A transgender activist from D.C. is among those who attended El Salvador’s first LGBT rights conference that took place from March 12-17.
Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado, who fled the Central American nation in 1986 during the country’s civil war, spoke at a vigil were advocates read the names of 121 LGBT — mostly trans — murder victims during the first day of the conference that took place at Central American University in San Salvador, the country’s capital.
She also visited several LGBT advocacy groups in the capital — one of the organizations had pictures of the bodies of those who had been killed displayed on the wall.
Corado said she experienced homophobia and transphobia herself when she ate lunch with a group of LGBT advocates during the conference. She said the servers in the university cafeteria where they ate took their orders “in a very mean way.” Others called them “maricones” or “faggots.”
Corado said she also received what she described as “that hateful look” on the days she could not “pass” as a woman.
“I always knew that freedom is something we take for granted here,” she told the Washington Blade. “Being gay and being free is something that is totally, totally taken for granted here. Because these people when they choose to be free, they become part of the 121 people that get killed.”
Salvadorian law bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV status, but the U.S. State Department noted in its 2011 Human Rights Report that it remains “widespread.” Anti-trans discrimination and violence in the country remains endemic.
The Salvadorian LGBT rights group Entre Amigos reported to the State Department that police and other public officials continue to engage in “violence and discrimination against sexual minorities.”
Entre Amigos Co-Director William Hernández; Arcoiris Director Mónica Hernández; Dr. Rafael Mazin of the Pan American Health Organization; María Silvia Guillén of the Foundation for the Study of the Application of Law and Cruz Torres of Salvadorian President Mauricio Funes’ cabinet are among those who spoke at the conference the Legal Assistance Office for the Sexual Diversity of El Salvador (ALDES in Spanish) organized.
American University Washington College of Law students Brandon Roman and Arli Christian, who is an intern at Whitman Walker-Health, also attended the gathering.
Aside from participating in the ALDES conference, Corado also visited her father while in El Salvador. She and her two sisters also returned to the home in which she lived and the elementary school she attended.
“I put a lot of closure on that because many of us that come from different countries in a way we are in the perfect situation without persecution,” Corado said as she became emotional about fleeing the country. “You’re just taken away from these places. And all of a sudden you wake up in a different country like I did 27 years ago and you don’t have time to say goodbye.”