anything other than a cross dresser prostituting *himself* on the streets. This has nothing to do with a transvestite having their rights' violated.

Prostitution in Peru is legal, as is the ownership of brothels, but must be licensed. This streetwalker wasn't in a brothel, they were preparing to engage in sex "on the street".

Nice job on giving us a dose of yellow journalism.

This comment has no place on a blog that claims to be inclusive of the trans community. This sort of discourse is precisely what causes trans people to become walking targets for violence. As long as people are allowed to continue circulating the view that we do not deserve to live, then our lives will not be valued. It's very presence makes me feel unsafe and should not be tolerated. I have neither the energy nor desire to try to refute these obviously essentialist, ignorant claims - justifying my existence and right to live isn't my responsibility, and I'm tired of doing it. But no one should have to read this kind of hateful bullshit on a website that is intended to be representative of our community.

This is hate speech. Please remove it.

I agree with Sadie. Take this down, or reveal the person who wrote it and hid behind a smirking pseudonym.

This is a terrifying video to watch. The smug satisfaction in the faces of these sadistic torturers reminds me of videos taken by the Nazis. I found it hard to restrain my own anger and hatred and I had to turn it off in the middle. It makes me want to do harm to the people who did this, and the people who condone or minimize this evil sadistic behavior. I am outraged beyond all reason.

Both the blog and the video are disturbing for a number of reasons. IGHLRC asks us to "closely monitor the way in which neighborhood watch associations throughout Peru treat sexual minorities, insist that their members undergo mandatory training to diminish homophobia and transphobia, and do everything possible to ensure that similar crimes are not repeated in the future."

For real? You want us, in the United States, to start lecturing Peruvians on how to run their country? Or, do I have this wrong? The blog is written so ineptly that it's hard to distinguish between Alencastre and IGLHRC. Who is saying what to whom? A better use of quotation marks might have clarified matters.

Putting all that aside, the subject matter of the video is disturbing. It's clearly about sexual humiliation. But this is also, clearly, happening in a neighborhood that's not exactly affluent, from the brief look of things. I think it's altogether too simplistic to simply decide that this is a matter of transgender rights when there are clearly a host of multiply intersecting issues here, including the felt need on the part of residents to form watch groups (mentioned briefly in the commentary). You have to wonder why a community feels compelled to do that. And we have to keep in mind that what we have here is a television news snippet that, in turn, relays a snippet of video footage.

That does not condone the violence - and this is violence, even if we don't see any beating - but I'm disturbed at the idea that we're supposed to view this through very simple and simplistic lenses as *only* a matter of "homophobia and transphobia." I think a more worthwhile and in depth analysis would be one where we look at the ways in which class, sexuality and perhaps even ethnicity/social marking intersect in these moments of policing. Until that kind of analysis emerges, I'll thank IGLHRC and the rest to stop poking around and making blanket statements and telling me to send e-mails.

Until then, yes, this is disturbing. I just don't have an answer that's immediately forthcoming about what to do.

As for Honest Abe's comment above - I'm not sure why it should incite the response it did from sadie. Fine, maybe the tone isn't perfect, but he/she was simply pointing out terminology. sadie writes: "This sort of discourse is precisely what causes trans people to become walking targets for violence. As long as people are allowed to continue circulating the view that we do not deserve to live, then our lives will not be valued. It's very presence makes me feel unsafe and should not be tolerated."


To which I have to respond: Say what??!!? And, on those lines, what the fuck is going on here on bilerico with all these extravagant life-and-death comments being thrown about lately? Seriously, what the fuck? We're in the midst of a deep-shit economic crisis, over 50 million of us are struggling without health care, lots of us are struggling to make ends meet, and yes, trans-identified street walkers, especially youth of colour (specially here in Chicago), are routinely being harassed on the streets by cops and pedestrians alike - and we decide that someone using the phrase "cross dresser" (which may not seem politically correct to some of us) is causing "trans people to become walking targets for violence?"

