The first transgender woman to be a candidate for political office in El Salvador was drugged and assaulted in Mexico City on June 20, in what activists called an act of transphobic violence.
In a statement published Wednesday, Alejandra Menjivar, who lost her bid for a seat on the Central American parliament in February, said she had suffered one of the worst experiences of her life but was alive to tell her story, thanks to the kindness of a stranger.
Latin America is the most dangerous region in the world for transgender people, and Mexico and El Salvador are among the worst nations. Local authorities are often reluctant to thoroughly investigate crimes committed against the LGBTQ community.
That harsh reality was part of what motivated Menjivar, 35, to enter politics. When she cast her ballot in this year’s election, a rainbow pride flag draped around her shoulders, she was overcome with emotion by the significance of the moment.
“Today, in the thousands of ballots there was a photograph of a trans woman, puffing out her chest and putting forth a body and face for everyone,” said Menjivar on Twitter about the importance of trans representation.
“I reflected on how much we still need to do to achieve guarantees for each and every one of us, I remembered my murdered friends, Bethzaida, Fiorela, Anahí, Katherine, and others, I remembered many who have had to emigrate ...” she added.
After the election, the threats and discrimination that Menjivar endured during the campaign escalated so much that she felt forced to emigrate to Mexico, where she has applied for political asylum.
The nightmare began on Sunday night after drinking an apparently spiked beer plunged Menjivar into a deep haze. In the early hours of Monday morning, she awoke “abused, disoriented, [and] lost,” according to her statement. She credited another transgender woman who found her for saving her life. Angie, as Menjivar identified the woman, was a sex worker.
Many transgender women in Mexico, in particular immigrants from other countries, are forced to work in the sex industry because of the lack of job opportunities due to discrimination, said Raúl Capor, director and co-founder of Casa Frida in Mexico City, a shelter for the LGBTQ community.
“They end up in the same situation of vulnerability without access to employment, without access to healthcare, and at the mercy and disposition of other dynamics of organized crime,” said Capor, about migrants from the LGBTQ community who come to Mexico City.
Although Mexico City is generally considered more accepting of LGBTQ people, the case of Menjivar, and those of many others, makes plain that it’s far from a safe haven.
“In Mexico, as well as in much of Latin America, we can find important advances in the recognition of the rights of trans populations. However, this has not been enough and has not generated substantial changes in the lives and development of trans people,” said Capor.
“There is much work to be done, even in Mexico City.”