This article analyzes the ways in which trans and travesti women experienced state terrorism during the Chilean military dictatorship (1973–90), a subject that has received little attention in memory and recent history studies in Chile. In particular, the authors propose that the use of the concept of human rights by truth commissions, as well as its inclusion in public policies, has largely excluded trans and travesti women. This text therefore introduces the concept of antitrans state terrorism and, given the limited studies that exist on the subject, encourages more historiographic research of state terrorism and trans and travesti women in Chile.
Introduction: State Terrorism, Human Rights, and Trans/Travesti Studies
Why have trans and travesti women been excluded from discourses on state terrorism, human rights, and memory in Chile?1 Several factors contribute to this historical oversight. First, while there has been a growing and important interest in women, sexual political violence, and memory in Latin America (Arfuch 2013; Hiner 2009; Jelin 2001), such interest rarely applies to trans women or LGBTQI-related issues. Moreover, while from a historiographic perspective James Green (1999, 2012) has worked extensively with these topics, his work focuses on Brazil and considers male homosexuality, queer militants in left-wing armed groups, political violence against those groups, and forms of resisting such violence. Finally, while various trans and travesti women activists have denounced the violence of the civic-military dictatorship in Chile, such as Claudia Rodríguez and the trans advocacy group Organizing Trans Diversities (Organizando Trans Diversidades, OTD), these efforts have not been officially recognized by the Chilean state. Thus, while previous works and efforts are of undeniable importance, our research is innovative in that it analyzes, from a historical perspective, another type of state terrorism: that which was directed toward trans and travesti women during the military dictatorship in Chile (1973–90).
It is important to remember that the trans and travesti community in Chile experiences violence in many ways, from the structural and symbolic violence that is gender assignment and subsequent efforts to modify this gender to the daily economic, physical, psychological, and sexual violence that trans people face both from strangers and those close to them. This is what Lohana Berkins (2003: 151) points to when she argues that “travesti people are under siege daily. The routine persecution by police, the everyday inability to move freely through the streets performing a subversive identity, and the permanent obstacles to accessing the rights guaranteed to all citizens, among other things, these make the travesti life one under constant siege.”2 As such, state terrorism can be considered one more type of violence experienced by many of the trans and travesti women interviewed. Following Judith Butler's (2006) work on the murder of trans people like Brandon Teena and Gwen Araujo, we also hold that trans and travesti women who experienced state terrorism in Chile are worthy of mourning and public recognition and are included in the human in human rights. From our perspective, historiography has an important role in recognizing the state terrorism carried out against trans and travesti women in Chile. More specifically, the ways in which this violence and its effects persist into the present, as well as how trans and travesti women and their organizations have come to resist these continuities, must be considered.
In this article, we primarily consider violence against trans and travesti women during the Chilean dictatorship and refer therein to a concept we call antitrans state terrorism.3 We use this term to refer to acts of authoritarian oppression and torture—referred to as state terrorism in Latin America—and to emphasize the official state role of the violence (see, e.g., Dinges 2004; Feierstein 2009) committed against trans and travesti people—mostly women—during the dictatorship. Calling this type of violence antitrans allows for the identification and documentation of dictatorial crimes committed specifically against trans people. This type of violence often results in death, a crime that in nondictatorial cases is referred to as trans-femicide or travesticide (Radi and Sardpa-Chandiramani 2016).
Some studies of antitrans state terrorism have considered hate crimes against trans and travesti people in Brazil. For example, many were detained and forced to clean the police stations or police vehicles or even wash bodies in the morgue, jobs that were considered “female” tasks and meant to humiliate and terrorize (Mott 1996: 35). Studies of the Argentine dictatorship take a slightly different view, maintaining that state repression of LGBTQI people was primarily a result of the homophobia of the police officers and prison guards themselves, since, at the time, there was no specific program that sought to police sexual dissidence. That is to say, the political violence in these cases did not have the objective of persecuting gay, lesbian, or trans people and thus entails a type of political violence distinct from antitrans violence (Insausti 2015: 73). There are also studies that emphasize the clandestine nature of queer culture under Latin American dictatorships, both to make possible spaces for homoerotic experiences and to avoid police control over “public morality” (Figari 2009: 167). Finally, and more in line with the present study, there is research on the murder of trans and travesti women by death squads that sought to eliminate homosexual, lesbian, and trans/travesti groups during dictatorships, such as the Escuadrón Hortela in Brazil (Mott 1996) and the Comando Cóndor and Comando Moralidad in Argentina (Figari 2010).