Give me a fucking break, people. I've been watching the fracas over at Bil's post about violent rhetoric and I actually think we were having a decent conversation until the comments about life and death started cropping up again. Can we please stop diminishing real-life life and death issues with this constant back and forth about, take a deep breath and say it loud, LANGUAGE that isn't even threatening anyone?

That's three fucks in one post - three more than I'm used to throwing around in polite discourse. But I'm seriously sick and tired of a)blogs that are nothing more than crappily put together snippets masquerading as journalism and b)the constant drama around language being construed as actual violence.

Nuff said. Peace.

This IS a life or death issue. Do you have any idea how many trans people are assaulted, beaten and killed routinely? I live under the constant threat of violence. *You* are the one diminishing the reality of oppression and murder. The recognition that language can be, and is, an integral part of systems of violence and oppression does not minimize the reality of violence and oppression. Likewise, my pointing out the existence of trans people's oppression does not minimize the other forms of violence that you listed. They are all real and important and many forms of oppression coexist and strengthen each other.

This isn't a matter of tone, or choice of words or 'political correctness'. This person misgendered a victim of hate violence. What Honest Abe said to me was this: "You are not who you say you are. You are a liar. All people like you are liars. You have no right to define yourself because your identity, your very sense of self, is not authentic. It is a fiction." And if my identity, my ability to self-determine how I live my life, is not respected, than *I* am not respected. My *life* is not respected.

As long as trans people continue to be construed as inauthentic liars whose identities are just "made up", than the attitude that we "get what we deserve" will continue to justify further acts of violence against us.

If this were one isolated incident I would be less upset. But I have to listen to this (as well as apologists like you, Yasmin) EVERY SINGLE DAY. And no, I'm not exaggerating. This is part of a systemic devaluation of trans lives and a denial of the validity of our experiences.

This wouldn't even be an issue for you people if it were a male and female.

It is simple: two people were having sex in public and were publicly chastised for it. In other countries people aren't afraid to stand up for community standards.

If you take a stand that any violence is wrong, then you may get followers.

Instead you want everyone to believe the violence against a cross dresser is more wrong!?

Actually, it would still be an issue for me. The abuse of sex workers is unjust regardless of the gender of the people being attacked. I don't believe that anyone said that violence against "cross dressers" is *more* wrong; however, there are (at least) two or three factors going on here: One, this person was targeted for being a sex worker. She was also likely targeted for being travesti. And she was also likely targeted for being poor. This doesn't say any one thing is "worse" then the other; all violence is unacceptable and needs to challenged. But we can also try to understand why violence happens to certain people and, in some cases, their gender is clearly a factor that needs to be discussed if we can understand how violence and power work.

As for "community standards", I'm all for upholding and defending community standards - if they are based in respect, dignity and justice. I want no part of "community standards" which devalue human life and seek to humiliate and destroy people because of their class, occupation or gender (or race or religion or...)

Um, yes, I think it's safe to say that I'm fully aware of what trans people face every day. But I have no idea why and how you would construe Honest Abe's words in the way you did, or even that they were directed towards you, and you've done nothing to indicate that you're even in any way engaged with the issues I raised about the complexity of the blog and the video.

This is diatribe passing as dialogue. I don't know what it's like elsewhere, but for some reason it appears that around here on bilerico we can't discuss trans issues or anything related to the same without discussants being painted as either haters or victims. And, in the meantime, everyone's sexuality and gender identity is taken for granted or called into question. I'm here for a discussion, not a name-calling, and I'm not going to shout to get my point across.

The video remains deeply problematic on multiple levels - I'd hoped to see a discussion about the links between gender, violence, class, sexuality, and representation but that's not going to happen here. So, I think I'll just do some digging around and write a post of my own about this piece in an effort to get some meaningful conversation going.

You have the floor. Enjoy it.

That last comment of mine was directed at sadie, not KL, whose comment must have popped up while I finished my response.

