Mexico: Death of trans doctor sparks new fears over LGBT+ violence

Umbrellas for sale during a gay pride parade in Mexico City, Mexico 29, 2019 – Image: REUTERS/Luis Cortes

Mexican authorities said on Friday they were investigating the death of a leading transgender health advocate, whose body was found dumped by a motorway, reigniting fears over the safety of trans people in the country.

Elizabeth Montano, a transgender doctor, who worked at the Mexican Social Security Institute, had been reported missing for nearly 10 days, authorities said, before her body was found near the town of Tres Marias, some 50 kilometers south of Mexico City.

The Mexican capital prosecutor’s office said it was collaborating with the Morelos state justice system, to follow up on the investigation and “deliver results soon.”

“We are in contact with (Montano’s) family to whom we send our solidarity,” said Mexico City Mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, on Twitter.

“We expect a prompt result of the investigations from prosecutors.”

Despite recent progress on LGBT+ rights, with same-sex marriage legal in more than half the country’s states, Mexico remains a dangerous and often deadly place for gay and trans people.

Last year, 117 LGBT+ people were killed in Mexico, up almost a third compared with 2018, and the highest number since 2015, according to local advocacy group Letra S.

LGBT+ activists lamented Montano’s death as the silencing of an important trans rights advocate in the health sector, where transgender people often face discrimination accessing care.

Montano had trained local doctors on transgender care, according to Siobhan McManus, a trans rights activist, and was planning on expanding the trainings nationwide.

“It’s a huge loss because still in this country many doctors see trans identities as a disease, a disorder,” McManus said.

“Elizabeth was a transformational force within medical communities and was a very important voice,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Transgender women are among the most vulnerable to attacks in a country where murder rates have soared due to drug cartel-fueled violence.

Last year, the number of murder victims among the general population increased 2.5%, but the number of gay and trans victims was 27% higher than in 2018, according to Letra S.

More than half the victims were transgender women, the organization said.

Montano’s death “is a powerful reminder … of the violent situation that LGBT communities live in, and particularly trans populations,” said Alex Orue, executive director of LGBT+ youth suicide prevention group It Gets Better Mexico.

“It’s cruel on so many levels.”

The Mexico City prosecutor’s office said Montano’s body was found with her belongings, and without signs of violence.

-Oscar Lopez @oscarlopezgib – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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