In the particular case of Chile, there have been a handful of studies on dictatorial violence against trans and travesti women, including the work of Víctor Hugo Robles (2008), Óscar Contardo (2012), and Juan Carlos Garrido (2016). Garrido uses oral history to analyze the violence enacted through article 373 of the Chilean Criminal Code, which penalizes “any significant or scandalous offense against decency or good behavior.” Although this article of the Criminal Code has been used in both dictatorial and democratic contexts to prosecute women doing street sex work, the lack of oversight by a rule of law during the dictatorship resulted in its much more arbitrary and violent application against trans and travesti women. Consequently, transphobic oppression was multifaceted, including street violence, sexual violence, homicide, criminalization, and constant harassment from both the police and the public. The lack of official recognition of antitrans state terrorism during the dictatorship, specifically toward trans and travesti women, hinders the creation of reparative policies, as well as the advancement of LGBTQI rights in a time when there is already little interest in exploring this violent past. Thus, this article presents a new perspective for recent history studies in Chile: antitrans violence committed during the military dictatorship and described through the testimonies of the trans and travesti women who experienced it directly.
Debates on Recent History and LGBTQI Studies in Chile
Texts about recent history and memory in Chile tend to share several characteristics. First, these fields are dominated by historians and academics from the social sciences who focus their analyses on the period between 1964 (the election of Eduardo Frei Montalva) or 1970 (the election of Salvador Allende) and 1990, when Patricio Aylwin assumed the presidency and the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet was formally ended. This period is generally seen as a “rupture,” the dictatorship bursting forth and eradicating a democratic tradition that would eventually return in 1990. While many studies have questioned this so-called return to democracy, given the neoliberal continuities between the dictatorship and the Concertación (Coalition of Parties for Democracy) in the 1990s, they have nevertheless failed to question the exclusion of certain historical subjects such as trans and travesti people, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, and shantytown or peasant women, all of whom have been left out of constructs of democracy and citizenship following the dictatorship. Second, studies of recent history and memory tend to be androcentric and heterosexist, particularly those produced in Chile. One explanation for this is that studies of the Holocaust and the civic-military dictatorships of the Southern Cone are already thirty or more years old and thus do not reflect more recent gender and sexuality turns. Violence is considered largely in terms of the political violence of authoritarianism, such as forced disappearances and torture, and makes little reference to violence having to do with gender or sexuality. Finally, texts that break from androcentrism and use gender theory almost exclusively reference heterosexual cis women, limiting their research and theorization to the paradigm of women's history or grandes mujeres (extraordinary women), both of which derive from second-wave feminism. Although these studies are without a doubt valuable, they exclude from their analyses the experiences of trans and travesti women affected by antitrans state terrorism. These women were not militants of political parties and therefore did not experience “political violence,” nor did they, generally, undergo the typical sequence of human rights violations at the time (i.e., abduction, torture in a secret detention center, forced disappearance).
How might we consider a trans historiography of Chile that accounts for state terrorism? What are the possible lines of investigation? There are many possibilities for approaching and writing a trans history of state terrorism during the dictatorship. The present investigation uses oral histories and ethnography to explore the historical experiences of trans and travesti women in Chile and consider how their stories can contribute to recent history and memory studies. The women interviewed cover a wide age range, born between 1956 and 1994. The interviews were completed in various regions of the country, but with most done in the north (Arica and Parinacota, Tarapacá, and Antofagasta regions) and Santiago. Most of the interviewees were activists in their respective communities, in the form of involvement with LGBTQI groups, political parties, or student groups. Many of the women participated in groups dedicated specifically to trans and travesti issues, like Nefertiti in Iquique, Arcoiris in Antofagasta and, in Santiago, groups like OTD, Transítar, Traves Chile, and the travesti sex workers' union, the Amanda Jofré Union.
Interestingly, the gender identities of those interviewed varied without much overlap. These included, among others, transgender woman, trava or travesti, trans woman, transfeminine, transsexual female, transgender (without a man or woman signifier), and gender fluid. Sexuality was also discussed, and the interviewees mentioned if they preferred dating cis men or cis women, sometimes taking on labels according to more traditional categories, like gay or hetero. Bi and pan identities were often referenced when no preference or a preference for both was given, pan being more common with younger people.
