Tag: Principle 4

A Light Dimmed Too Soon: Honoring the Memory of Chanell Perez Ortiz

A Light Dimmed Too Soon: Honoring the Memory of Chanell Perez Ortiz

A Light Dimmed Too Soon: Honoring the Memory of Chanell Perez Ortiz

It happened again. But this time, it happened in Puerto Rico. Another trans woman trying to survive in this spine-chilling world; another trans woman murdered on US territory; another broken promise, and, more call-to-action lists that just keeps getting bigger as the days progress.

Her name was Chanell Perez Ortiz. She had pearly white teeth, a caramel complexion, and eyes that led one into a room where potential lies shelved on exhibition—from the love of pop culture to the art of styling lace frontal wigs. Ortiz was the amalgam of femenina.

There was not much on the internet about Perez’s upbringing; only that she was a cosmetologist and a “fashion nova” who adored hair and makeup.

Fashion, for some trans women, facilitates freedom of expression and brings trans women closer to realizing their right to life. Hair and makeup align trans women with their most authentic selves—bringing to life riveting art into human form.

At times, I let this undeniable truth decamp into criticism, “Why is the normative society expecting trans women to always appear in public with a full face of makeup and lace frontal wigs? Didn’t they know that not all trans women aspired to these patriarchal social conventions of beauty?” And this was the turning point for me, as I realized these aesthetics were: freedom.

Perez, like all human beings, are born free and equal in dignity and rights. This is a reference to Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a guarantee to the people that all rights and freedoms outlined in the Declaration should be interpreted without distinction of any kind.

Regrettably, there are distinctions when it comes to transgenderism in Puerto Rico. For instance, trans women are judged to be an invisible and underserved group.[1] The invisibility of trans women in Puerto Rico’s social arena has potentially led to an escalation of violence against them.[2] This finding does not stand alone, as Ínaru Nadia de la Fuente Díaz said transgender people in Puerto Rico are “invisible in the eyes of the island” and this has contributed to a culture of violence.[3]

Between 2009 and 2011, Puerto Rico has seen 18 homicides against LGBT individuals.[4] While it is not immediately clear how many of these homicides were trans women, the number is still troubling. In 2012, a trans woman living in Carolina, Puerto Rico was stabbed to death in her home.[5] Then in 2020, this number increased: six trans people had been murdered. One of those deaths was Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas, a 33-year-old bartender and aspiring nurse. Based on the reporting of Assunção, Vargas was found dead on an isolated road in San Germán, Puerto Rico with multiple gun wounds to her body.[6]

It has been said that in Puerto Rico, the population places cultural value on adherence to polarized and rigid definitions of gender and sexuality.[7] Moreover, evidence seems to suggest that intolerance toward transgender people in Puerto Rico is rooted in religious heritage. Although the study conducted by Rodriquez-Madera does not explore all forms of violence, she did find the high levels of stigma toward socially marginalized and vulnerable populations were connected to religious beliefs.[8]

Again, there does not seem to be much online about Ortiz or if her murder was religiously motivated. What I do know is that human rights activists have seen a rise in attacks on trans women in the last couple of years.  

Based on the research I have been conducting, the continued verbal attacks on trans women have come from groups of individuals from both sides of the aisle. Some of these attacks are coming from public figures who are set in their beliefs about trans women. In the words of Bernard Baruch, “Every man has a right to his opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.”

This is exactly how I hear the opinions about trans women; everyone has a right to them but not to their own set of facts. On the other side of the coin, I think most humans would agree that no person has the right to arbitrarily take a life, even if the life being taken is a trans life.[9]

I hope that the Puerto Rican government exercises its due diligence to effectively investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators responsible for Ortiz’s death, and to utilize the hate crime laws it enacted in 2002 to protect individuals like Ortiz from further violence on the bases of their gender identity and sex characteristics.[10] This could make Puerto Rico a safer place.

[1] Rodríguez-Madera, Sheilla L et al. “Experiences of Violence Among Transgender Women in Puerto Rico: An Underestimated Problem.” Journal of homosexuality vol. 64,2 (2017): 209-217. doi:10.1080/00918369.2016.1174026

[2] Id., p. 2.

[3] Cohen, Christopher Brito Li. “Transgender People in Puerto Rico Say They Are Invisible in the Eyes of the Island – and It’s Contributing to a Culture of Violence.” CBS News, 2 Sept. 2021, www.cbsnews.com/news/transgender-puerto-ricans-violence/.

