Trans Visibility in Colombia

By: Johan S. Rodríguez Cabán

Dr. Salvador Vidal-Ortiz, associate professor in the American University in Washington DC, brought to light the social situation of the transexual community throughout Colombia, where those living outside major cities were persecuted and made to abandon the town and move elsewhere, most of them relocating in major cities where the government had “use” for them.

Dr. Vidal-Ortiz gave a powerpoint presentation about the subject on Thursday, March 6 at the Chardon Building of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. He started off his presentation by defining the basic concepts of his presentation. He then defined the trans community as two major parts: trans women who are men that have the sexual identity of women and trans men who are women with sexual identity of men. Both groups have faced similar consequences in Colombia.

Outside of the major cities in Colombia trans men and women have had to hide their sexual identities out of fear of persecution. When someone finds out of a trans community member’s sexual orientation they are given a 10 day period to leave the town. They called this a social cleansing process. These people then relocated in major cities inside Colombia where the difference in treatment began.

Vidal Ortiz noted that of the two groups, trans women have more visibility. The transsexual movement is favored as long as they abide by a trans normative model. Most of these trans women would need to constantly take hormones for a more feminine form and become further invisible; they would work in the prostitution business and make a good amount of money. Whereas for trans men no such arrangements were made. Trans men were viewed in a whole different manner. Trans women became visible because of their value for prostitution and as for trans men, they became more and more invisible with their hormone intakes.

Conference attendee María R. Scharrón del Río stated that what she found most impacting was “the amount of visibility for trans women, it is more common to see trans men”. When asked to compare the trans men in Puerto Rico versus the one in Colombia she said “Here there is much less visibility in terms of who considers themselves a butch or trans men. A person who considers themselves butch is more common to encounter than a person who considers themselves a trans men”.


Dr. Vidal-Ortiz giving his powerpoint presentation.


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