The current demands of trans groups in Chile were also brought up in the interviews, such as the Gender Identity Law, recently passed by the Chilean Congress in September 2018, the improvement of the antidiscrimination law (known as the Zamudio Law and named for a hate crime committed against Daniel Zamudio, a young gay man murdered in Santiago in 2012), and, more generally, the absence of the state in trans and travesti matters. The following testimonies are excerpts taken from much longer and much more violent accounts. Ellipses (. . .) are used in some cases to avoid the inclusion of explicit details about the torture of trans bodies. This decision is aligned with a larger ethical debate within trans studies that endeavors to avoid the overrepresentation of tortured trans bodies and to respect the dignity of those interviewed.4
Oral History and Antitrans State Terrorism
Article 373 of the Chilean Criminal Code condemned offenses to decency, morality, and good behavior, a vestige of nineteenth-century ecclesiastical ideas that sought to discourage the fostering of moral decadence in Western society (Hopman 2000). The vague wording of the law left it free to be interpreted by the authorities and, as a result, allowed for the constant harassment of trans and travesti groups and justified various police raids on gay bars and clubs, as well as sex work zones. While antitrans violence certainly existed previously in Chile (e.g., during the government of Carlos Ibáñez del Campo and the Popular Unity government), the military dictatorship intensified the repression of trans and travesti women with article 373 and the abuse of power at the hands of both the Carabineros (Chilean national police force) and parts of Chilean society.5 At the same time, the situation of trans and travesti women during the 1970s and 1980s was already complex. Many of the interviewees mentioned family conflicts stemming from publicly disclosing their homosexuality and their decision to transition. Consequently, poverty, abandonment, and discrimination were just some of the obstacles these women faced.
In our interviews with trans and travesti women, a constant point of focus was the violence and discrimination suffered at the hands of the dictatorship's police forces. In fact, many remembered the “law of morality and good behavior,” specifically, as its legal justification. In some cases, simply being a trans woman sufficed. An anonymous trans woman, whom we refer to as Anita, was born in 1956 and worked as a hairdresser in Calama at the time of our interview. She was chased by the Carabineros while walking in the street:
I was born in Antofagasta. I was in Valparaiso for six months and got stuck there because of the coup, nobody could come or go. I went back to Antofa when everything opened back up; the terminal, the station, the airport. . . . During that time, everything was restricted; there was a curfew, society wasn't itself, people were stressed out, nobody knew what was happening, and well, it was a very complicated time. We didn't have the freedoms we have today.
Were you ever detained for breaking the law of decency? Yeah, a bunch of times, always for that notorious law of morality and good behavior. They grilled us for it. . . . I was a flashing neon sign, so easily noticeable, so when they wanted to justify their work they'd just catch whatever was easiest, and they'd take us and hold us there. . . .
Did they mistreat you in the police station? Yeah, the treatment was ridiculous, mocking, putting you down, psychological. (Anita 2015)
These types of experiences were characterized by high levels of violence and a failure to understand what had happened. Invoking article 373 allowed for the detainment, repression, and intimidation of trans and travesti women without having to provide any rationale beyond an offense against morality and good behavior. Patricia of Santiago, born in 1959 and an ex-activist in the OTD, recounted an episode similar to Anita's:
I think the hardest thing I went through was when they detained me for a decency offense. . . . It was for going around seducing men in the streets. I was seventeen years old, and they took me and they charged me with a decency offense. I wound up in jail. . . . I swear to God, up until this day I still haven't gotten an explanation as to why I was taken there. Being seventeen years old, being a minor, you'd think I should have been taken to a juvenile detention center, not jail. . . . They put me in a cell . . . and everything happened there, beatings, sexual abuse, and then they left me alone, naked. (Cinfuentes 2014)
Just like Anita, Patricia was not a sex worker and did not associate much with other trans or travesti women. The simple act of walking in the streets at night was enough to associate her with prostitution and “going around seducing men.” In a time when human rights in Chile were violated every day, and given that there were no groups or spaces to denounce such abuses, trans and travesti women were severely underprotected in the face of police violence. In the case of travesti women working as prostitutes, repression was much worse. As Yokonda Montero, historic and important leader of Chile's first travesti organization, the Nefertiti group in Iquique, remembered:
Damn, so much violence. They arrested us. A bus would show up, looking [for us] as though we were terrorists. There was a bus that would appear and there we were, women, men, and they said “giiiiiiiirls” and we would run inside and they kicked down the door. They took us down from the roof, with machine guns and everything. I said, “But we're not terrorists, we're sex workers!” But off we went to the police station . . . where we arrived at six in the morning. They released the women, and we went to the prison, and they cut off our hair. We arrived as women, and they said, “Now, you gotta change out of those clothes you effing faggot and go to court.” There were some women who were doing time, and they gave us five days. . . . They said it was for offenses to decency, because it was in the public street, and they cut our hair and we had to go and buy wigs, which they burned. They mistreated us. (Montero 2015)
Similar situations occurred in other places like Rancagua. Victoria, a hairdresser born in 1967, turned to sex work in the 1980s due to the impossibility of finding work as a trans woman. For Victoria, the dictatorship was one of the most difficult times of her life because of the abuses she experienced from police authorities:
Yeah, in every way. I lived through the dictatorship, which was “heavy.” Back then, offenses against morality and good behavior were still a thing. They'd catch you in the street dressed as a woman and they'd beat the shit out of you. They'd take you to a police station, fuck you up. You had to perform oral sex on all of the cops. They'd mock you. And you were in there for five days, without a fine, for offending morality and good behavior, offending decency and good behavior. (Yáñez 2014)
All of these crimes were allowed under the “moral authority” of the police forces, and there was no public knowledge of the mistreatment of trans and travesti women. Cuerpos para odiar (Bodies to Hate), the fanzine written by trans activist Claudia Rodríguez, also captures the experience of travesti women during the military dictatorship. Rodríguez refers to her writings as “travesti poetry,” that is, poetry that tells of the violence, survival, and exclusion that travesti women experience in Chile. She tells of times when “we were huddled up treacherously like trash in an alleyway, cowering among ants away from the bangs of gunshots,” alluding to brothel raids that resulted in the arrests, beatings, and disappearances of travesti women (Rodríguez 2014: 68).6
For trans and travesti women, one way to avoid such violence was to live in hiding, many times in the streets, due to the level of uncertainty and danger they faced. In this sense, the women interviewed could be considered survivors of Chile's military dictatorship, since many gay, lesbian, and trans people were tortured and murdered in brothels and shanty towns, acts for which no official documentation exists (Robles 2008: 17–18). Moreover, the democratic transition of the 1990s did not significantly change the situation of trans and travesti women. To the contrary, many of the women experienced the same violence after the military dictatorship ended, but it was now coming directly from the public (Garrido 2016: 21). In fact, the 1990s were characterized by social and regulatory conditions that prohibited the support of people whose sexual orientation and/or gender identity did not align with heterosexuality and gender norms (Miles 2015: 446). With the founding of the trans organization OTD in 2005, a space was created where Lorena, Victoria, and Patricia could begin to share and discuss their experiences of the dictatorship, forming the first collective memories of antitrans state terrorism in Chile and helping provide a preliminary diagnosis of historical and current violence against trans people in the country. Although too young to have lived through this type of repression directly, Kary Chamorro—thirty-two years old, from Talca, a member of Transgéneras por el Cambio (Transgender Women for Change)—told us of what she had learned from other trans women:
I found out from my friends who, sadly, are no longer with us . . . that they pulled off their nails with pliers, they shaved their heads, they threw them around. There was a police station here, the Abate Molina in Talca. They carried out the operations at night. They detained all the women and took them all away in vans, the girls trying to escape on the roofs of the houses. . . . Like I was telling you, a lot of what we had was lost in the earthquake and when . . . Maribel died. She had a casa de ambiente (brothel) back then called the Jaula de las Locas.7 Understand? And she had thirty or forty trans people in there, but the girls were inside the house. The Carabineros didn't let them come out into the street or even stop on the corner. They even extorted her, because every day the Carabineros would come by wanting three or four roast chickens and bottles of pisco. (Chamorro 2014)