Also, "I have no idea how you could possibly be so upset" followed by prompt dismissal is a very common response when a privileged person tries to understand the perspective of someone who's way of seeing the world is marginalized.

I don't mean to paint you as a super privileged person - we are all privileged relative to some things and oppressed by others. I just mean, in this particular case, you have demonstrated a keen failure to try to understand why a trans person might be so upset about a comment that clearly claims trans people's identities are invalid. (quote from Abe: *himself*)

I also agree with Dr. Weiss that your attitude has been rather self-righteous.

I'm sorry that "uppity trannies" keep coming on bilierco to complain and that you feel this isn't 'constructive.' Discussions about trans issues will likely remain heated on an "LGBTQ" blog where trans people are consistently painted as deserving criminals and others refuse to stand up for us. If LGBQ folks want trans people to feel safe here, I think I would appreciate a little more openness to hear our perspectives.

Yasmin, I agree that the video remains problematic on many levels. For example, I agree that it is complicated for privileged North Americans to believe they have the 'moral authority' to judge other cultural forms using eurocentric standards. However, this isn't the particular issue which I was addressing. I would be glad to see such a meaningful discussion; however, it is a completely different conversation than the conversation about Abe's comments. I wasn't attempting to engage with your discussion about the complexity of the video, which I find is a valid and important conversation to have. But I was talking about something else entirely.

And let's be clear: This *is* a case involving "haters and victims," though I wouldn't necessarily choose those terms. There is clearly a dominant group who are privileged and a group who are victims of systemic oppression.

Dear Yasmin: I understand your desire for a more complex dialogue. But your points about "i have no idea" why you are upset, and excoriating the commenter for not engaging with your points, as well as the "you have the floor enjoy it" comment -- these struck me as a bit smug and self-righteous in the face of people who are frankly terrified at the violence directed against them, and have every right to be. And then your "I'll just go off an write a post of my own in an effort to get meaningful conversation," well, it was dismissive.

I am with you on making the dialogue more complex, but I'm not sure this is the best way to go about it.

As someone who is sitting at home feeling extremely upset about this video, and talking to my partner and friends about its meaning and impact on the lives of the people in video, as well as my own and my community's -- I must admit to being taken aback by your comments.

I know your intent must be good, so I'm looking forward to the meaningful dialogue you spoke about.

Jill

dante, this is Toni from Phoenix and This is HOW (regina's house).

as ever, your videos speak to our expereince like few other images can.

Thanks, once again, for bringing this out.

The video - which IS problematic - was originally translated by myself (trying to preserve a literal translation) and posted on my blog back in January:

http://blabbeando.blogspot.com/2009/01/peru-news-cameras-capture-inhuman.html

Garnering international attention, local media did a longer report which I also translated - even if the literal translation was also problematic - as seen here:

http://blabbeando.blogspot.com/2009/02/peru-iglhrc-demands-investigation-into.html

Thankfully the international outrage has drawn attention to the incident and hopefully there will be justice.

Thank you, Andrés, for your attention to this matter and for making it known to the wider world. We are all in your debt.

Honest Abe | March 22, 2009 2:13 PM

Sadie writes:

This comment has no place on a blog that claims to be inclusive of the trans community.

So you want to quash free speech on the blogs when it doesn't go with *your* line of thinking? Personally, I have no issue with transvestites (cross-dressers, et. al.) and would never condone violence against them. However..

The way this video has been portrayed and the truth behind what happened are clearly two different stories. The Neighborhood Watch was setup to crack down on prostitution, and that's clearly what was happening. If the travesti had been obeying the law and was working in a licensed brothel, this never would have happened. I suggest you go online and see just how many Peruvian female streetwalkers are beaten by police and johns, not to mention local residents fed up with prostitutes working their neighborhoods.

There was nothing in my comment that could be construed as hateful bullshit, but clearly you have some anger management issues that should be dealt with. Perhaps Dr. Jill could help you with that.

And for Dr. Jill. You stated:

Take this down, or reveal the person who wrote it and hid behind a smirking pseudonym.

