Transsexuals deal with stones and bullets when they offer sex - Transsexuals report an increase of attacks in the streets of San José [Costa Rica] & 14 police officers accused of abusing authority against trans women

Last modified: 
27/7/2016

Meta-information about this translation

This is a translation from the Spanish originals "Trans lidian con pedradas y balazos cuando ofrecen sexo - transsexuales denuncian aumento de ataques en calles josefinas" [on-line version] & "14 policías denunciados por abusos de autoridad contra mujeres trans" [on-line version], which first appeared in Costa Rica's newspaper La Nación on 26 June 2016.

Other than the digital versions of the original newspaper articles, they also appeared in the printed version of the newspaper La Nación, also on Sunday 26 June 2016, encompassing 2 complete pages (10A & 11A), as well as being the main cover story on the front page of that newspaper edition.

The full Spanish article "Trans lidian con pedradas y balazos cuando ofrecen sexo - transsexuales denuncian aumento de ataques en calles josefinas", as it appeared printed in the physical version of the newspaper, can be read freely at PressReader [printed, but digital version]. The article "14 policías denunciados por abusos de autoridad contra mujeres trans" [printed, but digital version], I assume, would be for sale on the same platform.

Some captions of pictures differed between the on-line and printed editions of the newspaper articles. In this translated version, such differing captions are usually both included.

I scanned one of the images, appearing in the printed version, since I couldn't find an on-line version with great resolution. Nevertheless, both versions (called "scanned version" and "original version") have been included, and the reader has the option to toggle between the "original" and the "scanned version".

Some paragraphs which were only present in the printed articles (thus not in the on-line newspaper articles) were also included in this translation.

Comparison with other articles

In the article "Not So ‘Pura Vida’" by Helen White, there is mention of BB guns being fired at transvestites in San José: As early as 6.30pm on a Monday morning you see women walking the streets on San José looking for clients. It was on these streets I met ‘Rachel’, a transvestite, who started working on the street 11 years ago when work in gay club drag shows dried up.

“During the day I dress as a man and my mother doesn’t know what I do. She thinks I still work in the shows. I don’t want to do this forever, but I can’t really think of an alternative. There is no other line of work for someone like me. It’s dangerous for the women and men working on the streets, people throw things at them and shoot BB guns and he showed us two scars which he’d got from this.”

Working with the Rahab Foundation, I would regularly accompany a team to various areas of the city at night to talk with the women and transvestite men working on the streets. which was set up fourteen years ago in Costa Rica with the aim of rehabilitating women who have been involved in prostitution or sex trafficking, giving physical, emotional and spiritual support to them and to their families, and providing them with the counselling and skills that will enable them to leave behind the world of commercial sexual exploitation.
A the time of writing/publishing, it is claimed that the Rahab Foundation was set up 14 years ago. That foundation was founded on 12 November 1997, which means the article was written around 2011-2012.
  • Caption: [Front image of newspaper. See here (image) or here (interactive) to see how the front page of the newspaper was printed].
  • Photo: Rafael Pacheco.
They affirm that BBs [BB shots/pellets] were fired at them and that urine was thrown to them from cars and motorcycles.

They say that they feel unprotected despite reporting the violence to the authorities.



  • Caption: A transsexual assaulted.

Transcription of video

Trans woman: [...] Here like 200 meters away from the corner [...], 2 men got out of a car from there, they started to shout expletives at me; and when they stoned me they caused a wound to my head. It's precisely this, that one called the authorities and asks not that they treat you privilged; what one asks is that they treat you with equality and the same rights that another person has. That is what we ask: that they treat us with the same equality as witch which they treat any other person. I can say that, to me it happened since ... many years ago, I had asked an officer why they beat me every time they saw me getting into the police car. And thus ... many ... I have seen colleagues, ... that recently they cut a colleague's air, an officer cut her hair!

Interviewer: So suddenly?

Trans woman: Because he wanted to. Because she was pampered yes for sure, but this, this: she is simply posing there and that's all, for this she was trained no? And he cut her air and everything!
Mujer trans: [...] aquí como a los dociendos metros en la esquina [...], de ahí se bajaron dos hombres de un coche, me empezaron a gritar improperios; y a punta pedrada me hicieron una herida que arriba a la cabeza. Es precisamente eso, que uno aveces llamado autoridades y uno lo que pide no es que te traten preferencialmente; lo que uno pide es que te traten con igualdad y el mismo derecho que tiene una persona la tiene otra. Eso es lo que nosotras pedimos: que nos traten con la misma igualdad que lo tratan a cualquier otra persona. Puedo decir, a mí me ha pasado desde ... yo he tuve demandado un oficial hace muchos años, porque cada vez que me veían me subían a la patrulla, me golpeaban. Entonces ... muchos ... He visto a compañeras, ... que hace poco una compañera que la cortaron el pelo, un oficial le cortó el pelo!

