Mexico opens first public clinic for transgender people to fight discrimination

Sandra breathes relieved that her friend is finally receiving care after being turned away from seven hospitals. Affected by injecting biopolymers, she is assisted in the first public clinic for transsexual people in Mexico.

“That is discrimination,” denounces Sandra Montiel, a 43-year-old sex worker, recapping the tortuous journey through health centers in the capital.

His partner was finally helped at the Trans Clinic in Mexico City, the first of its kind in the country. In Latin America they are mostly private.

He got there after suffering complications from applying biopolymers to his buttocks. In extreme cases, this substance can lead to fatal infections.

But even so, “they did not want to touch it, or check it, or do a cleaning” in the other hospitals, Sandra told AFP indignantly.

Situations of confusion and rejection are frequent for trans people when they seek medical attention, something that the new clinic wants to eradicate by offering a service that includes psychological support and hormonal treatments.

“Not all health centers are trained or familiar with the trans community. Many times (the patients) feel discriminated against or are afraid of mistreatment,” says Erika González, in charge of the medical area.

The clinic, a campaign promise from Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, has 32 workers, including 11 trans women and men with whom it seeks to build trust in users.

“Understanding from peers (…) breaks the paradigms of other spaces where they feel violated, excluded and discriminated against,” explains Oyuki Martínez, advisor to the health center and trans activist, 43 years old.

Nurse Karim Gutiérrez, who has felt discriminated against for being transgender, knows this well.

“We were wanted (hired) to be able to give this coat, not to see ourselves different (…), not to have this observation of what you are when we really are people,” says Gutiérrez, 38 years old and who changed his identity two ago.

These legal modifications are possible in the capital since 2014.

Short life expectancy

Housed in a two-story building in the center of the city, the clinic has two general practitioners and four specialists.

Although it does not offer surgeries, if necessary it can issue authorizations for patients to be treated in other public hospitals.

In six weeks of operation, it has received about 200 people, most of whom seek psychological attention to start hormonal treatments and change their sex.

At the moment, the service is focused on the population of the capital, but the objective is to “replicate it” in other states, says Martínez.

In addition to the difficulties in accessing health services and the risks of self-medicating and using synthetic substances, the trans community reports being victims of gender violence.

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the life expectancy of a trans person in Mexico is barely 35 years, compared to 77 for the entire population. It is not just “health problems, but violence,” says González.

By number of victims, Mexico is the second most lethal country for transsexuals after Brazil, according to the NGO Letter S and Transgender Europe.

During the first half of 2021, Letter S recorded the murder of 33 trans people, compared to 43 cases in all of 2020.

Wrong society

Amelia Añorbe, 16, is one of the three trans adolescents who currently attends the clinic and who attends with her mother. At the moment, children are not admitted, although it is planned to quickly integrate this service in coordination with a pediatric center.

“It is a requirement of these populations that trans childhoods be addressed not only in legal recognition, but also from the part of the right to comprehensive health,” says Martínez.

Eight of 32 states in Mexico allow changing gender identity, although only for those over 18 years of age. In Mexico City it is authorized from the age of 12.

Some people make you think that “you are in the wrong body,” says Amelia, for whom the underlying reality is “the wrong society.”

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