Transgender Women in Mexico are Being Killed

Here's Why.

By Sofia Gonzalez

The life of a woman in Mexico is nothing short of beautiful and dangerous. Mexico is widely recognized for its vibrant culture, food, and most recently, being the second worst country to live in as a transgender woman according to human rights organizations.

The Observatory of Murdered Trans People shows that


transgender individuals were murdered in 2020. The most vulnerable group being transgender women.

Activist Ana Karen Lopez Quintana is a 48-year-old transgender woman living in Tamaulipas, Mexico, where she is the Director of the Tamaulipas Diversidad Vihda Trans Civil Association. Lopez founded this organization to address the needs of transgender women in her community who like herself, were once sex workers and contracted HIV.

Quintana said that the older she gets “the harder it will be to live with HIV and to be transgender in Mexico because of the deeply rooted discrimination in the healthcare system, lack of work opportunities, and safety.”

According to Ricardo Coyotzin Torres, the President of the Fuera del Closet Civil Association based in Toluca, Mexico, transgender women in Mexico have a life expectancy of 35 years. The cause of such a short life expectancy is the violence they face in that country, many times due to not having legal documentation that matches their identity.

On July 20, 2021, the state of Mexico became the 14th out of 32 states in Mexico to approve the Gender Identity Law. Torres said that this law enables transgender individuals to change their sex in their birth certificate and eventually their government ID. This allows many transgender women get the help they need and to be legally recognized in their community.

Quintana said that it shouldn’t matter what the sex in her government ID is; if she presents herself as a woman then she should be treated as one and respected as such. She has experienced a lot of discrimination in healthcare clinics who chose not to attend her for having HIV and being transgender.

This discrimination is one type of violence against trans women, whereas, many are rejected by doctors who refuse to care for them even when they are in life or death situations.

According to law professor Paula Hernandez, from CETYS University in Tijuana, Mexico, not changing one’s sex in their legal documentation is a big issue because they will not be given the same treatment as a cisgender woman in Mexico.

“The law does not involve emotions…If your documents do not align with your sexuality and your birth certificate still says ‘male’, you are still a man before the law.”

Professor Hernandez

Another effect of this is that if a transgender woman is assaulted, their case will not be treated as a transfemicide, nor a femicide at least. She will be recognized as a man. This means that the protocols taken by police departments to investigate the case will not be the same as the ones taken in a femicide; and the violation will not be counted in government hate crime reports.

Andrea Valeria Diaz is a 20-year-old transgender woman from Mexico City in her junior year studying journalism at the University of Southern California. Currently transitioning, Diaz fears that one day her name will be in the header of a Mexican homicide article, thus, she has no plans of going back home after graduating even though she'd miss her family and home.

Andrea Valeria Diaz shares what the challenges are of being a transgender woman in Mexico

Neither Quintana nor Diaz have changed their legal name or birth certificate sex.

Diaz has been unable to change her documentation from male to female because if she does she won’t be able to come back to the United States. It could take up to a year to process a new visa. Many other transgender women have been unable to change their legal documents because until now, they were required to get vaginoplasty. This type of surgery is not widely available in Mexico and can cost up to

150,000 pesos or 7,800 dollars.

According to Diaz, this is a tactic to exclude those who don’t have the resources. She said that the most dangerous part of being a transgender woman in Mexico is that if you are a non-passing transgender woman, meaning your physical body and facial structure is more masculine than feminine, you are more prone to experiencing violence compared to transgender women who have the resources to get the hormones and surgery.

The 2020 Report of Hate Crimes Against LGBTQ People In Mexico provided by Fundacion Arcoiris, a major LGBTQ+ non-profit organization based in Mexico City, states that because of the pandemic, many transgender women either lost their home, resorting to doing sex work, or were stuck at home, living with their aggressor.

Torres said, “Many transgender women are denied the right to work, thus, resort to doing sex work because it is all they have left.”

The majority of deaths within the LGBTQ+ community in Mexico are transgender women. The state of Veracruz is recognized as the most violent place to live in with 21 murders in 2020.

The data from Fundacion Arcoiris' National Observatory of Hate Crimes against LGBT Persons , shows that there have been 31 transfemicides in 2021. The two states with the most murders are Morelos, with 12 murders and Veracruz, with 5 murders.

On July 7, 2021, a 29 year old transgender woman in Tijuana, was murdered and then her house was set on fire with her in it.

The case was labeled as a homicide caused by a personal relationship not as a transfemicide because her legal documentation had not been changed to her current identity.

With devastating numbers of transfemicides, the National Council to Prevent and Eradicate Discrimination (Conapred) and the Ministry of the Interior urged authorities to investigate with a gender and human rights approach. Likewise, Gloria Careaga, the Director of Fundación Arcoiris, said that paralegals and police departments should consider transphobia and gender in the analysis and treatment of these cases because they are comparatively more violent than other types of murders.

Careaga said, “transgender women pose the biggest threat to machismo culture in Mexico.” In other words, they experience two types of violence that derive from rejecting their masculinity and being a woman. She said,

“They are being killed not because of who they are but because of what they represent.”

Diaz said cisgender men in Mexico feel their sexulity and identity is threatened when they are attracted to transgender women because they fear their masculinity is challenged.

“Many cisgender men in Mexico feel like they are being tricked but there is no trick. We look like a woman, we act like a woman. They are attracted to women because we are women,” said Diaz.

Careaga agrees with Diaz and adds that when men question their sexuality, they start doubting their identity and feel the need to make that threat disappear.

To address their fear, the aggressor uses violence. This means that the murder is emotionally driven and incessant, making it way more violent, because the intention is “to make the woman disappear."

Women in Mexico are already being killed at overwhelming rates, normally by people that know them such as neighbors, family, and romantic partners. She explains that this same pattern can be seen in transfemicides, whereas, the majority of murders are committed by people whom the victim welcomed into their home.

Quintana said that this is why it’s so important to educate people about filing a complaint against someone and suing them. She explains that many of her friends never file a complaint because they are discouraged and believe no one will care, so why waste their energy?

For this, her work as Director of the Tamaulipas Diversidad Vihda Trans Civil Association, has focused on guiding and assisting women through their lawsuits so justice is served.

“If not us then who? If not now then when?”

Ana Karen Lopez Quintana

Fundación Arcoíris and Fuera del Closet are in the forefront of pushing the current administration to educate Mexican citizens about gender from a young age because transgender women are taking the biggest hit in our society. Quintana and Diaz are just two of the many who experience the repercussions of a government that does not effectively address the deeply rooted violence against transgender women.

For more information on how you can help visit Fundacíon Arcoíris, Fuera del Closet, and Tamaulipas Diversidad Vihda Trans Civil Association.