Transgenders in Mexico Dream Escape

Published: July 18, 2013

PUEBLA, Mexico (WOMENSENEWS)– Maricela Moreno Ortega hatched a plan to leave her hometown of Puebla nearly 11 years ago. She sold her hair salon and made plans with a friend, also a transgender woman, to meet early one morning and travel together to cross the Texas border.
 
But her mother intervened the day before Moreno, now 43, was set to depart this colonial capital of the state of Puebla, with a population of about 1.5 million, two hours outside of Mexico City.
 
"My mom stopped me from going," said Moreno, speaking from her salon, adorned with ceramic frog statues. "There had been all of this conflict in my family and I was feeling very disillusioned. But my mom said that if I left, I was going to abandon the family."
 
So Moreno wound up back in her salon.
 
"For trans people who do not have the support of their families, the majority of them want to leave, but it’s not so easy, if they don’t know how to read and write, or there is the question of English," said Salvador Meta Ortiz, a local LGBT activist who conducts HIV-prevention and treatment outreach through two nonprofit groups. "There is the fear of the migration itself — the police they could encounter, the other migrants, other risks they could face along the way. It’s a lot to consider."
 
In interviews, 10 transgender women said that if they don’t leave, their employment options in Puebla mainly boil down to sex work and bar tending. Only if they are as fortunate as Ortega– with either money or family support– can some become hair stylists.
 
These three occupations–either dangerous or siloed from the rest of society–are understood across Mexico to be acceptable entry points of employment for transgender women.

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