“My sexual orientation and my sexuality aren’t choices,” she wrote in March. “But your baseless hatred and your homophobia are.”

Linda Noumsi, a makeup artist and friend of Shakiro’s, said her activism had attracted many critics. “She has a strong personality, and she can be quite vocal about her cause, which brought real supporters, fake friends, and enemies,” Ms. Noumsi said.

Ms. Nkom, the lawyer, said the verdict sent a pernicious message to the public in Cameroon: “It says, ‘If you don’t like someone’s appearance because they are different, you can just call the police, and they’ll have them arrested.’”

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As Old Murder Case Takes On New Life, Some Transgender People Dare Hope

Outraged by a long-ignored slaying in Honduras, lawyers are urging a human rights court in Central America to force governments to better protect transgender people in a region where they are targets.


In a region where experts put the life expectancy for transgender women at only 30 to 35 years, Vicky Hernández didn’t make it even that long.

Ms. Hernández was 26 when she was found shot in the eye on a Honduras street, a slug of unknown caliber and a used condom beside her body.

Twelve years later, investigators still have not run forensic tests on that evidence. It is still not clear whether the authorities ever performed an autopsy. And two other transgender women who reported having witnessed a police patrol car roll up to Ms. Hernández just before she ran off and went missing were themselves killed within a year of her death.

the Hernández case puts a spotlight on a pattern of abuse against vulnerable people in Honduras, it is being closely watched in a region where many countries remain hostile toward transgender people.

The court, based in Costa Rica, could order the Honduran government to enact measures designed to prevent violence against transgender people, setting a legal precedent in the region.

Ms. Hernández’s murder in San Pedro Sula was among the first of an explosion of killings of transgender women in Honduras that followed a June 2009 coup in which the country’s president was rousted from bed and exiled.

The next morning, Ms. Hernández, a sex worker, was found dead after a night in which, because of a strict curfew, nobody but law enforcement and military authorities were supposed to be roaming the streets.

highest rate of murders of transgender and other gender diverse people in the world, with Brazil and Mexico close behind.

Sin Violencia LGBTI, a regional information network.

In Brazil last year, 175 transgender women were killed, according to the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals. Already in 2021, 53 transgender people have been killed, according to the advocacy group, with the youngest victim just 13.

That has made the Vicky Hernández lawsuit of deep interest across the region.

“We are watching very closely as to how the result of the case could impact the situation in the region,” said Bruna Benevides, a researcher for Brazil’s National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals, although she expressed doubt that her country’s conservative president, Jair Bolsonaro, would embrace any rulings that helped transgender people.

Rihanna Ferrera, who lost her run for office in Honduras in 2017 under her male birth name, said the case was important because it could force the government to at least make some tangible improvements, like allowing legal name changes. Ms. Ferrera’s sister, Bessy, who was also transgender, was murdered in 2019.

“After what happened to my sister, I decided not to leave and instead to confront this discrimination, stigma, violence and criminalization,” she said. “We need not to remove people from the danger. We need to confront the state and tell the state: Here we are, and we are in danger. We don’t have to leave. You, as the government, have to solve this.”

Oscar Lopez contributing reporting.

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In Poland, an L.G.B.T.Q. Migration As Homophobia Deepens

For months, government ministers spewed vicious rhetoric about gay people. Trucks blasted anti-gay hate messages from loudspeakers on the streets of Poland’s cities.

Finally fed up with an increasingly hostile environment for gay people in Poland under the governing Law and Justice party, Marta Malachowska, a 31-year-old who works in social media, decided to move to Berlin with her girlfriend in December.

“Last year the situation became too much for me,” Ms. Malachowska said, adding that she had suffered a nervous breakdown during the country’s presidential election last summer when anti-L.G.B.T.Q. rhetoric engaged in by the governing party became especially shrill in an effort to appeal to socially conservative voters. The final straw came when a close friend was assaulted because of her sexual orientation, she said.

Arriving in Berlin, she knew she had made the right choice.

“The first thing I saw was a giant rainbow flag hanging across the street from our flat,” she said. “I take my girlfriend’s hand when we walk in the street, without thinking.” She added: “Back in Poland, there was always this fear inside me. Here, literally no one cares.”

People have for decades left Poland looking for opportunities elsewhere in Europe — an exodus that grew after the country joined the European Union in 2004. But now their numbers are being added to by gay people fleeing an increasingly hostile environment in Poland.

According to a 2020 survey by ILGA-Europe, an international gay rights organization, Poland now ranks as the most homophobic country in the European Union. Activists say that violence against gay people in Poland surged last year, and included cases of physical violence, insults and the destruction of property.

