Tuesday, October 19, 2021

‘La Música de una Ciudad’: A transgender Mexican’s life story

Written by Esteban Bustamante, CNN Mexico City Written by Esteban Bustamante, CNN Mexico City

One of the most populous cities in Latin America, Mexico is home to more than 100 different religions and thousands of nationalities.

And the country’s third-gender community? Not so much.

The community (which includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, and transgender people born with genitals that do not conform to the typical gender binary) hasn’t been sufficiently represented in the media, despite the fact that there are over 80,000 such people in Mexico, according to the country’s National Network of La Groupas Muxes, or Third-Gender Community.

Some third-gender Muxes could be mistaken for part of the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, although their livelihood and sexual orientation remain largely unknown to the public.

At the same time, they are also widely ignored and stigmatized in the third-gender community: They are denied jobs, eliminated from college boards and rarely received credit as a result of having altered their biological gender.

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But now, however, three Mexican artists have offered a glimpse into this widely invisible community in a two-year effort they call “La Música de una Ciudad”.

The exhibition is the result of extensive research that unearthed the lives of the three main sub-cultures of the third-gender community: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), transgender and intersex individuals.

The artists aim to give a voice to the voiceless, “disempowering them,” said Tatiana Minuto, one of the photographers in charge of the project.

Readers can track down the three artists on their Facebook pages and through the website La México de la Ciudad (Mexican City of the Third-Gender).

1 / 5 The idea of the exhibition, which runs from May 24 until May 31, 2020, was to “give a voice to the voiceless” said Tatiana Minuto, one of the photographers in charge of the project. Credit: Courtesy Adriana Adedipe

3 photographs of Mexico’s third-gender community

Read more: ‘I want to be my sister’s voice’: The trans Mexican photographer who sees beyond stereotypes

Chiney de la Rosa-Méndez, the youngest of the three artists, was born a girl, but during a late night routine operation, she was realized as a man, officially assigned male at birth.

“On one hand I understand this as a part of me, but at the same time there is a lot of pain that comes with this,” she said.

But after undergoing hormone therapy in Mexico City, she has been able to achieve a deep level of self-acceptance.

“When I first did the surgery as a girl I was really timid, I was ashamed, but now I feel like a man with a woman’s body.”

For now, the artists are preparing a project about the social and political aspects of the third-gender community.

One, Minuto, an independent photographer, hopes to “bring attention to these issues, to document them and to highlight the harm they cause.”

And María de María Montoya, who works in communications, is constantly trying to gain the trust of these communities. “They don’t want to be used for publicity, they want more respect,” she said.

Jose Alberto Zaragoza Zepeda joined the third-gender community in 1995 after a physical therapy session damaged his testicles and left him in pain.

Today, he understands that the decision he made at the time to have the surgery was “irresponsible” and “unethical,” but he is proud of what he has accomplished.

And in the face of the constant persecution, that’s as it should be.

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