THE TROUBLING STATE OF LGBTQ+ AFFAIRS IN PUERTO RICO

A report by Kaytlin Sullivan for Pasquines.

Over the past few years in Puerto Rico, the US island territory has seen an uprising in murderings of LGBTQ+ people, and more specifically, transgender people. Activists in the US territory are calling for justice, accountability, and peace, specifically while heading into a new year.

In early 2021, the governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi (NPP, D) announced a state of emergency,  hoping to address the enormity of violence-based crimes and murders on gender-based violence. He also signed an executive order in mid-January of 2021, addressing violence towards women, misogyny, and gender-based violence. Pierluisi later acknowledged and expanded the executive order to include transgender and LGBTQ+ individuals as well. 

The executive order has resources for LGBTQ individuals and Puerto Rican women. A mobile app that is able to request help, the addition of a governmental representative overseeing the order, and the beginning of an anti-violence gender campaign are all on the orders’ agenda. 

The deaths of transgender people in the United States in 2020 skyrocketed, and in Puerto Rico, a record high of six people were murdered. In the past two years, at least 12 LGBTQ+ people have been murdered, while many go unreported. Among many other important lives lost, Puerto Rico mourned the loss of a transgender man and activist, Samuel Edmond Damián Valentín, who was shot countless times while in his car early this year. Activist groups such as House of Grace, and Trans Tanamá exist to strive for justice for the LGBTQ community. 

Murder in the LGBTQ+ community is not the only violence-based crime. Many people in Puerto Rico say that people in the community are beaten, or tortured with hate speech. This occurs in daily settings, and specifically, while out at night at clubs or restaurants. 

Activists claim that Puerto Rican police contribute largely to transphobia and homophobia. Many times police fail to correctly identify or refer to LGBTQ+ individuals. Additionally, the police have been accused of doing less to solve cases involving or related to LGBTQ+ people. In July, dozens of police officers were under-fire after they raided an LGBTQ+-friendly bar in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Loverbar. 

In the midst of social change in Puerto Rico, activists hope that Puerto Rico can have one of LGBTQ+ justice, in the fight for equality. After a record-high in transgender deaths in 2020, and a rough 2021 for  LGBTQ+ individuals, Puerto Rico hopes for a recovered 2022. 

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