Entrevistador: Así de repente?

Mujer trans: Porque le dio la gana. Porque ella fue malcriada sí cierto, pero eso, eso: ella simplemente es posarla y ya, para esto estaba entrenado no? Y le cortó el pelo y de todo!
Two weeks before tonight, Susana Madrigal Abarca was at the "Plaza [Cleto] González Víquez", in San José [the capital of Costa Rica].

It was past 4AM, and still and she was still not going to her/his home because she didn't earn enough money yet. She would need at least 2 more clients.

Suddenly, she saw a car coming, fixed her hair and struck a sensual pose. The car stopped and this transsexual woman cheered up, thinking it was a customer, but no. Two guys got out of the car and launched big rocks at her head. The subjects fled when they saw her bleeding. Today, Thursday 16 June 2016, she says: My love, I had an open wound from ear to ear and was alone. I called the "Fuerza Pública" [Public Force] and they told me that there was nothing that they could to to help me, that I had to go to the clinic (forensics) to evaluate whether or not it was possible to file a complaint. Like as if you don't know nothing about this, they put me off. It's 10PM and we are, together with other trans women, at the north side of the "Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT)" [Ministry of Public Works and Transport], at the "Plaza [Cleto] González Víquez", the area where only the transsexuals offer sex.

The temperature doesn't rise above 20° Celsius and, despite the cold, one of them showcases a provocative pink baby doll; others wear miniskirts and tank tops. To warm up, they drink some "sips of guaro" and walk from one corner to the other.

A few minutes before, we arrived at that area accompanied by Antonella Morales, another transsexual. She was the first one to get out of the car. She shouted at a group of 4 women: Hey, my friends! How are you, precious?

  • Caption: One of the spots where more assaults on transsexual women take place is Plaza [Cleto] González Víquez. The evildoers exploit the isolation of the area to assault them.
  • Photo: Rafael Pacheco.
According to the oranization "Transvida", which is dedicated to defend the rights of the [transsexual] population, there are 500 women offering sex on the streets of the "Gran Área Metro (GAM)" [Greater Metropolitan Area].

One of them ran towards Antonella, hugged her, gave her a spanking and responded: Here, working, my love. You? How are you? Very well, I can see. Tonight, a team of "La Nación" on-site to learn more about the aggressions that are sure to exist for those who offer sex as a profession.

According to them [the transsexuals], there are persons—mainly men—that pass close by and shoot at them with firearms or with BB/pellet guns.

They also throw eggs, huge stones, urine, fecal waste, among other things. The attacks are on the rise since the last 2 years, they assure. The 34-year old Tiffany Ortega, who has been a sex worker for 19 years, reproaches: It's as if this is a hobby for these people. Pick the first one that they see and come and throw at us. We don't understand why they do that; we are just working and don't disturb anyone.

  • Caption: "Zonas de convivencia" [zones of coexistence] in San José. The trans women have defined where they work at night. In red: occupation areas of the transsexual women.
  • Source: Transvida.
  • Visualization: Iorella Mora & Katherine Chaves.
But that's not the only thing that they have to put up with, since on top of that they have to "support the insults of the people who don't accept the gender identity". In fact, while we were talking, a subject on a motorcycle passed by and yelled at them with a jocular tone: How much for a kilo of eggs?

Verbal abuse also hits the transsexuals - 'How much for a kilo of eggs?'

The trans women who offer sex on the street not only deal with physical attacks, but also with insults hurled by persons who don't accept their condition.

They claim that subjects that, generally, travel by vehicle; yell at them that "one egg has exited" or ask them "how much for a kilo of eggs?".

Dayanna Fernandez, a trans woman, comments that these are the most common insults. She stated: This is very offensive. Many of us have decided to ignore what they say, but sometimes you can't. It is a hit on our self-esteem. She added: The saddest thing is that they see it as a prank and don't understand that the physical and mental abuse hurt equally.

The transsexuals claim that they report the abuses to different authorities; however, they say that they feel unprotected "because the police officers ignore us solely because we are trans".

The complaints for these attacks are not assessed, even though they showed copies of 4 complaints recently filed with the "Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ)" [Judicial Investigation Department].

14 police officers accused of abusing authority against trans women

From 2015 until now, transsexual women who offer sex have filed 14 complaints with the "Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ)" [Judicial Investigation Department] against officers for abusing authority.

According to the entity, there have been 12 accusations against officials of the "Fuerza Pública" [Public Force]; 1 against the "Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ)" [Judicial Investigation Department]; and the last 1 against the "Policía Municipal" [Municipal Police].