As Kary signals, survivors of antitrans state terrorism have passed away over the years, dying from the physical and psychological effects of the dictatorship, poverty, drug and alcohol addiction, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic that wiped out a generation of gay men and trans and travesti women in Chile in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For example, in Patricia's case, being detained and beaten by the Carabineros in the 1980s resulted in the loss of three teeth and difficulties eating that persist to this day, not to mention psychological damage and a continued inability to comprehend the aggression and violence experienced. “I wanted to disappear,” she said. Another case is Lorena, who told us that one of the major consequences of the violence she experienced during the military dictatorship was developing problems with alcohol and drugs, both of which continue to affect her health today:
Look, I arrived at OTD because I came through the Community Mental Health Center, since that was where drug addicts and alcoholics went. Turns out I was in pretty bad shape, because I overdosed on crack and I was drowning myself in alcohol. I went to the hospital, and I said, I already had my apartment, and I was high as a kite from smoking crack there. I ended up falling asleep in some trashy place. I was hospitalized, and nobody came to visit me, nobody brought me a teacup, a towel, [not even] a roll of toilet paper. (López 2014)
In Patricia's story, just like the other testimonies, a sense of loneliness lingers as a result of family rejection (during and after the dictatorship), social, educational, and laboral exclusion, and of course, the violence suffered in the 1970s and 1980s. The lack of reparative policies for trans people further exacerbates the situation of these women, given that they tend to experience economic hardship while having to seek medical care, psychological help, dental work, and even treatment for chronic diseases. Moreover, the lack of official records and/or recognition of the LGBTQI people murdered, disappeared, and/or abused during the military dictatorship precludes the possibility of gaining true insight into the magnitude of such hate crimes in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in terms of trans and travesti women. Rodríguez (2014: 78) alludes to stories that are told in the community about mass killings and crimes against trans women: “There's talk in the community that some of the bodies found in the mass graves in the north of our country, in the desert, were riddled with gunshot wounds. They were men's bodies dressed in women's clothes, show clothes, victims of the military period who had clearly been executed. And I wonder, ‘How did they live and how did they die?’”8 Despite the lack of official recognition of state terrorism against LGBTQI people in Chile, a small group of trans people tried to bring attention to the issue in the late 2000s. In 2009, President Michelle Bachelet created the Comisión Asesora Presidencial para la Calificación de Detenidos Desaparecidos, Ejecutados Políticos y Víctimas de Prisión, Política y Tortura (Presidential Advisory Commission for the Classification of Disappeared Detainees, Victims of Political Executions, and Victims of Imprisonment and Torture), commonly referred to as the Second Valech Commission (or Valech II). The purpose of the initiative was to make up for the shortcomings of the Rettig Report (Comisión Nacional de Verdad y Reconciliación 1991) and the Valech Report (Comisión Nacional sobre Prisión Política y Tortura 2004) by recognizing more victims of the Chilean military dictatorship. Some activists saw this as an opportunity to obtain legal recognition of the homo-, lesbo-, and transphobic violence of the dictatorial period. Patricia and Victoria, who met through OTD, tried to present their testimonies. Victoria explained: “I, along with a friend, filed a report when the Valech II opened, and we participated to see what would happen. . . . I was discriminated against. They hit me. I was sexually assaulted, not just for political reasons, but because of my sexual orientation and gender identity” (Yáñez 2014). For Victoria, the goal was to repay a historical debt owed to her friends and to the trans and travesti women that were killed between 1973 and 1990 at the hands of the police forces. Victoria, Patricia, and other OTD ex-activists of the same generation organized themselves to denounce the crimes and participate in the Valech II Commission. With the help of a lawyer, they began the process of having their testimonies included in the new report, but the lack of witnesses quickly derailed their momentum. According to the commission, their claims did not meet the requirements for consideration. Patricia explained, “We don't have witnesses, but what witnesses are you supposed to have? You could have been raped, there could have been blood, anything. You went through it. I know where they did those things to me. But witnesses? Where are they?” Victoria and Patricia agree that their attempt failed not just because of the commission's disinterest in including LGBTQI victims in the report but also due to the limited resources, tools, and legal support available to OTD.9