Its hard to know how many gay people there are in Poland, or how many are leaving. There is no polling on their views or preferences. And since they are unable to form civil unions, gay couples are practically invisible in official terms. The law does not recognize sexual orientation or gender as motivations for hate crimes, either.

“This is not an accident,” said Jacek Dehnel, a writer who originally moved to Berlin for a literary scholarship with his husband, and decided to stay for good after watching what he called last summer’s “vicious” presidential campaign. “If there are no statistics, there is no problem.”

But anecdotally, especially within the country’s well-educated gay urban communities, there are many stories of young L.G.B.T.Q. professionals emigrating.

Piotr Grabarczyk, a 31-year-old journalist, left Poland for Barcelona with his boyfriend last July, attracted by Spain’s more liberal way of life.

Originally from a small town in northern Poland, he described his childhood as one of “complete loneliness and alienation — the internet was my only escape.”

“When I found out gay marriage in Spain had been legal since 2005, it knocked me off my feet,” he said. “I was 16 in 2005. My life would have been so different if I lived in such a country.”

As he was preparing to leave Poland, a cardboard box filled with rainbow T-shirts, leaflets and educational books that he left outside his home in an upscale gated community in Warsaw was defaced with the message “BURN LGBT!”

“I realized it must have been one of my neighbors,” he said. “We probably saw each other in the staircase, said hello.”

He said he received many messages from people across Poland, “who would like to leave for the same reasons as us, but cannot because of money, family, or their career choices.”

Homosexuality has long been taboo in Poland, where the Roman Catholic Church, which plays a prominent role in the country’s social and political life, has worked hand in hand with the government to promote a conservative way of life.

The church, which is particularly powerful in rural areas, has adopted an actively hostile attitude toward gay people. Mr. Dehnel, the writer who moved to Berlin last year, said it was “the driving force of hate” toward the gay community.

Responding to a request for comment, the Catholic Church pointed to an official document outlining its position, stating that homosexual “inclinations” did not constitute “moral guilt,” but homosexual acts did. It declined to comment on hate speech employed by priests, and the accusation that they were contributing to the general deterioration of the safety of gay people in Poland.

Marek Jedraszewski, Poland’s archbishop, has described L.G.B.T.Q. people as an “ideology,” calling it a “rainbow pest.”

The Law and Justice party, which has been in power since 2015, has whipped up its base by waging hate campaigns, first centering around migrants, and later the L.G.B.T.Q. community. Neither the government nor the president responded to requests for comment.

In April 2019 Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the chairman of the Law and Justice party and Poland’s de facto leader, called homosexuality a “threat to Polish identity, to our nation, to its existence, and thus to the Polish state.”

Mr. Kaczynski’s message was amplified by the state-owned news media and other government figures, including local politicians.

“We should defend families from this type of corruption, depravation, absolutely immoral behavior,” Przemyslaw Czarnek, a Law and Justice deputy, who has been promoted to the position of education minister, said in an interview with the public broadcaster last year. “These people are not equal to normal people.”

Trucks funded by ultraconservative organizations have roamed the country, blaring slogans from speakers accusing gay people of pedophilia. There have been increasing cases of violence during pride marches, and against individuals.

In one incident in a village in southern Poland, a young gay man was harassed by neighbors hurling homophobic abuse at him, and one tried to poison his dog. In March 2021, another gay man was verbally attacked and then stabbed for holding hands with his partner in Warsaw.

As a gay person in Poland, Mr. Grabarczyk, the journalist who moved to Barcelona, said that psychological violence was “an everyday experience” for him.

“You are constantly reminded that you will never get the same rights as everyone else, that you are not an equal citizen,” he said.

Emboldened by the narrative coming from the country’s top officials, nearly 100 local governments declared themselves “free from L.G.B.T. ideology,” making gay Poles feel unwelcome in their own towns.

The legal status of L.G.B.T.Q. people in Poland has not changed under the rule of the Law and Justice party. They never had the right to enter civil partnerships or get married. But what changed was the viciousness of the rhetoric at the highest echelons of government and in the state-controlled news media, activists say.

And policy could yet change. In a bid to get re-elected last year, President Andrzej Duda signed a draft law that would amend the Constitution to ban adoptions by gay people.

Before Ms. Malachowska, the social media specialist, moved to Berlin, she was concerned about the practical implications of the legal limbo she and her girlfriend would be in if they stayed in Poland. There, they would not be considered next of kin in a medical emergency, or be able to inherit from each other.

In Poland, she also began to get emotionally attached to the idea of marrying her partner.

“We already checked how to do it in Berlin, and I started visualizing how it would look like — the first time in my life I dared to even imagine that,” she said.

