Transgender people in Puerto Rico say they are invisible in the eyes of the island — and it’s contributing to a culture of violence

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09/2/2021

While celebrating her 16th birthday at a gay bar in Puerto Rico a few years ago, Lina, a trans woman, said an older man drugged her and attempted to rape her. She then sought out the police to report her experience. “When I turned to the police station, they said, ‘You were in a gay bar, what were you expecting?'” she said in an interview with CBS News. “And it’s stuff that may, to them, be so insignificant, but for us, it changes our life.” She now works at Loverbar, an LGBTQ-friendly bar located near a busy area in San Juan. Now in her early 20s, Lina said it’s one of the rare places she feels safe as a trans person on the island. “The instant that I go out, I feel scared, because I don’t know what some man can do to me,” Lina said. “What if the police sees me and attacks me?” She is not alone. Activist groups and victims say transgender people are targets of violence from both Puerto Rican citizens and from local police for expressing their gender identity, and that police are often dismissive of crime victims who are transgender. Of the 44 transgender or gender non-conforming people who were fatally shot or killed by violent means in 2020 in the U.S., six were killed on the island, accounting for 14% of the deaths — more than any state or territory, according to tracking by the Human Rights Campaign. At least one trans person was killed earlier this year, the organization said.

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