Why reveal myself? After reading the hate spewed by the likes of you and Sadie, I'd be fearful of being jumped by a group of pissed-off cross-dressers.

Now I'm smirking.

You state that you don't condone violence, and then go on to justify the use of violence to enforce the law. This is hypocritical. Whether these people were breaking the law is irrelevant - the law is often unjust. I don't care whether they're breaking the law or not, I don't care whether they had a license, I don't care what their gender is or how many people this happens to, no one deserves this treatment. And no one deserves to listen to people like you justify it.

You are making excuses in an attempt to justify horrendous evils. You also go out of your way to state that this person's identity is invalid. For those reasons, this is hate speech. I don't care to respect the "free speech rights" of those who proliferate hate.

If this blog wants to be a safe, inclusive space for trans people and for sex workers, it should not tolerate speech which marginalizes the systematic violence toward sex workers and trans people. Free speech doesn't matter to me nearly as much as living in a safer world where people aren't afraid to leave their homes, and I would gladly deny your "right to free speech" if it gets us closer to that world.

It's obvious, "Honest Abe", that you're a mean, angry person who takes pleasure in the distress of others. I'm sorry for your sad life.

Honest Abe | March 22, 2009 3:49 PM

You can imply that I condoned the use of violence, I never did and never would.

How you can state a law against "street-walking prostitution" is unjust is beyond me. I never said anyone deserves this treatment, but it's a given; had this person been operating in a licensed brothel, this never would have happened. That's my main point. How about obeying the law and not putting your a$$ in jeopardy?

As for the free-speech issue. I can only applaud Bil for not acquiescing to your ridiculous comments to quash the opinions of those that "do not agree with you".

Oh but wait.. you want people to inclusive.

Dang.

Has it ever occurred to you that many people do not *choose* to be street sex workers? Given the extreme poverty that many communities face - especially marginalized communities who face profound discrimination and institutional oppression - many of us have no other way to survive. To further punish someone with violence, humiliation and the threat of death for being placed in an economic situation that results in our having to engage in unsafe work is ridiculous. The criminalization of sex work does not address people's needs; it does not make communities safer. If we want less people to engage in street sex work, how about we try to find ways to meet people's basic needs for food and shelter? How about we address why it's so hard for people, especially trans people in the colonized Global South, to get other kinds of work?

And Abe, I said "inclusive of trans people and sex workers." I'm not interested in being inclusive of hate mongers who seem to think it's okay to blame and punish victims.

LaSalle Whittington | March 22, 2009 4:22 PM

I am Honest Abe.

Kathy Padilla | March 23, 2009 12:15 PM

Oh - this guy?

From: LaSalle Whittington [mailto:xxxxwhit@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 1:54 PM
To: [Names Removed]
Subject: re: vote for Houlihan???

I don’t know about you others, but just as I wouldn’t vote for Hillary, I’m not about to vote for a Log Cabin Republican for County Council. If you do not know what a Log Cabin Republican is, go here http://online.logcabin.org/.

If you’re truly a conservative republican, why attempt to elect a homosexual?

Honest Abe - Seriously? You don't have a problem with the injustice in the video, no matter who it's directed at?

Sorry that life treated you so badly that you think that sort of injustice is OK. I hope your ideas don't catch on much more than they have.

KL~ You too? You're advocating for this sort of vigilante justice? If there was a real problem here, and we don't know if there was (there's no sex in the video, only people saying there was sex going on), then it should be handled through due process, not people in the street deciding to mete out whatever justice they feel like making.

BTW, the two people in the video looked male and female to me, although they might identify otherwise.

Generally~ As for the video itself, it does seem inappropriate to only look at the situation through the lens of homophobia/transphobia, as Yasmin mentioned, especially since there's probably a lot of backstory here that we didn't see. The victims are native, and the older man speaking towards the end looks white (I don't know his race and obviously I can't really say). They seem poor too. The prostitution going on probably played a large role as well.

Obviously there's more to this story than what's presented there.