BUENOS AIRES – Andrea Vargas is no longer afraid to go out on the street because she knows that she will return home. She is one of the 10 transsexuals who slammed the door on prostitution in the Argentine city of La Plata with the establishment of the first trans hair salon to fight the discrimination against that community in this South American country.
“Now I feel different. I’m not going to be afraid anymore that when I go out on the street something’s going to happen: they’ll rob us, they’ll beat us ... I feel more protected here because I’m working during the day and I’m not afraid,” Vargas told EFE in an interview.
Two weeks ago, the 26-year-old began working with nine other transsexuals at the Las Charapas cooperative, a beauty salon in the capital of Buenos Aires province seeking to empower transvestites, transsexuals and transgender people, especially migrants, and to overturn the prejudices existing against them.
Behind the effort is Claudia Vasquez, the president of Otrans, a civil association founded in 2012 in La Plata which began the effort to establish this self-managed “trans” space without any kind of public help.
To do that, she supported the training of 10 people who up until the hair salon’s opening two weeks ago were continuing to engage in prostitution.
Vazquez, 46, told EFE that the project had allowed the girls to acquire “an identity.”
The activist, who managed to avoid falling into the “perverse” fate of prostitution, said that the state needs to create alternatives so that these women may get themselves out of a situation the “devalues” them, a situation affecting 90 percent of the country’s trans community.
The initiative, so far, has changed the lives of 10 people, including Vargas, who two years ago arrived from Peru with the idea of continuing to devote herself to her profession of hair styling, but ended up “falling into the street.”
“It’s not because I wanted to. I was ashamed that they were looking at me when I was out there ... but I didn’t have any income,” she said before admitting that social exclusion of that kind “infects you with the street, with drugs ... (and) you’re ready to do anything.”
Now, she said emotionally, “it’s another life. You change your thinking, you see things in a different way. When you’re on the street you don’t think about studying, and now I want to focus on journalism, ... or on law, to help my companions,” she said.
Most of the girls in the cooperative are immigrants, and that holds true for most of Argentina’s trans community, and that fact – Vasquez said – results in the doubling of the “terrible persecution” they already experience for being trans, especially from the police.
According to the Otrans president, such discrimination has resulted in 15 members of Argentina’s trans community being murdered in 2016, and three last October alone.