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Michael K. Lavers, The Washington Blade


Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on Wednesday announced transgender people who were born in Mexico can receive an amended birth certificate at any of the country’s consulates.


Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard is among those who spoke at a ceremony at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Mexico City where he and other officials detailed the policy. Trans Congresswomen Salma Luévano and María Clemente García attended alongside Sen. Malú Micher, trans activist Jessica Marjane and Amicus Director Juan Pablo Delgado are among those who attended.


Amicus, an advocacy group that is based in the state of Guanajuato, represented two trans Mexicans who brought legal action after consulates in the U.S. denied their request for birth certificates that correspond with their gender identity.


Victory Institute International Programs Manager Mateo de la Torre in 2019 sought legal recourse, known as an “amparo” in the Mexican judicial system, after the Mexican Consulate in D.C. said it could not change the sex on his birth certificate.


Delgado earlier this week told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview from Guanajuato that one judge asked De La Torre to file his “amparo” in person in Tijuana because his signature did not correspond with the one on his Mexican ID. Delgado said a trans woman from Guanajuato filed her own “amparo” in 2021 after the Mexican Consulate in Houston said it could not issue her an amended birth certificate.


Trans Mexicans who want to receive an amended birth certificate need to provide their original document, but Delgado told the Blade that consulates can access them through a data base. De La Torre on Wednesday received an amended birth certificate at the Mexican Consulate in D.C.


“This birth certificate comes after a decade of living in my truth as a transgender man and after years of advocating for my right to be recognized as such,” De La Torre told the Blade.


“In Mexico and abroad, many trans people face discrimination, violence and endless bureaucratic hurdles in their fight for legal recognition, and after all this time I am most grateful for the ability to vote in my country’s elections.”


“This new process has the possibility of being life saving for many of our most vulnerable community members, and I will continue to advocate for the day that all trans people living in Mexico are also afforded the right to a process that is free of discrimination and based on self-attestation,” added De La Torre.


Delgado described the new policy as “a great advancement towards the recognition of gender identity” in Mexico.


“It’s a super important advancement,” said Delgado.


Delgado noted Mexico City and 18 of Mexico’s 32 states currently allow trans people to receive birth certificates that correspond to their gender identity.



The Mexican Senate has passed a bill that would codify the Foreign Affairs Ministry policy into law. The measure is now before the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, which is the lower house of the country’s Congress.




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By Michael K. :Lavers, Washington Blade


Officials with the U.N. Refugee Agency in Central America and Mexico say they remain committed to helping LGBTQ asylum seekers and migrants in the region.


UNHCR Guatemala Representative Besem Obenson told the Washington Blade during an interview at her Guatemala City office last September that she and her colleagues work with Asociación Lambda and other Guatemalan NGOs to provide LGBTQ asylum seekers with access to LGBTQ-friendly shelters, psychosocial care and other programs once they identify themselves as LGBTQ. Obenson said UNHCR also works with the Guatemalan government to improve the way it responds to an asylum seeker with an ID document that does not correspond to their gender presentation.


“Our role … is to strengthen the government’s response to refugees and asylum seekers,” said Obenson.


UNHCR Guatemala Representative Besem Obenson. (Photo courtesy of UNHCR)

Rafael Zavala, a senior UNHCR official in El Salvador, echoed Obenson when he spoke with the Blade at UNHCR’s office in San Salvador, the Salvadoran capital, last July.


Zavala noted UNHCR has a formal partnership with COMCAVIS Trans, a Salvadoran transgender rights group. Zavala said UNHCR also works with two other LGBTQ groups — Aspidh Arcoíris Trans and Diké LGBTI+ — in a less official capacity.


“What we do is work at the community level to strengthen their role in communities,” Zavala told the Blade. “We also build for them safe spaces (to accept internally displaced people, migrants and deportees who are LGBTQ) and also find spaces where they can receive services, attention and legal assistance.”


Anti-LGBTQ violence among migration ‘root causes’


Vice President Kamala Harris and others have acknowledged anti-LGBTQ violence is one of the “root causes” of migration from Central America’s Northern Triangle that includes El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.


