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Transphobia in Puerto Rico is an epidemic Photo: Getty Images

Transphobia and Violence in Puerto Rico, A New Emergency

Another trans person murdered in Puerto Rico makes it the sixth this year.

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Michelle Ramos Vargas was a 33 year old transgender woman, who was found dead on an isolated road in San German, Puerto Rico on Sept. 30. Authorities reported to the Associated Press Vargas was shot multiple times in the head. 

An investigation has been opened into her shooting to find out if it was a hate crime, but the public has already put Vargas alongside the five other transgender inviduals who have been murdered in 2020 because of transphobia. 

In April, two transgender women were found inside a car that had been burned. Two men involved have since been arrested. That same month, a transgender woman was murdered inside a prison. April’s murders added to that of a 19-year-old transgender man that was shot, and Alexa Negron Luciano, who turned up dead in February. That month, A video also went viral on social media of Luciano being mocked, assaulted, and fatally shot. 

It’s explosion on social media sparked a national conversation that is still going on and has involved voices from the island as big as Bad Bunny. Earlier in the year, Bad Bunny appeared on ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,’ with a shirt that read: “They killed Alexa, not a man in a skirt.” The Puerto Rican singer has been vocal about supporting LGBTQ community, breaking gender norms as well as machismo.

Puerto Rico’s trend of violence towards transgender individuals in 2020 mimics that of the entire country. 

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, the number of transgender people murdered in the U.S. in 2020 has surpassed the amount in 2019. An NCTE report released in 2016, showed the epidemic of violence was also more defined for Black and Latina Trans women. 

Additionally, the survey reported that 30% of all the Latinos interviewed had reported being denied equal treatment, verbally harassed, and/or physically attacked for being transgender.

Back in PR, LGBTQ activists say the violence has not been this bad in a decade.

“This is an epidemic of violence, anti-L.G.B.T. violence that has resurfaced in Puerto Rico,” said activist Pedro Julio Serrano back in April. “We haven’t seen this type of violence in this quantity in a very long time — I would say 10 years.” 

Hate crimes on the LGBTQ community in Puerto Rico dates back to the 1980s, when a serial killer named “Angel of the Bachelors” would meet gay men at bars to take home and murder. 

Law enforcement did not pay attention until a well-known journalist was stabbed to death in 1985, Serrano explained to the NYTimes.

That apathy has continued to the present day as the Puerto Rican government has been criticized for their lack of care for what is going on in their island despite the renewed acts of hate. No solution has been offered except for calls to investigate the crimes committed on the transgender community.

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