[4] Supra., footnote 1, p. 3.

[5] “Transgender Murder 30th Anti-LGBTQ Homicide in Puerto Rico in Decade – Windy City Times News.” Windy City Times, 23 Oct. 2012, www.windycitytimes.com/lgbt/Transgender-murder-30th-anti-LGBTQ-homicide-in-Puerto-Rico-in-decade/40036.html.

[6] Assunção, Muri. “Another Transgender Woman Fatally Shot in Puerto Rico – the 6th Killing of a Trans Person This Year in the U.S. Territory.” Nydailynews.Com, 30 Sept. 2020, web.archive.org/web/20210129062302/https://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/ny-transgender-woman-killed-puerto-rico-michelle-ramos-vargas-20200930-xnf2a4i6ivdt7phe5eqjwwriwu-story.html.

[7] Supra, footnote 1.

[8] Id., p. 2.

[9] Principle 4 of the Yogakarta Principles: No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of life, including by reference to consideration of gender identity.

[10] United Nations. “Born Free and Equal – Un Human Rights Office.” OHCHR, 2019, www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/Born_Free_and_Equal_WEB.pdf.

Gone too soon: tributes pour in for black trans woman lost to violence

Gone too soon: tributes pour in for black trans woman lost to violence

Gone too soon: tributes pour in for black trans woman lost to violence

As a society, we are often too quick to dismiss the struggles of Black trans women, particularly those who are living on the edge of society. The recent passing of Ashia Davis is a tragedy that highlights the ongoing fight for equality and the need for greater support and acceptance of Black trans women in the LGBTQ+ community.

Transgender individuals, especially Black trans women, face a host of challenges that are not experienced by cisgender individuals.

These include discrimination, violence, harassment, and exclusion from many aspects of society. For Black trans women in the US, these challenges are compounded by ongoing racism and sexism, which can make it even harder to access resources and support.

The loss of Davis is a significant blow to the community, and a reminder of the many obstacles that Black trans women face on a daily basis. It is also a reminder of the need for greater awareness and understanding.

The impact of this loss is felt not only by those who knew Davis personally, but by the broader community as well. It is a loss that highlights the need for greater support and resources for those who are struggling, as well as a call-to-action to address the systemic issues that contribute to the marginalization and discrimination of transgender individuals.

As we mourn the loss of Davis, we must also acknowledge the many other trans women and non-binary persons who have lost their lives in recent years. These individuals are often forgotten or ignored, and their deaths are rarely given the attention and outrage that they deserve.

Gone too soon: tributes pour in for black trans woman lost to violence, who are disproportionately affected.

The fact that Black trans women are disproportionately affected by violence and discrimination is a clear indication that we have a long way to go in terms of achieving true equality and acceptance. It is a reminder of the importance of standing up against hate and bigotry, and of the need for greater empathy and understanding of those who are different from ourselves.

We must also recognize the ways in which our own biases and prejudices contribute to the marginalization of transgender individuals. By examining our own beliefs and attitudes, we can begin to challenge the systemic issues that perpetuate discrimination and create a more inclusive and compassionate society.



Gone too soon: tributes pour in for black trans woman lost to violence
Courtesy of Galway Daily

We must also mourn the loss of Sylva Tukula, who died while housed in the Great Western Direct Provision Centre on August 2, 2018.

As we mourn the loss of Davis, and observe the passing of Tukula, we must also celebrate their lives and the contributions they both made to their community. We must honor their memories by continuing to fight for the rights and dignity of all transgender individuals, particularly those who are Black and face additional challenges.

We must also recognize that the loss of Davis is not an isolated incident in the US, but rather a symptom of a broader problem. It is a reminder that there is still much work to be done in terms of achieving true equality and acceptance for all individuals, regardless of their gender identity or race.

The Yogyakarta Principles

The Yogyakarta Principles was published in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in November 2006, and is a document about human rights in the areas of sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to Principle 5, every trans woman has the right to security of the person and to protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual or group.

Human Rights Defenders & Public Watchdogs

Recently, opponents of Quianna Canada have used their dexterity and positional power to bury trans content from Journey to the Center, to make it appear as though this site is a one-issue platform. On this account, it is important that Ireland observe Principle 27.

