The murders of 10 LGBTQ+ people in the past 15 months, including five transgender people just in the past two months, must be thoroughly investigated to find the murderers, identify whether they were bias-based attacks, and detect possible patterns to help prevent other potential hate crimes.
Three of these murders happened in just eight days, which has led human rights groups to bring attention to what they consider "an epidemic of homophobic and transphobic violence." Only one was clarified, which organizations attribute to have occurred in a prison. Two suspects in the recent murders of two other victims, set on fire in a vehicle, were arrested in Humacao on Wednesday.
Authorities must take complaints seriously. Hate crimes cannot go unnoticed or go unpunished. In this regard, the fact that the FBI in San Juan yesterday filed the Humacao double murder case as a hate crime before the Federal Court, in light of the confession of one of the people arrested, is a step in the right direction.
The Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad documented the circumstances and characteristics of these murders, which show extreme levels of violence. Together with more than 40 organizations and dozens of citizens, it requested an urgent meeting with the Secretary of Public Safety, Pedro Janer, and other officials, to present their questions about the investigations and the protocols that will help prevent further crimes. The government said it has the mechanisms to handle complaints by this sector with diligence and respect.
The request and expert recommendations by these organizations should generate a collaborative effort to help stop such violence and prosecute those responsible for the crimes. The State must send a strong message of rejection of intolerance.
Bias eats away all systems in society. It extends its tentacles into derogatory narratives that fuel contempt, exclusion, and aggression in multiple ways. It, therefore, concerns everyone. Gender identity crimes, such as violence against women, are the result of male violence and must be eradicated. These crimes are driven by a toxic conception of masculinity whose ideal of identity derives from hurting those perceived as weaker. All human beings have equal rights, without distinction.
Weeks before the state of emergency was declared due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the stalking and murder of another transgender person shook the island but authorities have not yet found the murderers. Before she was shot and attacked, Alexa Negrón had been victimized by the various types of violence that erode society.
Like her, many LGBTQ+ people are abused within their families in a culture that reduces women and the roles imposed on them for generations. Rejection also finds its ways in social spaces such as schools and communities, where they are often victims of harassment and aggression.
These disgraceful and painful abuses have pushed hundreds onto the streets, into depression leading to suicide, or into substance abuse. Advocates for the rights of this community have reported that these people are common victims of the abuse by institutions called upon to protect them.
When, at the end of February, Alexa Negrón was attacked without mercy, first through social networks, it was reported that she used to carry a mirror to look behind her back fearing being followed and assaulted, as happened to her. Since then, three more transgender people have had their right to live taken away from them as it happened to her. These crimes, like that mirror, continue to show a face of our society that needs to be transformed.
Intolerance reproducing in hate rhetoric and exclusion practices must be rejected and denounced. It is up to all of us to educate in this sense so that Puerto Rico can evolve into a society of respect, equity, and peace.