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They beat and stabbed her so brutally that she almost died. It took three months for the bruises to heal. Police took Salamanca to a hospital, but never investigated the crime, even though it happened on a busy street. Not that Salamanca thinks the witnesses would have helped.
Due to violence, poverty and the risk of HIV, the life expectancy for trans women in Latin America is estimated at between 35 and 41 years. Earlier this year, an orange bus stamped with anti-transgender messages toured several South American countries, including Colombia, which has the fourth-highest number of reported murders of trans people.
This is biology, not ideology. Do not be fooled. But now Colombia is on the brink of change. For LGBT people, who were regularly targeted in the violence, there is hope that the country might be made safer for them. Trans people in particular hope that the visibility and acceptance trans issues are beginning to receive in the US might spread south.
If this is the beginning of a shift in attitudes, it is people such as Salamanca and other leaders of the nascent Colombian trans rights movement who are largely responsible. Salamanca has recently been working with the Farc, travelling out to transitional zones — rural parts of the country that were formerly held by the militia — to run workshops on gender identity. But prejudices are hard to overcome. Yet prostitution is one of only two jobs — along with hairdressing — available to most trans women in Colombia.
Even at 10 in the morning, the area is buzzing, frantic. It is estimated there are between and trans people working in the sex trade here, and the rundown streets are lined with mechanic shops, bars, garages and women — women posing in doorways or lounging against walls, women wearing platform heels and neon bandeau dresses or lingerie and bikini tops. Red Comunitaria Trans , the organisation Salamanca founded after the attack, records the number of crimes against trans women to counter scant official statistics.