While she is happy to be in Berlin, she is sad that her grandmother still doesn’t know about her sexual orientation. “I told her I am moving to Berlin with my flatmate,” she said. “It feels awful to lie to my closest family.”

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‘They Have No One’: At 88, a Transgender Icon Combats Loneliness Among Seniors

MEXICO CITY — The pink paint of her stairwell is peeling, the black metal banister chipped, but Samantha Flores is as sharp-witted as ever amid a profusion of climbing plants and bursting red flowers.

At 88, the Mexican transgender icon remains elegant, funny and at times flirtatious, sitting at a small round table on the landing outside her tiny Mexico City flat where she has received callers, at a safe distance, throughout the pandemic.

After nearly nine decades as a socialite, a manager of a gay bar, an L.G.B.T.Q. advocate, and much more, Ms. Flores has a large community of longtime friends and neighbors who come knocking.

“Without my friends, I wouldn’t be who I am,” she said.

But as Ms. Flores well knows, many seniors are not so lucky. And so there is one part of her world that she’s aching to get back — the drop-in center she founded and runs to help older L.G.B.T.Q. adults combat their isolation. It was the first organization of its kind in Mexico.

Vogue Mexico last June, and was later featured in a campaign for the fashion house Gucci.

But for Ms. Flores, the glamour and attention are just new platforms to talk about what’s most important to her — Vida Alegre, and the rampant discrimination still faced by Mexican trans women, which often makes sex work their only means of making a living.

“It’s society’s fault that trans women have to work on the streets,” she said. “They aren’t given any other option.”

When coupled with machismo attitudes and widespread gang violence, discrimination can also be deadly for trans women in Mexico, which regularly ranks among the most dangerous countries in the world for transgender people. Few are lucky enough to live as long as Ms. Flores has.

But luck, it seems, has often been on Ms. Flores’ side.

Born in the city of Orizaba in Veracruz state in 1932, Ms. Flores grew up in a house with a yard full of orange, guava, lemon and avocado trees. She described her childhood as idyllic. Her family was tacitly accepting even then of what she called her effeminate nature, she said.

“I couldn’t pass by unnoticed, ” Ms. Flores recalled.

But behind her back, there were always whispers from neighbors and schoolmates, Ms. Flores said, and after graduating from high school, she couldn’t wait to leave Orizaba.

“What I wanted was to get out of that damn town and away from those damn people,” she said. “I realized that I was criticized and singled out for being queer.”

Ms. Flores moved to Mexico City, where she began dipping into the capital’s nascent gay scene of the 1950s and ’60s.

“For me, it was freedom,” she said.

One night in 1964, Ms. Flores was invited to a costume party, and together with a few friends, decided to go in drag. She chose the name Samantha for her persona after Grace Kelly’s character in the film “High Society,” which featured music by Cole Porter, her favorite singer.

“I liked Samantha because of the double meaning,” Ms. Flores said. “Bing Crosby called her Sam, which can also be short for Samuel.”

The host of the party was a friend of Ms. Flores, Xóchitl, then one of the most famous trans women in Mexico, who Ms. Flores says, had connections to the rich and powerful that allowed her the freedom to hold extravagant parties for the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

“She was the one that opened the door for trans women,” Ms. Flores recalled.

Little by little, Ms. Flores appeared in public as Samantha until, eventually, she was Samantha.

“I became myself, I found my true personality,” she said.

Soon, Samantha Flores was a staple of the Mexico City club scene.

“She was always a very, very elegant woman,” recalled Alexandra Rodríguez de Ruíz, a transgender rights activist and writer who was a teenager when she started going to gay clubs and encountered Ms. Flores. “Always wearing beautiful dresses and always accompanied by handsome young men.”

Back then, Ms. Rodríguez said, being part of the L.G.B.T.Q. community in Mexico was even more dangerous; the police would regularly detain trans women on the street or raid gay bars and confiscate their belongings.

“There was a lot of persecution,” she said. “Sometimes, if they were bad cops, they would take you to someplace and rape you or beat you.”

But Ms. Flores said she managed to avoid trouble. Whether it was that she could easily pass as female or because of her friendship with the well-connected Xóchitl, she was never bothered by the police.

Still, Ms. Flores said she felt uneasy being a trans woman in Mexico, and decided to move to Los Angeles. For several years in the 1970s and early ’80s, she lived between Mexico and L.A., where she worked managing a gay bar, among other ventures.

By the time she came back to Mexico full-time in the mid-’80s, the AIDS crisis was in full swing.

“My best friends, my most beloved friends, they died of H.I.V.,” Ms. Flores recalled. “I lost count — if I said 300, I wouldn’t be exaggerating.”

