This month, the National Democratic Institute is celebrating Pride! In support of NDI’s commitment to increasing the inclusion of marginalized populations in political processes, we’re highlighting the essential work of partners who are at the forefront fighting for greater levels of equality, shifting norms and perceptions, and reducing barriers to political participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) communities.
NDI interviewed members of Trans Siempre Amigas Inc. (Trans Friends Forever Inc., TRANSSA), a partner in the Dominican Republic working to improve the quality of life and rights for the trans community. TRANSSA told us about how they’re raising the visibility of transgender communities, advocating for their rights, and demanding the government enact stronger anti-discrimination policies.
Describe some of the ways that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) people in your country are participating politically. What challenges or barriers to political participation remain?
LGBTQI+ people in the Dominican Republic have been very active, utilizing political participation as a way to defend and promote our human rights. With respect to party politics, we have achieved small victories but, there are still many barriers. More conservative and religious groups make it difficult to fully participate, given the extent of their power and majority in decision-making positions. The lack of public policies guaranteeing our rights and lack of political will remain challenges in our struggle.
How is your organization working to address these barriers/challenges and to eliminate discrimination against LGBTQI+ people in your country?
TRANSSA works actively both within and outside of the LGBTQI+ community as well as with with the Dominican State, helping to lessen stigma and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, identity, and gender expression. TRANSSA works to make more visible the problems that affect transgender communities and advocate for the creation of public policies that respect and guarantee the rights of all without any type of discrimination.
As the world continues to battle COVID-19 over a year later, has the pandemic presented any opportunities for your organization and/or for LGBTQI+ people in your country?
The COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened us as a movement and as an organization, allowing us to truly see our strengths. However, the pandemic has also laid bare the stark inequalities members of LGBTQI+ communities face. Due to the lack of recognition of our rights, members of the transgender community found it difficult to fully exercise their rights as citizens and receive the support they need. We now face a bit of an uncertain future. And yet, the State can no longer overlook and ignore the realities of transgender communities given their needs are out in the open due to the pandemic.
What does Pride mean to you and/or your organization?
For TRANSSA, LGBTQI+ Pride means reclaiming our movement, which for decades has been made invisible by the State. Pride is an opportunity to advocate for visibility as a population with rights, whose problems are not taken into account because of prejudice, stigma, and discrimination.
LGBTQI+ Pride is the recognition of every member of the community, gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, and other sexually diverse populations. It affirms our right to celebrate our identities and show support for those who are out and even those still in the closet. Pride brings to light our realities and makes them so visible that states, through our recommendations, have no other option but to enact measures to combat discrimination and guarantee our rights.
In the past year, can you briefly share a success story from your organization’s contribution to strengthening the LGBTQI+ movement in your country?
TRANSSA has contributed to the strengthening and recognition of rights and access to justice for LGBTQI+ communities. We are fighting against impunity in the face of LGBTQI+ homicides. Despite its challenges, we supported more than 500 LGBTQI+ people in accessing social assistance programs during COVID-19 pandemic, enabling these communities to mitigate some of the impacts and access to food. We have emerged stronger on the other side, strengthening our institutional capacity to adapt to different operating environments and more effectively utilizing digital methodologies to continue to connect and advocate for transgender rights across the country.
TRANSSA is funded through NDI’s Equal Rights in Action Fund, which supports local organizations around the world who work to promote and defend the human rights of marginalized groups.
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.