Monday, November 30, 2009

Puerto Rican activist maintains murdered teenager identified as gay

As Jorge Steven López Mercado's family continues to mourn the teenager's death, activist Pedro Julio Serrano continues to insist the 19-year-old identified himself as a gay man.

"He was very comfortable in his own skin, he loved to cross gender boundaries and he was accepted as such by his friends, his partner and his own parents," Serrano, who remains in Puerto Rico and continues to counsel López's family, wrote on a blog he posted on Nov. 27. "His mom, Myriam Mercado, knowing that his son used hair extensions as part of his look, even told the press in Puerto Rico, "Behind that wig and those boots, there was a human being, a very much loved son, a brother and a friend."

Serrano further alluded to activists, bloggers and others who suggested Juan A. Martínez Matos murdered López and subsequently decapitated, dismembered and partially burned his body near Cayey earlier this month in an act of anti-transgender violence.

"I understand the politics behind identifying a hate crime victim as trans when part of his or her expression does not conform to his or her sex, but sometimes we must bend the rules to accommodate the cultural and societal differences," he wrote. "I would like to ask for respect of our cultural and societal differences from our friends in the U.S. In our Puerto Rican culture, people who are gender nonconforming, gender variant or gender queer are not considered trans. We only consider as transgender or transsexual, people who identify as such. And we respect that."

Puerto Rican law enforcement officials announced last week they would investigate López's murder as a hate crime, but Serrano once again stressed acceptance and unity among LGBTs during an impromptu late night speech at Krash in Santurce over the weekend in which he criticizes the crowd for anti-trans comments some made in the wake of López's gruesome death.

"Let's respect everyone, let's open spaces for everyone and let's achieve a Puerto Rico for all," he said.

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