Seeing the crisis facing her community inspired her to become more of an activist.

“I became a fighter,” she said.

At first, Ms. Flores volunteered at an AIDS charity, and later began raising money for children with H.I.V. and women facing violence in northern Mexico, collecting funds at theater performances, including “The Vagina Monologues,” which ran in Mexico for years.

Then, a few years ago, a friend of hers suggested that she create a shelter for older L.G.B.T.Q. adults.

“That’s when the spark was lit,” Ms. Flores said.

It took years of wading through the Mexican bureaucracy and finding the right venue, but eventually she was able to secure rent on a one-room building on a busy street in the Álamos neighborhood. Vida Alegre now stands there, the building painted bright blue with a rainbow flag out the front.

The community has grown to some 40 people, about half of whom are straight and go there only for the company.

“It’s empathy and being together,” that brings people in, Ms. Flores said. “Abandonment and loneliness have fled.”

Besides reopening Vida Alegre, Ms. Flores has one other wish.

“I’m waiting for Prince Charming on his white horse and silver armor to come and serenade me,” Ms. Flores said. “I’ve been living here for 35 years, with the windows open, waiting for him. But he still hasn’t come.”

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‘I Had to Prove That I Exist’: Transgender Anchor Makes History in Bangladesh

She went to live with an uncle in Narayanganj, but still presenting as male, she was subjected to the same verbal abuse. Searching for answers, she scoured the internet. Finally, she encountered the word “transgender,” and things began to fall into place. While she had not yet met other transgender people in Bangladesh, she said, she found others she could relate to beyond the country’s borders.

“It was really amazing,” she said. “I felt that I’m not the only person in the world.”

After being accepted into college, she discovered an affinity for theater, drawn by the prospect of a life of prestige, respect and admiration. While she pursued roles as female characters, a director told her it was not possible because she had been assigned a male identity at birth.

“Bullying and harassment taught me that you have to prove yourself,” Ms. Shishir said. “You shouldn’t be trapped in a male body; you have to nurse your womanhood; you have to love your womanhood.”

The emotional toll, constant humiliation and alienation drove her to relocate to Dhaka. She got some financial support from friends — sometimes living at their homes — and found temporary work. Things took a dark turn, Ms. Shishir said, when, without income, she lived in a slum for six months.

For seven days, she said, she had no food and almost starved. But things got better.

In 2015, Ms. Shishir declared herself a transgender woman to a transgender community she met through counseling work. She chose the name Tashnuva, which means “lucky” in Bengali, followed by Anan, or “cloud.” Gradually, she grew out her hair, began wearing makeup and started hormone treatment in 2016.

Ms. Shishir recalled one doctor in Dhaka who treated her as if she had a psychosocial disorder, doling out pills that made her sicker by the day. For eight months, her skin grew coarse, dark circles formed beneath her eyes, and the treatment left her sleepless. The medication plunged her into depression, she said.

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Tashnuva Anan Shishir, Transgender News Presenter, Makes History in Bangladesh

She went to live with an uncle in Narayanganj, but still presenting as male, she was subjected to the same verbal abuse. Searching for answers, she scoured the internet. Finally, she encountered the word “transgender,” and things began to fall into place. While she had not yet met other transgender people in Bangladesh, she said, she found others she could relate to beyond the country’s borders.

“It was really amazing,” she said. “I felt that I’m not the only person in the world.”

After being accepted into college, she discovered an affinity for theater, drawn by the prospect of a life of prestige, respect and admiration. While she pursued roles as female characters, a director told her it was not possible because she had been assigned a male identity at birth.

“Bullying and harassment taught me that you have to prove yourself,” Ms. Shishir said. “You shouldn’t be trapped in a male body; you have to nurse your womanhood; you have to love your womanhood.”

The emotional toll, constant humiliation and alienation drove her to relocate to Dhaka. She got some financial support from friends — sometimes living at their homes — and found temporary work. Things took a dark turn, Ms. Shishir said, when, without income, she lived in a slum for six months.

For seven days, she said, she had no food and almost starved. But things got better.

In 2015, Ms. Shishir declared herself a transgender woman to a transgender community she met through counseling work. She chose the name Tashnuva, which means “lucky” in Bengali, followed by Anan, or “cloud.” Gradually, she grew out her hair, began wearing makeup and started hormone treatment in 2016.

Ms. Shishir recalled one doctor in Dhaka who treated her as if she had a psychosocial disorder, doling out pills that made her sicker by the day. For eight months, her skin grew coarse, dark circles formed beneath her eyes, and the treatment left her sleepless. The medication plunged her into depression, she said.

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