By: Grecia Santaella Méndez
During the last day of the Fifth Del Otro La’o Colloquium: Perspectives about Queer Sexualities on March 6, 2014, graduate students from the University of Puerto Rico offered a panel about queer sexualities and state apparatuses.
Roughly 30 people, including professors, moderators, staff members, students, human rights activists and members of the Puerto Rico Police Department, assembled in the Celis Building of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez.
The debate revolved around the master’s degree research of two students of the public university system.
The first orator, UPR-Río Piedras’ graduate student Antonio Ramos Vega, enlightened the audience about studies in the necessity of trans-sexuality in policewomen, in order for them to be respected and considered equally qualified as men. His speech revolved around the obligation policewomen have been submitted to mannish themselves so other policemen will show respect towards them and their work capacity.
The second speaker, a Hispanic studies graduate student at UPRM, explained our citizens and police’s vision of female and male prostitutes in Puerto Rico. Nivializ Toro López’s speech evolved around the polemic of prostitution in PR, as well as the Puerto Rican journalistic discourse on prostitutes.
By comparing the stories of transgender characters from Mayra Santos Febre’s novels “Sirena Selena vestida de pena” and “Nuestra Señora de la Noche”, Toro López explained the difficulties that our society has understanding the nature of transsexual prostitutes. “It is a fact that most transgender, which are males dressed as females, prostitutes are requested services from other men. In the intimacy of closed doors, men feel comfortable, but on the outside everyday situations, we choose to repulse them.” She went on to explain that understanding why we act this way is imminent to start building an equal and respectful society.”
The conference, however, took an unexpected turn after the formal presentations ended. Four police officers congratulated the panelists on their work, a policewomen stood and burst into tears while recognizing the true problematic some sectors of PR have acknowledging and accepting homosexual individuals. The Sargent from the Mayagüez district also recognized the struggle it has been for her to earn her merits and respect from policemen in her work area.
She confessed that it has been very hard for her to be a respected policewoman. “I have an openly gay son and I fear for him very much. It pains me to see the rejection and humiliation people of the LGBTT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual, by its acronym) community suffer.
Fellow audience member and UPRM student Harry Padilla, 19, felt the positive repercussions of the panel. “This panel has helped me understand the misunderstood nature of the LGBTT community members. Seeing so much pain and cruelty towards citizens that are just like us makes me wonder a lot about what kind of society we are working towards, he said in an interview.”