Dear Mr. Peter Taksøe-Jensen, the Danish Ambassador to the United States,
As a transgender woman and activist in New York City, I’ve been educating people about the challenges and triumphs of transgender women, and most recently the case of Guatemalan refugee Ms. Fernanda Milan has moved me.
Fernanda Milan is a 22-year-old transgender woman who sought refuge in Denmark following her persecution by vigilantes and state agencies in Guatemala. Life expectancy for transgender people in Guatemala is just 25 years, and there are no transgender people there over the age of 35, as a result of systematic persecution and extra-judicial killings by vigilante groups, with the tacit approval of the police, judiciary and government.
Research suggests that as many as 60 transgender people have been murdered in Guatemala in the last 10 years (in a country with only just over twice the population of Denmark), and countless more have simply “disappeared”. This makes it the second most dangerous place on Earth (after neighbouring Honduras) for trans people.
Trans people in Guatemala are routinely and comprehensively denied access to education, employment, medical care, social services and protection; indeed the police actively harass and assault them. As a result of this they have no option but to engage in sex work for their own survival, and this makes trans people particularly vulnerable to attacks by vigilante groups.
Fernanda Milan faces all these threats and more, she was deliberately targeted by police before her escape to Denmark because she was a spokesperson for the transgender human rights campaign organization in Guatemala OASIS. Returning her to Guatemala will put her in clear danger of assault and killing because of this. Fernanda is due to be deported from Denmark today because the previous Danish government opted out of an agreement that persecution on the grounds of gender identity should be recognized as criteria for granting asylum.
With this ruling, the Danish government is choosing to ignore the alarming rates of persecution of transgender people, specifically in Latin America, where 85% of all murders of trans people occur there. The reality is that Fernanda will die if Denmark deports her.
I plead that the Danish government, a respected and democratic country, reconsider its decision to return Fernanda Milan to certain death in Guatemala. We need to send a message that all people, no matter their race, economic status, employment, gender identity and sexuality, are worthy of dignity and life. Fernanda deserves to have a safe space where she can continue to shine her light and experiences on the world.
You can hear Fernanda tell her story here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbjerOkVQtI&feature=player_embedded
I’ve fallen in love with her as a sister and I know you will love her too.
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