Category: Outstanding Investigative Reporting

Valeria Román (Argentina), Margaret López (Venezuela), Debbie Ponchner (Costa Rica), Carmina De La Luz (Mexico)

Transgender in Latin America

El Universal Newspaper (México) / El Tiempo (Colombia) 

October 28, 2019

The original publication is available via the following links: 




“I’m a survivor,” says Yuliana Oviedo, who lives in Avellaneda, a southern province in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

She is 55 years old and 1.70 m (5 ft 7in) tall. She makes ends meet by cleaning houses, cutting, and styling hair. She suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and she has encountered several barriers to accessing healthcare. In the 80’s, she got pumped—she got silicone injected into her breasts, hips, buttocks, and crotch. After a while, she ended up in the hospital. Doctors initially thought she had pneumonia, yet the black spots in Yuliana’s lungs were the silicone that had migrated through her body. “When I meet a transgender girl or boy, I urge them to get medical advice prior to any invasive procedure and to do some research,” she says. 

Yuliana, like other transgender people, has a gender identity that does not conform to what is associated with the sex she was assigned at birth. Yuliana was assigned male at birth based on the appearance of her external genitalia, but she identifies and lives as female. Also, there are cases in which a person who was assigned female at birth, identifies and lives as male.

Transgender people, just like every human being, have the fundamental right to live fulfilled and dignified lives, to education, to health, and to employment. Trans people are part of the great human diversity. However, they still have to contend with stigma and discrimination in Latin America as they are frequently exposed to violence and harassment, living on the margin of their school, family, job, and health services.

Yuliana is finishing elementary school today. She hopes to start junior high next year. “If my health allows, I hope to major in Political Science.” She got off marijuana and cocaine, and left prostitution behind, but—as many other transgender women—she has been exposed to specific social determinants leading to a series of problems that result in an average life expectancy that ranges from 35 to 41 years old in contrast with the 75-year life expectancy of the region according to the project REDLACTRANS (Trans Women Without Borders Against Transphobia and HIV/AIDS) based on partial regional reports.

“It is unacceptable that trans people, as any other vulnerable population group, have a shorter life expectancy. In 2014, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) member states approved the Strategy for Universal Access to Health and Universal Health Coverage. ‘Universal health’ is the foundation of a system based on the values of the right to health, equity, and solidarity. ‘Universal’ means that everyone has access and coverage to comprehensive, quality care, plus it calls to for strengthening intersectoral approaches to the social determinants of health without financial difficulties. This strategy requires both the commitment to transform the region’s health systems and a concerted effort to eliminate barriers and improve access,” PAHO’s Health Services and Access Chief Amalia del Riego said.


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