Friday, December 2, 2011

Transsexuals' Anti-AIDS Campaign

A group of transvestites get ready to perform on Plaza Bolivar. 
Transsexuals were out in force this afternoon on La Plaza del Chorro, participating in a consciousness-raising program about HIV/AIDS.

A poster of a transvestite says:
'I live my life, and if you don't
like it that's your problem.'
Colombia's AIDS infection rate is, fortunately, much lower than many other nations - less than one percent of adults - and has actually declined over the last several years. The epidemic here is also still a mostly-male, mostly-gay phenomenon, altho that's no comfort for infected people.

Colombia's armed conflict has, however, worsened the AIDS problem, both because fighters can be AIDS vectors (violence against women is a continuing phenomenon in Colombia's conflict) and because victims of the conflict are more vulnerable to AIDS and other diseases.

As for transsexuals - they seem surprisingly common in Bogota, both in their own 'separate-but-equal' part of the city's central red light district, as well as in the city's parks and neighborhoods. And, of course, in Chapinero, Bogotá's gay neighborhood. Sure, many other people treat them as a spectacle, which is probably inevitable. But, at least, I haven't seen them abused or ridiculed. And, they sometimes seem to want to be a spectacle, with their often flamboyant dress and behavior, particularly during the annual Gay Rights Parade.

A group of transvestites walk down Bogotá's Sunday Ciclovia. 
I won't pretend that I feel comfortable with transvestisism. But, to each his or her own. Still, I can't help but wonder about a few things: Why are almost all transsexuals men turned into women, rather than the reverse? What sort of person goes to a transsexual prostitute, when real women prostitutes are working the streets just a few blocks away? Do almost all transsexuals want to convert themselves into a person of the opposite sex, or are they satisfied just acting like it?

Back on La Plaza del Chorro, a transsexual gives a pep talk.
Finally, I can't resist recalling the only conversation I've ever had with a transsexual, which took place in a women's prison in La Paz, Bolivia.

I was working as a journalist then, and I was interviewing a young South African transsexual who had wanted to have sex-change surgery. But how would she pay for it? She decided to travel to Bolivia, buy cocaine, and smuggle it to Europe, where the profits would pay for the surgery.

But she got searched in the La Paz airport and they found the cocaine, as well as something else which showed she was not born a woman. In court, the South African pleaded guilty: 'Judge, I confess it, I did it, I'll do the time - but please don't put me in the men's prison because God only knows what they'd do to me!'

The judge felt sorry for her and put her in the women's prison, where she was living happily with 300 women. She had decided, however, not to become a woman.

A high-risk population: Transsexual prostitutes in Bogotá's central red light district, in the Santa Fe neighborhood. 
Colombia's National Plan to Combat HIV/AIDS

Colombian League Against HIV/AIDS

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Colombialiv said...

Hello Mike!

I usually enjoy reading your blog, although I seldom comment on it.

This post, I just couldn't let it pass by without commenting, however, since I think it can be pretty offensive for the population you are writing about.
basically because you got the terminology all wrong. You write about "transvestites", but what you seem to be referring to are transsexuals.

Transvestites are persons who ocasionally dress up in clothes and attire of the opposite sex, but they don't take this on as a permanent identity.

Transsexuals are persons who can be described as being in "the wrong body". That is, for example, biological men who construct themselves with female ender identity. Including sometimes, but not always, hormone treatment and sex change surgery.

The general term would be transgender persons (transgeneristas in Spansih, or simply "personas trans"). And a transsexual male-to-female would be pretty offended being called "he", as you do in the post. She is, esentially, a woman, although she might still have male genitals.

Miguel said...


Thanks for your comment. I hadn't really thot about that difference, and made the respective changes.



Colombialiv said...

No worries! It's not a simple issue :)