The transsexuals asserted that the officials often ignore their emergencies and that they go as far as mocking their work. Neither do they respect their gender identity, they added. Susana Madrigal explained: They cut the hair of a friend of us some days ago, because they felt like it. After doing so, they left. They didn't care if she was OK or not. Daiana Hernandez, another transsexual, stated that there are times in which the authorities "simulate" to pay attention to them, but "it's nothing more than a game". They ask us what color of eyes the agressors had. Friend, that is information that we are not going to have because as soon as they start throwing stones, we run away. Under no circumstances do we stay there for them to beat us more. Answer. The "Ministerio de Seguridad" [Ministry of Security] communicated that it's aware of the existence of complaints against officers, but asserts that it doesn't have access to the records.

María Fulmen, vice minister of the ministry, explains that absence of details makes it impossible to open administrative processes towards the police officers identified by the transsexual population.

Marcelo Solano, director of the "Policía Municipal" [Municipal Police] of San José, reported that, within the entity, there exists no open investigation into these acts.

What you have registered are complaints against police officers for abusing the authority. The "Defensoría de los Habitantes" [Ombudsman] explained that, since 2015, there were 12 complaints against the "Ministerio de Seguridad" [Ministry of Security], 1 against the "Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ)" [Judicial Investigation Department] and 1 against the "Policía Municipal" [Municipal Police].

According to the oranization "Transvida", which is dedicated to defend the rights of the [transsexual] population, there are 500 women offering sex on the streets of the "Gran Área Metro (GAM)" [Greater Metropolitan Area].

Bad experiences. At the beginning of the night, the transsexuals try not to stray too far away from each other, because "someone could appear and attack us".

The conversation is interrupted by the arrival of a Mercedes Benz. In an immediate reaction, women thrown introduce themselves to the car, but fail to enthral the customers: groups do not have good results.

Therefor, as the hours pass and while inhibited by the liquor, they lose fear and each seeks her own corner and clients.

Usually, it is in those moments, when they are alone, that their nightmare begins.








  • Caption: Transsexuals deal with stones and bullets when they offer sex. Most of the aggressions that the transsexual women of the street suffer from are those induced by BB/pellet guns. Those pellets remain embedded into the bodies of the victims.
  • Photos: Mayela López.
For example, Susana explains that not only the stones have hit her. One day, a man approached her and shot her with a gun in her left leg "for fun". On another occassion, a client stabbed her in a thigh because she didn't want to go with him.

On the 16th of April, a subject approached Antonella and shot the whole ammunition magazine of a BB/pellet gun empty on her, according to the complaint that she filed with the "Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ)" [Judicial Investigation Department]. Since then, one of those pellets is embedded within her cheek.

Other transsexuals told that they had experienced similar situations days before.

Natalia Porras reported that also she had become the victim of BB/pellet gun attacks on multiple occasions. The very cowards arrive by car or motorbike, take out the gun and empty their complete ammunition magazine on us. What do I do? Tell me. We always walk on high heels and dresses, and thus when we run away while they attack us, there is always a BB shot/pellet or two that hits us. Meanwhile, Samantha Araya reported that a friend of hers was on "avenida 14" [14th Avenue], when several men beat her numerously with a tube in her legs. She lamented: Friend, she almost couldn't walk.

Trans woman [Tifanny Ortega]: "What do you feel when you damage us? Satisfaction? Really?"



  • Caption: Tiffany Ortega [Carballo] has been a sex worker for 19 years.
  • Photo: Rafael Pacheco.
Tiffany Ortega Carballo, aged 34, would like to meet her attackers in a controlled environment and ask them: What do you feel when you damage us trans women? Satisfaction? Really? She takes into account that knowing the answer will not stop mistreatment of trans women, but at least could "reveal why they do it".

[Tiffany] Ortega [Carballo] has been a sex worker for 19 years and, starting from day 1, has received so many insults and hits.

But lately she has become the victim of aggressions by large groups of kids, aged 8 to 14. She explained: If they see one alone, they will come close, surround me and totally mistreat me. When not those kids, several men come and we know that they are always the same because one recognizes their voices.

  • Caption: Transsexuals live with nights of insults and aggressions.
According to them [the transsexuals], there are persons—mainly men—that pass close by and shoot at them with firearms or with BB/pellet guns.

[Tiffany] Ortega [Carballo] thinks that those people believe that attacking them is "a hobby or a simple prank". What one says is that they have nothing else to do, because losing your peace and quiet with so many that bother us, is absurd. She questioned those persons: According to the society, we are the worst, we are the scum. If this is supposedly what we are, why lose the comfort of being at home watching the soap opera or the sports match to come and attack us? The transsexuals also explained that the place where they perform their occupation in the centre of San José are known as "zonas de convivencia" [zones of coexistence]. [Tiffany] Ortega [Carballo] asserted: In theory, in common sense, we can work here in peace and assume that the authorities should be aware of us, but nothing of that happens. However, Marcelo Solano, director of the "Policía Municipal" [Municipal Police] of San José, denied the existence of such tolerance zones. He concluded: In the capital, there doesn't exist any defined area for the permanence of people engaged in prostitution. The sites where they occupy themselves were chosen by them [the transsexuals] years ago, but you don't have anything defined.

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