Guatemalan transgender woman lives in 2 worlds

AP News
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Posted: Sep 21, 2012 1:33 PM
Guatemalan transgender woman lives in 2 worlds

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Dressed as a man, the sixth-grade teacher leaves school and walks several blocks through a dangerous red-light district overrun with gangs and crack dealers.

Arriving at a friend's home, a transformation begins. Off come wide-leg jeans, T-shirt and a baseball cap that hides long hair. After an extensive, two-hour makeup session, Linda Elizabeth Tylor Martinez emerges wearing a miniskirt and high heels.

Born a man, Tylor is a transgender woman who moves between two distinct lives: one male, one female.

She considers herself lucky to have a teaching job. She says many transgender Guatemalans must make their livings solely as sex workers.

But she disguises her sexual identity to protect that position, and she, too, works as a prostitute at night at a bar.

"In the beginning it was out of necessity because I was still getting my teacher's license," she said. "But now, it's also because it's the only place that I can really be a woman."

She said she would never want her students to know she works as a prostitute. "I try to make sure they never find out."

Fearing repercussions, she would not allow The Associated Press to use her teacher name or interview others at the school.

Activists say transgender people are particularly at risk in violent Guatemala, where two transgender women were murdered in July. The U.S. State Department mentioned such violence in its 2011 report, saying Guatemalan police had failed to investigate two earlier killings of transgender people in the country.