It is the transgender prisoners that touch my heart the most. Amazingly, many of them are quite stylishly dressed and wearing makeup, which is surprising, given the conditions in which they are detained, and even more surprising considering the environment in which they are currently living out their lives. Consider, just for a moment, what it takes to be in the body of man and to wear high heels, make up and earrings in a place like this which is the epitome of machismo. It takes an enormous amount of courage for any person, born into the body of one gender but feeling on the inside like the opposite gender, to live her life authentically. To do so in a Salvadoran prison defies comprehension and inspires respect for their grit and determination.
I am awed by the resilience of these people whose sexual identities are literally a matter of life and death.
On the outside, transgender people here endure the highest murder rate. Most have been kicked out of their homes for their identification as transgender, losing family, friends and any hope of support. Many turn to sex work or drugs to sustain themselves, being virtually the only ways to survive—which not only puts them in dangerous places with dangerous people, but leaves them easy targets for the police, who are all too happy to throw them into the prisons, like the one I am visiting. (read more).Read more about the status of LGBT rights in El Salvador where some progress has been made, but where much homophobia and discrimination still exists.