Living Outside the Gender Box in Mexico: Testimony of Transgender Mexican Asylum Seekers

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Abstract

Objectives

To explore preimmigration experiences of violence and postimmigration health status in male-to-female transgender individuals (n = 45) from Mexico applying for asylum in the United States.

Methods

We used a document review process to examine asylum declarations and psychological evaluations of transgender Mexican asylum seekers in the United States from 2012. We coded documents in 2013 and 2014 using NVivo, a multidisciplinary team reviewed them, and then we analyzed them for themes.

Results

Mexican transgender asylum applicants experienced pervasive verbal, physical, and sexual abuse from multiple sources, including family, school, community, and police. Applicants also experienced discrimination in school and in the workplace. Applicants immigrated to the United States to escape persistent assaults and threats to their life. Applicants suffered health and psychological effects from their experiences in Mexico that affected opportunities in the United States for employment, education, and social inclusion.

Conclusions

Additional social protections for transgender individuals and antidiscrimination measures in Mexican schools and workplaces are warranted as are increased mental health assessment and treatment, job training, and education services for asylum seekers in the United States.

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