Antonia Lara: update

April 9, 2010

It’s a year now since I first wrote about the mistreatment of trans women by prison staff at the Twin Falls County Jail in Idaho, specifically the human rights abuses to which Nastaran Kolestani was subjected, and as reported by Antonia Lara (link here).

Ms Kolestani’s case eventually reached the courts last June (links here and here), when she was sentenced to serve at least 18 years in prison before she is eligible for parole.

By then Ms Lara had pretty much disappeared from the media spotlight so this article in On Top Magazine offers the chance to catch up. Sadly, but perhps not unexpectedly, it seems that Ms Lara has fallen on hard times since the publication of her story last year:

The day after having her story published, Lara was fired.

“I was fired from my job before I even walked in the door,” Lara told On Top Magazine. “My employer had no clue I was transgender.”

[…]

A year on, Lara says she remains unemployed, has been forced out of Twins Falls and is homeless.

“I felt like I was black balled from employment in the area, when the economy is already bad. I was discriminated against by law enforcement and forced to move out of the state with threats of harm to myself and my family.”

Lara, who began her transition at the age of 18, says she’s studying for a degree in medical administration.

While saying she does not regret standing up for the rights of transgender people – “I am proud to be trans, proud to be a woman and proud to be a Chicana” – she admits the incident has altered her life.

“Right now, I would flip burgers and wash windows,” Lara says. “Honestly, I don’t know what’s next, right now it’s just focus on my education, try to eat and stay alive everyday, and look for work.”

As Denise Leclair, executive director of the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE), points out elsewhere in the article, not only is such discrimination commonplace, but – because it’s not even illegal – many employers don’t even bother to deny it. What Ms Leclair doesn’t mention is the sheer number of intersecting oppressions faced by Ms Lara: she experiences discrimination for being a woman, for being a woman of colour, for being trans and for being a trans woman of colour. Additionally, her story hints at other discriminations in trying to find food, shelter and employment.

Survival, in a word.

It all illustrates with heartaching clarity how the processes of marginalisation and Othering play out for far too many trans women in this so-called developed world of ours.

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(Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia)

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