The cases of Patricia and Victoria form part of the 70 percent of cases not recognized in the Valech II Commission's report for failing to meet legal requirements, such as not proving political motivation, a lack of evidence, or not meeting the deadlines (La Tercera2011). Both the Valech II and the commissions that preceded it reflect a patriarchal and heteronormative official discourse on human rights. The fact that even cisgender women were excluded from these accounts (Hiner 2009) demonstrates the difficulties these reports have incorporating issues around gender and sexuality. In the 2000s, several LGBTQI groups began to (re)appropriate discourses on, and expand the concept of, human rights to include LGBTQI subjectivities, fighting for antidiscrimination laws, marriage equality, and a gender identity law (Hiner and Garrido 2017). A key year in the recognition of LGBTQI people as “rightful subjects” was 2012, which marked both passing of the aforementioned Zamudio Law and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' decision in the Atala case, which instructed the Chilean state to formally compensate Karen Atala for allowing the courts to take away her children on the grounds of her being a lesbian. Atala's was the first discrimination case on sexual orientation sent to that court and has become central in Latin American debates about sexual diversity and traditional family structures (Beltrán y Puga 2011: 217–18). Nevertheless, homo-, lesbo-, and transphobic violence during the civic-military dictatorship remains unrecognized, and the understanding of the concept of violence in the context of recent history in Chile continues to be limited. As activist Nicole Olmos of the Agrupación Arcoiris (Rainbow Group) in Antofagasta said: “These days, with the changes made by the democratic government, the wives of the detained and disappeared, their mothers, they all have access to free health care and to psychologists covered by the state. That's all well and good for the people that suffered, but who's speaking up for our compañeras who were killed for being homosexuals?” (Olmos 2015).
To conclude, we would like to reflect on human rights, recent history, and trans history in Chile. Several areas remain understudied within Chilean historiography of the dictatorship. This includes the trans and travesti women who experienced violence during the dictatorship, not for political (partisan) reasons but, rather, because of the internal transphobia of police forces backed by article 373 and institutionalized discrimination. Though gender violence and sexual violence have been afforded more attention in recent years, little is known about the situation of LGBTQI groups during the Chilean dictatorship. Thus, the collective actions of and networks created between such organizations as Traves Chile (Santiago), the Amanda Jofré trans workers' union (Santiago), Arcoiris (Antofagasta), Nefertiti (Iquique), and OTD (Santiago, Rancagua, and Concepción) remain of utmost importance. These groups have been vital to the denouncement of transphobia and antitrans state terrorism, as well as to the creation of safe spaces for conversation and mutual recognition between trans and travesti people.
Nevertheless, the violence against LGBTQI people, especially antitrans state terrorism, must continue to be explored from a historical perspective. There also exists a related need to encourage more historians that identify as trans, travesti, queer, and more to complete programs of study in history—at both undergraduate and graduate levels—and to research areas of trans history. Currently, few trans people are studying or have studied in history programs, and even fewer trans academics are working in history departments at Chilean universities. We believe this must change as soon as possible so that a new field specific to trans, queer, gay, and/or lesbian studies can be considered and new lines of research opened.
In this article, we have explored the memories and oral histories of trans and travesti women who survived antitrans state terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s in Chile. These memories are characterized by raw, violent accounts of the military dictatorship, most of which indicate that the democratic transition did not significantly impact the rights of these women. On the contrary, article 373 remained in effect after the dictatorship. This explains why, within the discourse of human rights that emerged in the 1990s, the idea of violence was specifically focused on political violence and did not consider or problematize other variables such as gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and/or race until the 2000s. These trans and travesti histories are vital to the understanding of recent Chilean history from different perspectives that contribute both to historiography and to memory studies on state terrorism.
The physical and psychological effects of violence experienced during the dictatorship hinder the incorporation of trans and travesti women into Chilean society today, a situation further complicated by the absence of reparative policies. In this sense, healing for LGBTQI people is multifaceted, requiring recognition of both antitrans state terrorism and the historical violence they have suffered in Chile. Our interviewees demand diverse forms of reparation, but to produce such policies it is first necessary to understand the complexity of antitrans violence. This includes recognizing the effects of homo-, lesbo-, and transphobia and hegemonic heteronormativity, as well as acknowledging that this violence intersects with racism, sexism, economic discrimination, and prejudices related to idealized forms of corporality (Cornejo 2014: 274). Such policies would, ideally, entail a much larger debate within the areas of human rights and memory politics.