I, in association with Journey to the Center, have a right to promote the protection and realisation of human rights of Black trans women at the national and international levels. This includes activities, such as the content on this platform, that are directed towards the promotion and protection of Black trans rights.

Further, Ireland should take all appropriate measures to combat actions or campaigns attacking me and Journey to the Center’s trans content, as I work on issues regarding the intersection of race and gender identity.

As a human rights defender who runs a public watchdog blog, Ireland should ensure that, despite the human rights issues that I advocate, that I enjoy freedom from retaliation, de facto or de jure discrimination, pressure, or any other arbitrary action perpetrated by a State, or by non-State actors, in response to my human rights activities.

The Long Overdue Conversation: Revisiting the Theme of Political Abuse of Psychiatry and the Black American

The Long Overdue Conversation: Revisiting the Theme of Political Abuse of Psychiatry and the Black American

The Long Overdue Conversation: Revisiting the Theme of Political Abuse of Psychiatry and the Black American

Psychiatry is a powerful tool that can be used for good. Yet today, political figures and powerful institutions are using this medical specialty to undermine victims of abuse, oppression and injustice.

The Long Overdue Conversation: Revisiting the Theme of Political Abuse of Psychiatry and the Black American

Political figures and powerful institutions have used psychiatry to discredit people living on the fringe, such as previously incarcerated individuals and homeless persons. A prime example is the media’s framing of Jordan Neely, who died on May 01, 2023 by asphyxia. While I do not condone violence or the allegations made against Neely, disenfranchised persons like him sometimes lack the skills, such as tact, to assertively communicate their needs, as we seen in several videos circulating on the internet. Even when they have the capacity to communicate their needs effectively, individuals in positions of power will stereotype them or, interpret their plight as an act of violence. Indeed, Tristan McGeorge and Dinesh Bhugra found psychiatrists were more likely to misdiagnose Black patients as more dangerous and violent. They also found that psychiatrists were more likely to diagnose Schizophrenia and overly suspicious personality disorders in those they believed were Black Americans.[1]

Why Powerful Institutions Use Schizophrenia to Diagnose Black Americans

Political figures and powerful institutions use Schizophrenia to diagnose Black Americans because it can discredit their claims. It also makes it easier for those in power to isolate to facilitate abuse. For example, if a homeless Black person protests their conditions, political figures and powerful institutions can use Schizophrenia to suggest that the victim is simply mentally ill, and therefore, their complaints should not be taken seriously. While some people may show signs of disease, mental health professionals should make sure that the diagnosis is correct and not influence by politics.

Another way political figures and powerful institutions use psychiatry to undermine victims is through the use of involuntary commitment, detention or imprisonment. Involuntary commitment is when an individual is forcibly hospitalized or detained in a psychiatric facility, detention center or jail against their will. This can be used as a tool of oppression, especially when it is used to silence homeless persons, political dissidents or others who are speaking out against their inhumane conditions. By labeling someone as mentally ill and forcibly detaining them, political figures and powerful institutions can effectively silence their voices and undermine their credibility.

In 1991, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Resolution 46/119: The UN Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and for the Improvement for Mental Health Care (hereinafter MI Principles). Of the 25 Principles, number 4 is potentially relevant to institutional racism in mental health care:

4 (2) A determination of mental illness shall never be made on the basis of political, economic or social status, or membership of a cultural, racial or religious group, or any other reason not directly relevant to mental health status.

It has been further suggested that the ideology of racism has been incorporated into psychiatry resulting in an emphasis on individualized pathology, with insufficient attention paid to social pressures such as race and culture.[2] According to Principle 4:

4 (3) Family or professional conflict, or non-conformity with moral, social, cultural or political values or religious beliefs prevailing in a person’s community, shall never be a determining factor in diagnosing mental illness.

The misuse of psychiatry is not just a historical problem, it is also a contemporary one. As we seen with the Neely case, political figures and powerful institutions will use psychiatry to undermine victims and maintain control over political messages. By raising awareness of this issue and holding those in power to account, together, we can put an end to this insidious practice.


[1] McGeorge, Tristan, and Dinesh Bhugra, ‘Race Equality in Mental Health’, in Michael Dudley, Derrick Silove, and Fran Gale (eds), Mental Health and Human Rights: Vision, praxis, and courage (Oxford, 2012; online edn, Oxford Academic, 1 Feb. 2013), https://doi.org/10.1093/med/9780199213962.003.0008, accessed 8 May 2023.

[2] Id. p. 140.

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