Naomi Nicole Garcia was twelve years old when she left Las Choapas, Veracruz, still as a boy. Her family, which she never saw again, christened her Jonathan Andy. Twelve years later, Naomi, “I Will Dream,” returned to her homeland as a trans woman, sex worker and murdered, with a gunshot to her forehead that makeup manages to disguise with difficulty.
Amid the WARNING for COVID19, another murder of a transgender woman reminds us that Mexico is still sick with violence and that there is no vaccine for this pandemic either. In 2019, 49 members of this group suffered a violent death, according to data from ProDiana A.C. And Naomi’s not the first victim this year.
“She wanted her family to love her. That he accepted her as what he is,” says Scarlett Vargas Gutierrez, a trans woman, also a sexserver, who shared a room with her deceased in a downtown hotel between March and September 2019.
It’s nine o’clock on Thursday morning, March 26, and five female colleagues fired at a Garcia funeral home in Mexico City’s Algarín colony.
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Here is the family Naomi built in her twelve years of exile in the capital: trans women, sex workers, vulnerable people whom the city hides in hotel rooms where they live and work in alleys where they are sometimes killed.
With the coffin in the center, a woman and a man embrace, with a weary gesture, collapsed on a black sofa. They’ve been here most of the night. Outside, the streets are getting more and more empty, for fear of the virus, but in the wake the room is small, so there is no healthy distance worthwhile. Next to the couple, another woman lays her hands, distracted. At times like this, you never know what to do with your hands. A blonde-dyed-exuberant observes the white coffin standing on her heels, while showing how well she has looked at the makeup. It wasn’t an easy job, to disguise a mouth shot. Meanwhile, a fifth speaks on the phone to find out the latest details of the prosecution.
On two tables, on either side of the sofas, there are leftover food, some potatoes, wrappers of what look like burgers, cigarettes off and some empty bottle of anise.
Mexico is, according to the Trans Murder Observatory, the second most dangerous country for this group, followed by Brazil. A report by the organization Letra S states that, during the six-year period of Enrique Peña Nieto, a total of 261 trans women were murdered.
It’s been two days since Naomi became part of the long list of trans women who die in violent circumstances. It happened tuesday at around 4 a.m. in the Guerrero colony, in an area of high presence of sex workers. According to testimony gathered by Kenya Citlali Cuevas, activist and director of The Tiresias DOLL House AC, there was an argument and two subjects ran to the victim when the young woman fell with two bullet hits, one of them directly to the head.
The two guys fled in a red vehicle until they had an accident and were arrested. They are currently in the Southern Reclusorio, where they were linked to “qualified homicide” proceedings, implying that it is “referring to a vulnerable group as part of an LGBTI community but is not a gender perspective”, according to sources of the Judiciary of Mexico City.
These same sources confirmed that the detainees are military. Animal Político asked a spokesman for the Secretariat of National Defense about the case, but at the close of the note it had not received a response.
No one has yet explained what happened, what was said, what was the sequence of the events so that the night ended with a woman lying on the ground with a bullet in the head and two militarymen arrested and accused of pulling the trigger.
Health authorities have been asking people to stay home for weeks because of the pandemic. But there they were, at 4 a.m., two military men and a sex worker.
Scarlett says that girls live up to date, that if they don’t go out on the street they don’t eat and that in that perspective there is no disjunction possible.
Rocío comments, also sexserver, who take their precautions, that it is about not leaving with someone if it seems “filthy”.
Kenya says that the order to stay at home for many workers has meant that they spend a lot of time at home. And end up going out on the street looking for sex.
Twelve years without seeing their relatives
Naomi’s story reflects all the stigma, marginalization, and pain faced by men and women who choose to make the gender transition. Loneliness, too. It’s a little-dened story. To suffer a lot and talk little about it. And also to laugh, and drink, and give the bad life without reste.
“He didn’t have much contact with his relatives. I was twelve years old without seeing them,” says Noé Chavez Almada, a taxi driver who met the young woman two years ago. “She was cheerful, good friend, good companion,” she says. Lately, she says, she saw her helpless, depressed. “He’d grabbed the drugs,” he says.
The taxi driver knows the threats faced by the trans collective that has no alternative left but sex work.
According to the Conapred Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination Survey 2018, seven out of ten trans women and men reported having experienced acts of discrimination over the past twelve months. Accessing a job is not easy for this group. So street or aesthetics are usually the two options for not starving.
“They take a lot of chances. You don’t know which person you can find. They get into cars, they don’t know what psycho they’re going to meet,” says Chavez Almada.
The five people who attend the wake have little detail about the life of the dead woman. They matched during working hours, they knew each other, they sure shared some bottles and some night of confidence. But there are issues that are not touched.
“What she was looking for in life was for the family to love her, to accept her as she is, a transgender woman,” Scarlett says. “Every time he played the son (of his family), he became very sad. I was like, “Sister, don’t touch me that son.” And of course, you have to respect. He didn’t insist on talking about his family. But I saw him with wet eyes on that subject,” he says.
“She was very secretive,” says Kenya Cuevas, from Dollhouse, who acknowledges that she barely knew the victim but, with her association, took over the body and returned it to the mother, with which she managed to contact. “Being reserved is normal in the trans community. We became in pain. We want to investigate what he liked, what he ate, but they’re things we don’t have. Because we rent a room, live together at work, in drug or alcohol conditions, and that creates a different friendship than another that is free of substances,” he says.
“The family theme stays in the background without anyone touching it,” he explains.
There is consensus in linking Naomi’s escape from Veracruz to her sexual condition. It’s a sadly common story. A child who knows his body doesn’t correspond to what he feels. Parents who can’t understand it. Traditions, rigidities and a lot of pain on both sides until the boy leaves and the communication is cut off.
In Naomi’s case, it happened when she was twelve. At that age he arrived in Mexico City and has since begun sex work. At first, on the street, because not a weight had to shelter in some room. After that, in hotels. At the time, who knows how much, came the alcohol, the cocaine, the stone.
“He started making money, but unfortunately he fell into drug addiction and alcoholism,” Scarlett says.
At noon, a hearse departed Mexico City for Las Choapas, Veracruz. There, a mother waited, confused. “She’s baffled,” Kenya says. “He was twelve years old when he left his house. He’s still out of man. I explained to the mother that she was a trans woman, that she had made her life as a trans woman, who was doing sex work,” she adds.
Initiated the investigation folder, the activist only hopes there is “justice” for Naomi. But the failure of the authorities to include the gender perspective is not, in their view, a good start.
It was Kenya herself that, after the murder of her friend Paola Buenrostro in 2016, she managed to get a homicide to be classified as “transfemicide” for the first time.
So he warns, “They’re not going to shut us up.”
It is Thursday afternoon and is on his way to Veracruz, accompanying his companion’s coffin to his family’s house. To the place Naomi went out as a boy when she was twelve and returns, dead, like the woman she always wanted to be.
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