The Mexican Commission on Refugee Aid (COMAR) on Monday reported 27.7 percent of the 131,448 people who asked for asylum in Mexico in 2021 were Honduran.


The Justice Department notes 85,391 people asked for asylum in the U.S. in the 2021 fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021. More than twice as many people asked for asylum in the U.S. during the 2020 fiscal year, which began before the pandemic.


The Justice Department statistics indicate 10 percent of the 8,679 Guatemalans, 11 percent of the 5,464 Hondurans and 14 percent of the 8,030 Salvadorans who applied for asylum in the U.S. during the 2021 fiscal year won their cases. Neither the Justice Department nor COMAR specify the asylum seekers’ sexual orientation or gender identity.


The Biden administration last February began to allow into the U.S. asylum seekers who the previous White House forced to pursue their cases in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols program. The Biden administration has sought to end MPP, but a federal appeals court last month blocked this effort.


Title 42, a Center for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic, remains in place.


UNHCR non-discrimination policy includes sexual orientation, gender identity


UNHCR Senior Protection Officer Sofia Cardona last summer during an interview at UNHCR’s Mexico City office acknowledged that identifying asylum seekers who are LGBTQ is a challenge. Cardona and other UNHCR representatives with whom the Blade spoke for this story referred to the agency’s 2018 non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and specifically recognizes LGBTQ asylum seekers.


“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons face complex challenges, threats and barriers and are often exposed to discrimination, abuse, prejudice and violence due to their sex, sexual orientation and/or gender identity,” notes the policy. “This is often severely compounded in situations of displacement, where the nature of the discrimination they encounter can be particularly virulent, their isolation from family and community profound and the harm inflicted on them severe.”


The policy states “diversity refers to different values, attitudes, cultural perspectives, beliefs, ethnicities, nationalities, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, health, social and economic status, skills and other specific personal characteristics.”


“Diversity characteristics vary from person to person and intersect, making each person unique,” it reads. “These differences must be recognized, understood, respected and valued by UNHCR in each context and operation in order to address effectively the needs of all persons of concern. Respecting diversity means recognizing and valuing those differences and creating a protective, inclusive and non-discriminatory environment where everyone’s rights are upheld.”


Cardona noted UNHCR staff and representatives of NGOs and governments with which it works regularly attend LGBTQ sensitivity trainings. Topics include ways to determine whether an asylum seeker is LGBTQ without forcing them to out themselves.


“You can’t force a disclosure,” said Cardona. “You can neve directly ask somebody, so, are you gay? Are you transgender? It’s incorrect because you may put people at risk, so it’s a very thin line of you can never force a disclosure of someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation, but you must signify to somebody that you are a safe space to receive that disclosure.”


Cardona said UNHCR representatives can ask an asylum seeker what their name is or disclose to them that they are “de la diversidad” or “from a diverse background.”


“You never begin an interview assuming anything by the way a person looks because in forced displacement gender expression is unlikely to match up to gender identity,” Cardona told the Blade. “So you need to understand that you may very well have conversations with a trans man who is wearing makeup and a dress, and you may very well be having a conversation with a trans woman who has a beard because that is how they are protecting themselves in a sphere of forced displacement.”


Cardona also noted UNHCR staff wear buttons with slogans that include “en seguridad” or “espacio libre de discriminación,” which translates into “in safety” or “discrimination-free space” respectively. Both Cardona and Zavala were wearing such buttons when they spoke with the Blade.


“We try very, very, very hard to work with our staff and also our partners … so they have their capacity strengthened in LGBTI rights,” Dagmara Mejia, the director of UNHCR’s field office in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, told the Blade last summer during an interview at her office.


Mejia noted the trainings she and her colleagues conduct focuses on topics that include the use pronouns that correspond to an asylum seeker’s gender identity and shelter standards for LGBTQ asylum seekers.