The research that contributed to this article was carried out between 2013 and 2017 and funded by Fondecyt de Inicio project 11130088, “Una historia inconclusa: Violencia de género y políticas públicas en Chile, 1990–2010” (Hillary Hiner, researcher).
As we were reminded throughout our interviews, there are many other ways to refer to trans people. Older trans women often self-identified as transsexuals, travestis, travas, locas, or transfeminine, while more recent terms included marica/marika, queer/kuir/cuir, trans, and even nonbinary or gender fluid. In the interest of simplification, we use trans and travesti women, in accordance with the most commonly seen terms n both Latin American academia and the vocabulary of trans and travesti activists. Furthermore, we found it important to include the term travesti because of the recent political demand that has arisen in Argentina by way of the Association for the Struggle for Travesti and Transsexual Identity, as well as in recognition of critiques of the term trans made by travesti activists, who consider it a “bougie” term that refers mostly to people of a higher social class. In this sense, the term travesti is associated with complex contexts often experienced by trans bodies, such as sex work and poverty.
“Para las travestis, el Estado de Sitio es a diario. La rutinaria persecución policial, las acostumbradas restricciones a circular libremente por las calles portando una identidad subversiva, los permanentes obstáculos para acceder a derechos consagrados para todos/as los/as ciudadanos/as del país, entre otros, hacen de la vida travesti una vida en estado de sitio.”
To briefly explain how we came to employ this term: From the start, it was imperative that both authors recognize the specific violence experienced by LGBTQI people during the dictatorship as a form of state terrorism (concern seen, e.g., in (Hiner 2016, 2018; Garrido 2017). At the same time, we have also explored the violence that occurred after the dictatorship, engaging with the term coined by Doug Meyer (2008), antiqueer violence, to emphasize its intersectional nature and the multiplicity of LGBTQI identities (see Hiner and Garrido 2017). Upon submitting this article, we had continued along this line, employing antiqueer state terrorism as a term that could cover more LGBTQI subjectivities that experienced state terrorism. The journal, however, preferred the term antitrans state terrorism, and the article does indeed focus solely on trans and travesti women. We thank coeditor Cole Rizki for the suggestion.
These ellipses were added at the request of the journal, and we respect its position. We also recognize that any study about torture and violence entails a certain level of description of what happened. This is particularly important in instances when certain narratives have been systematically suppressed or erased and are in no way recognized by the state, as is the case with antitrans state terrorism.
According to the research of Contardo (2012: 186–285), the Law on Antisocial Statuses enacted in 1954 during the Ibáñez del Campo government had the objective of categorizing individuals who should be monitored and/or locked up for being potentially “toxic” to the nation. This included the homeless, drunks, drug addicts, and homosexuals. Meanwhile, the Popular Unity government replicated the journalistic proclivities of the Cuban Revolution, publishing news that tied homosexuals to crimes of passion and perverse acts against minors.
“Terminamos acurrucadas traicioneramente como basura en una callejuela cualquiera, acobardadas entre las hormigas por los estruendos de las balas.”
This travesti brothel is well known in more artistic circles, since celebrated photographer Paz Errázuriz took photos of the women there during the 1980s. For more information, see Donoso and Errázuriz 1990, which includes photo commentary and testimonies. The phrase “La Jaula de las Locas” refers to the French play La Cage aux Folles (this is the Spanish translation of the play's name in Chile). A US movie based on the play was translated as The Bird Cage (dir. Mike Nichols, 1996). Of course, there is also a play on words in the Chilean Spanish version, as loca is used to refer to effeminate gay men in Chile, sometimes blurring into travesti women, as seen in much of Chilean author Pedro Lemebel's well-known work. For more on this topic see González 2014.
“Se cuenta en el ambiente que algunos de los cuerpos encontrados acribillados en fosas comunes del norte de nuestro país, en el desierto, eran cuerpos masculinos vestidos con ropas de mujer, de show, víctimas del periodo militar, con rastros de fusilamiento y me pregunto, ¿de cómo vivieron y cómo murieron?”
While opened during the first Bachelet government (2006–10), the Valech II Commission was mostly carried out during the center-right government of Piñera I (2010–14). The commission rejected more than 20,000 requests from people seeking to be recognized as victims of political imprisonment and torture. To this day, most cases have received no acknowledgment or explanation.