Murders of Trans People in Puerto Rico Go Unrecorded

At least six transgender people have been murdered in Puerto Rico in the last 12 months — but none have been recorded as hate crimes.

According to Sophia Isabel Marro Cruz, the spokeswoman for Transexuales y Transgeneros en Marcha (Transexuals and Transgenders On The Move):

“None of these cases have been considered by the State as hate crimes despite offenders even admitting that their motivation was the ‘homosexual panic’. This shows an extreme level of homophobia and transphobia.”

‘Homosexual panic’ is an acute, brief reactive psychosis suffered by the target of unwanted homosexual advances. It has been used legally by those defending a person charged with murder.

In 1995, one of the highest-profile cases to make use of the gay panic defense was the Michigan trial of Jonathan Schmitz, who killed his friend Scott Amedure after learning, during a taping of The Jenny Jones Show, that Amedure was sexually attracted to him. Schmitz confessed to committing the crime but claimed that Amedure’s homosexual overtures angered and humiliated him.

It was also attempted by the murderers of Matthew Sheppard in Wyoming in 1998.

A transgender variation of the gay panic defense was also used in 2004–2005 in California by the three defendants in the Gwen Araujo homicide case, who claimed that they were enraged by the discovery that Araujo, a transgender teenager with whom they had engaged in sex, had male genitalia. The first trial resulted in a jury deadlock; in the second, defendants Mike Magidson and Jose Merél were convicted of second-degree murder, while the jury again deadlocked in the case of Jason Cazares. Cazares later entered a plea of no contest to charges of voluntary manslaughter.

Cruz says that websites documenting murders of transgender people only list one during 2011, but her organization knows of six, possibly seven.

“The most notorious was Karlota, a 19 year old who was murdered on gay pride day in Santurce. But that isn’t the only murder here. We know of one young woman who was murdered in Ponce in September. Two more were shot and then run over in the south near that same time. Another was shot in a fight while trying to help another woman. The last one was beaten until she died. We even think there’s another one from Manatí, in the northern part of the island, but we cannot confirm it yet.”

The attacks come amid growing fundamentalist rhetoric on the island. Gay and transgender people say it has become socially acceptable to despise them.

“You have religious and political leaders saying: ‘Gays don’t matter; they are the devil and twisted,’” said Pedro Julio Serrano, the communications manager for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“That’s inciting violence. We have not seen anything like this here since the 1980s.”

Activists say that the government has failed to implement anti-discrimination policy and remains largely mute on the disturbing trend.

Latino Commission on AIDS organizer Yanira Arias, said:

“Transgender women are fighting for their lives in Puerto Rico. It’s unconscionable that the national and state justice systems are not doing more to protect them and document these beatings and murders as hate-crimes, we are talking about human beings, which today continue to be the most marginalized and violated when it comes the full respect of human and civil rights.”

Dr. Elba Diaz, a professor at the University of Puerto Rico, said:

“Many people here are trying to reduce LGBTT health disparities, but the lack of consistent acknowledgement or data from federal agencies makes our local social justice and health goals that much more difficult to achieve.”

Puerto Rico has had a hate crime law since 2002 covering crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but activists say that authorities are not using it.


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Gay Man Stabbed with Beer Bottle, Burned in Reno, Texas


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Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle6 years ago

Defense, using "homosexual panic" is a crock of shit. Pastors saying that trans/gays are the devil, is nothing less than abetting an act of murder. LBGTs are born with varying genetic and hormonal differences -- they already have a frightening life, trying to figure out who they are ... before the outside world steps in to condemn them. Have a heart, world. And pay attention to your own life! That should take ALL your time and attention.

Nazarius Celsus Dorus

The problem of trans killing is happening worldwide... In Malaysia, the cases are not solved and just shelved into the corner as they are considered a pariah...

Chelsea M.
Chelsea M6 years ago

There is never a good reason to murder anyone! Whether this person is gay, transgender or not!

Alicia N.
Alicia N6 years ago

sadly noted

Ian F.
Ian Fletcher6 years ago

Hate crime, ignorance crime, or whatever, I really hope for justice and tolerance. Also I'd like to thank my parents for always having gay friends at home for dinner, great education. Gays are normal to me. I have gay and transexual friends today and let my kids play, eat and talk to them, just like anyone else.

Amilkar Romero
Amilkar Romero6 years ago

Steve R
Gee, How did I guess you would comment here? Your comments on care2 are characterized by a nonchalant callousness towards the suffering of the lgbt community. According to your logic, Just mentioning a group means they're getting special attention. They're not. It's equal attention.
Stop spewing your ignorance & move on.

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

Thanks Paul. It's terrible that this kind ofthing happens and sadly it's very predominant in African and Latin nations where machismo and importance of projecting a manly image reign supreme.

Steve R., You're obviously a hateful, ignorant homophobe. People should be for equality, and this article illustrates that GLBT people especially Transgender people don't have it. They are treated like second class citizens that don't deserve any rights and are viewed by people such as yourself as nothing more than human garbage. Nobody should be victimized or brutalized for nay reason, be it race, religion, gender, sexual orientation etc. Equality and respect for your fellow human being is not reserved for only certain people deemed worthy of it, but for all people everywhere.

Christopher C.
Chris C6 years ago

Steve R...once again you show your complete lack of intelligence. There is no denying "any" type of murder or bullying is "hateful". The article in no way takes away from "anyone" in regards to how horrendous bullying or murder is to any human being on this planet.

Paul Canning and other's are bringing this to light due to the bullying and murder crimes against LGBT persons...especially transgendered happens more frequently to transgendered and LGBT person than hetro/straight persons. If you have any education or mind at all you'll know this time of crime is more prevalent in the LGBT community.

If you feel so strongly that the hetro/straight population isn't getting enough "mention" in regards to murders, why don't you take a moment to stop pointing fingers and bitching, do some research to prove "your numbers" correct, and post an article or blog about it?

Apparently because transgendered persons are being murdered...the government and local police not recording and mentioning these crimes, at this point you cannot say that LGBT and transgendered persons are "EQUAL".

Pack-up and go back to S. Africa Steve. You and Dawid could start your own "idiotic and total lack of intelligence bigotry forum".

Jennifer S.
Jennifer S6 years ago

Trans folk are the most marginalized group in our society, and it is a fact that many of these murders are hate crimes. The trans victim is often brutalized, disfigured in horrible ways, and mutilated. How can one say that an horrific crime such as that is not motivated by hate? And the so-called "Panic Defense" is nothing more than a charade, made up by the perpetrator, so that there might be an easier punishment. Isn't it time that those who have such animosity towards transgenders back off a little? In my opinion, these people are driven by fear. They are afraid of someone who breaks their concept of gender. Well, I've got news for them-they don't have to be afraid. Bring transgender is not catching! They don't have to worry that they will somehow be infected. Why not just let the person who doesn't conform to their gender conceptions alone? Live and let live!

Marianna B M.