Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Activists upset over treatment

Transgender passenger told to 'stand in a corner'

GOVERNMENT must develop a policy to include transgender nationals in the registration of sex on identification and travel documents, Colin Robinson, the spokesman for the Coalition Advocating for the Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), has said.

Robinson made the statement in a letter written to National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy to complain about discrimination meted out to a transgender person from Belize, who entered this country two weeks ago to attend a regional conference.

Mia Quetzal, a Belizean and regional coordinator of the Caribbean Regional Tran in Action was invited to attend a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) meeting held in this country earlier this month.

Quetzal arrived at Piarco International Airport around 4 p.m. on COPA Airlines 411 on April 11.

Quetzal was wearing female garments at the time.

"Quetzal is of transgender experience. Born male, her identity is as female and she lives her life in that gender, including her everyday dress and physical appearance," the letter to Sandy stated.

"Her identity documents, however, as government practice in most places in the region dictates, continue to list her sex as male. Notwithstanding this, prior to this trip Quetzal indicates she had undertaken the responsibility of ensuring her passport bears a current photograph that matches her likeness," the letter stated.

Quetzal on arrival to this country was approached by a female immigration officer who questioned why her passport stated male.

Quetzal responded "I am indeed born male. I am transgender".

At this point Quetzal was told to "go stand at the corner".

The immigration officer then went from booth to booth and informed her colleagues of Quetzal's transgender status.

"Individuals wearing other uniforms started to parade past her looking, staring, laughing and giggling," the letter stated.

Quetzal waited in the corner for some 90 minutes, the letter stated.

The immigration officer's treatment of Quetzal was described as an "inexcusable violation of professionalism standards for the humane treatment of any entrant" in the letter.

"CAISO urges the Ministry to take prompt action to identify the officers involved and to take disciplinary measures to make it clear that gossip, gawking and public mockery of any traveller is completely unacceptable conduct," the letter stated.

CAISO called on several steps to be taken to address the discrimination of transgender persons.

"In the mid term we also urge the Ministry to articulate a professional protocol for the humane processing of transgender travellers: and in the longer term that Government develop a rational policy for registration of sex on the identity and travel documents of our own transgender citizens".