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Salud mental

versión impresa ISSN 0185-3325


HERNANDEZ-ROSETE MARTINEZ, Daniel. The other migration. Histories of discrimination of people who lived with HIV in Mexico. Salud Ment [online]. 2008, vol.31, n.4, pp.253-260. ISSN 0185-3325.

Mexican migration to the United States has been attributed to the poverty and economic polarization in Mexico. Although the dismantling of the peasant economy persists as a factor in demographic displacement, there have been recent changes in the causes that provoke the migration of Mexicans. Family violence, for example, appears as an important motivator in pushing women into the migratory flow, especially in rural areas of the country where women's sexual and reproductive rights appear to be less respected. Homophobia is another point of reference which, along with hate crimes, generates a new category of migration to the United States. Although violence is beginning to be recognized and viewed sociologically as a factor in migratory displacement, it is a phenomenon that has been little explored in Mexico until now. This article proposes to analyze sexual violence and discrimination as motivators of an emerging migratory phenomenon among transgender and transsexual groups within the Mexican population. The article is based on a qualitative study which explored the universes of sense and meaning through the stories of four Mexican women, three transgender and one transsexual, infected with HIV-AIDS in Mexico and who are currently seeking political asylum in San Diego, California. The fieldwork was done between August and September 2003 in San Diego County. Interviews and ethnographic observations were carried out in three geographic regions in the city where neighborhoods of transgender and transsexual migrants of Mexican origin were detected, as well as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that provide medical and psychological care to undocumented migrants of Latin American origin who live with HIV/AIDS: Northern Region: Carlsbad and Rancho Bernardo; Central Region: North Hill Park and Balboa Park; Southern Region: San Ysidro and Imperial Beach. The article provides anthropological data regarding the contexts, practices and magnitude of rejection and violence that the subjects suffered in Mexico. Four settings are emphasized: family life, interaction in the streets, the relationship with police and the relationship with health services related to caring for HIV/AIDS. To support the analysis it was considered advisable to resort, on the one hand, to phenomenology as a methodological approach to daily life and, on the other hand, to semiotics, where culture is understood as the expression of symbolic forms and objectivizations of sense and meaning that exist in the context of asymmetrical social relationships. This theoretical framework allowed us to postulate that sexual violence is a structural process based on asymmetrical power relationships and that it implies social norms and ideologies of male hegemony that contribute to the social acceptance of violent practices against transgender and transsexual men, which can make them go unnoticed in the community. For the interviewees, migration became a resort for asserting their right to health care, and even a means to preserve their lives. In Mexico, their presence in public places would frequently provoke attacks, scorn and mockery, which could lead to physical and emotional wounds. Civil society is not the only source of violence against transsexual and transgender individuals. Some police organizations systematically persecute them and submit them to violence. The harassment of homosexuals is routine practice among police officers. Their physical appearance is interpreted as a moral misdemeanor. Under this argument, they can become the victims of a complex range of abuses and humiliations that include blackmail or extortion and can lead to physical assault and sexual violence. This last type of aggression is one of the most dangerous because it implies a homosexual conduct on the part of the aggressor. Because there is a risk that his victim might press charges, the violence exercised against the transgender individual by the aggressor may be aggravated, which initiates a cycle of territorial mobility linked to exile because of the fear of being killed. Violence against transsexuals is reinforced by Mexican laws and bureaucratic procedures, which only recognize two genders and thus make it more complicated for transsexuals to prove their legal right to initiate proceedings or a lawsuit. These legal-bureaucratic loopholes help make the aggressor's impunity acceptable and his violations socially invisible. The stories make it possible to understand that in Mexico transphobia is a specific form of sexual violence which, linked to the social construction of male dominance, exists out of social fear of homosexuality as the foundation that legitimizes discrimination, hate, persecution and aggression against transgender and transsexual individuals. One aspect that seems to intensify these forms of violence is the appearance of sexually transmitted viral infections. In fact, the history of infectious diseases shows that homosexuals, sexual workers and migrants appear over and over again in the collective imagination as those responsible for the origin of epidemics. In today's epidemiological context, transgender is seen as a scapegoat for HIV/ AIDS. In Mexico, this situation appears to reinforce the preconceptions of social hatred against transgender persons who are HIV positive, who may end up living with the social stigma of those who believe that the infection is fitting punishment. The evidence suggests that, when transgender individuals are HIV carriers, discrimination against them is worse. The prejudice of medical personnel and the financial inability of health institutions to treat HIV/AIDS lead to precarious care and, occasionally, denial of access to antiretroviral medications. Ethnography suggests that violence against transsexuals is not eliminated when they immigrate to the United States. They experience less aggression than in Mexico, but in the United States they suffer racial and job discrimination. The benefit resides in that, despite their undocumented status, they have free access to antiretroviral drugs and to psychological care offered by the NGOs in San Diego that assist persons infected with HIV/AIDS. The discrimination and sexual violence described by those interviewed amount to a triple stigmatization (because they are itinerant populations, because they are transgender and because they live with HIV). This is a system of stigmatization that not only affects their quality of life by excluding them from jobs and the legal system, but also because it keeps them from being recognized as subjects with rights to health care, especially with regard to access to antiretroviral drugs and medical care related to control of HIV/AIDS, decisive factors which trigger the decision to migrate. This paper suggests the development of a model aimed at making medical practitioners and, in general, health systems personnel more aware of the diversity of sexual practices and identities and emphasizes the right to sexual and mental health care for individuals who live with HIV, regardless of their sexual preference or gender. It is fundamental to develop policies that will prevent the stigmatization and discrimination of persons with HIV and that will recognize the right to health care among populations that have been stigmatized historically.

Palabras llave : Discrimination; homophobia; sexual violence; international migration; transgender and transsexual people.

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