Mongolia: In Mongolia, a former Soviet influenced country, transgender people face extreme violence and discrimination, much of which goes unreported because the law does not protect them and hence many out of fear stay in the closet, reports slate.com.
“They cannot express themselves normally except in certain places. Your life becomes a scenario in which you are pretending to be someone else,” said photographer Álvaro Laiz who spent three and a half months photographing male-to-female transgender people in Mongolia to explore notions of identity in a place where they are forced to hide who they are.
“Your job, your relatives become part of this performance, and little space is left to act as you would really want to be. It is insane,” he added.
Since 2008, Laiz’s work has focused on marginalized and repressed groups, including HIV orphans in Uganda and ex–child soldiers from Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, the slate.com report said.
After research through NGOs and other organizations, Laiz located several subjects who gave him access to their lives. Some worked in nightclubs or as prostitutes and could only reveal their identities in those realms. Others were ballet dancers, social workers, tour guides, and teachers who presented as men in their work environments, the report said.
Laiz also photographed his subjects in traditional Mongolian queen costumes as part of a more lyrical, less documentary-style aspect of his project. “I wanted to show how they are, but also how they see themselves,” Laiz said. “The viewer must understand that these people are nothing but human beings who are trying to live their lives. There is nothing wrong with it.”
There are signs that conditions may improve for transgender Mongolians. In 2009, the first LGBT rights organization in the country, Mongolia LGBT Centre, was finally registered as an NGO. Last year, Mongolia celebrated its first Pride Week.
“One bright side is that the Mongolian society is young and we believe that we can change the attitude of the public slowly through educating the younger generation about human rights principles, democratic values and tolerant, forgiving human nature,” the organization’s executive director, Otgonbaatar Tsedendemberel, told Gay Star News.
The human rights of LGBT Mongolians were also discussed in parliament for the first time last year when the National Human Rights Commission included an analysis of urgent and emerging human rights issues in the country.
It sought to implement effective educational and promotional activities to address negative community attitudes and stereotypes about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people but acknowledged that “there is no common understanding and acceptance of the LGBT community of Mongolia at the parliament level.”
Amnesty International maintains that law enforcement officials continue to commit human rights abuses with impunity and authorities failed to prevent, investigate and punish attacks against LGBT people including attacks by law enforcement officials.