Another transgender woman murdered in Puerto Rico

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Tuesday May 25, 2010

For the second time in less than two months, Puerto Rican police are investigating the murder of a transgender woman in her home.

Police say Angie González Oquendo, 38, was strangled to death with an electrical cord in her Caguas home on Monday, May 24. El Nuevo Día reported González, 38, was last seen alive on Thursday, May 20. And Carlos H. Cruz Burgos, director of the Caguas' Criminal Investigation Corps, told the newspaper he believes González was killed later that day.

Police discovered González's body after neighbors reported a foul odor coming from her home. Investigators told Nuevo Día they continue to treat the case as either a hate crime or case of domestic violence; González's father told Primera Hora he thinks his daughter's boyfriend killed her. But Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Lesbian & Gay Task Force told the same newspaper he thinks local authorities should continue to investigate whether a hate crime took place.

"At the very least, I suspect that a crime could have been committed by prejudice against the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity," he said. "The authorities have an obligation under the law to investigate this hate angle."

González's murder comes roughly five weeks after authorities discovered Ashley Santiago stabbed to death in her home in Corozal; and less than two weeks after the man prosecutors had accused of killing gay teenager Jorge Steven López Mercado before decapitating, dismembering and partially burning his body before dumping it along a remote roadside pleaded guilty.

Judge Miriam Camila Jusino sentenced Juan José Martínez Matos to 99 years in prison, but Serrano and other activists were quick to underscore anti-LGBT hate crimes remain a serious problem on the island.

"I urge the Latino community to be united as one voice and with our personal actions reject any type of homophobia, transphobia and discrimination," said Guillermo Chacon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS, in a statement released shortly after news of González's death broke. We are one family; we must pursue the well-being of all our members. We must address homophobia and transphobia by putting a stop to the jokes, slurs, discrimination and hatred faced by our LGBT brothers and sisters, not just in Puerto Rico but across the entire country. Hatred and violence is never the answer."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.