UNHCR works with Jardín de las Mariposas, a shelter for LGBTQ asylum seekers in Tijuana that is less than two miles from El Chaparral, the main port of entry between the city and San Diego. UNHCR also maintains contact with Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration Executive Director Steve Roth and the California-based Transgender Law Center.


“If there is no disclosure, no trust, then we cannot meet their needs and respond,” said Mejia.

Jardín de las Mariposas is a shelter for LGBTQ asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexico. (Photo by Jon Atwell/Alight)


“We also create these environments that allow the community to feel safe and to know that it is a place where they can come without the risk of discrimination,” said Zavala.


Obenson told the Blade that UNHCR has worked with the Foundation for Ecodevelopment and Conservation (FUNDAECO), a Guatemalan NGO, to hire asylum seekers who have chosen to stay in Guatemala as park rangers. Trans women are among those who FUNDAECO has hired.


“People need to feel safe,” said Obenson. “People need to be able to live their authentic selves without fear of violence or fear of retribution.”



“That for me, as a rep, is what I strive for,” added Obenson. “Everything that we do here at UNHCR is to encourage that.”



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By Maggie Baska


Sareh, 28, was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for "supporting homosexuality”, according to the Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network (6Rang). (YouTube/6rangIran)


An Iranian lesbian potentially faces the death penalty after she was arrested by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) for “supporting homosexuality”.

Sareh, a 28-year-old woman who lived and worked in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, was arrested by the IRGC on 27 October while she was attempting to flee across the border into Turkey, according to a report by the Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network (6Rang).


The IRGC is a branch of Iran’s armed forces – independent of the country’s regular army – that was set up after the 1979 Iranian revolution to defend the country’s Islamic system, the BBC reported.


According to 6Rang, Sareh was detained for 21 days by the Iraqi Kurdistan police after she gave an interview to BBC Persian about the treatment of people within the LGBT+ community in the region.


After she was released by police, Sareh crossed the border into Iran to escape from Iraqi Kurdistan, with the intent to eventually seek asylum in Turkey. But before she could make it into Turkey, she was arrested by the IRGC in October while she was in the West Azerbaijan province of Iran.


The Tasnim News Agency, which 6Rang says is affiliated with the security forces, reported on 8 November that the IRGC had arrested individuals in West Azerbaijan on charges of “forming a gang for trafficking girls and supporting homosexuality”.


6Rang said that it suspected this may be related to Sareh’s arrest.


According to an IRGC statement, one of the charges against the alleged “smuggling network” was “communicating with and supporting homosexual groups” who “operated under the support of multi-regional intelligence services”.


LGBT+ people in Iran often face violence and discrimination, and sex between people of the same gender is illegal and can be punishable by death or imprisonment. Iran currently criminalises sex between men with the death penalty and sex between women with 100 lashes.


The report by 6Rang said there has been no further information about Sareh since her arrest in October.


Before she was arrested, Sareh sent three short videos to a person that she trusted, and these videos were eventually passed to 6Rang for publication.


In the videos, Sareh tragically shared her fears that she will soon be arrested by the IRGC, saying she has to “get out immediately”. But she said she didn’t know if “I can do it or not” as the security forces “have all the information about me”.


She added that she wanted to send the videos to make others understand how much “suffering” the LGBT+ community is going through in the region.


“And we resist to the end for our feelings,” Sareh said. “Whether with death or freedom, we will remain true to ourselves.”


She continued: “I hope that the day will come when we can all live freely in our own country.


According to 6Rang, the group released the videos in the hopes that the international LGBT+ community and human rights organisations might “put the Islamic Republic of Iran under pressure to release Sareh immediately”.


The Iranian branch of Amnesty International shared on Twitter that it was concerned by the reports from 6Rang that an “Iranian lesbian woman” named Sareh was arrested in the West Azerbaijan province near the border with Turkey.


“The criminalization of LGBTI people perpetuates violence & discrimination against them,” the group wrote.



It added: “We renew our calls on Iran’s authorities to decriminalize same-sex sexual conduct; immediately release all those detained on the basis of their identity or for defending LGBTI rights; and adopt legislation to respect and protect the human rights of LGBTI people.”



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