Responses to Information Requests

Responses to Information Requests (RIR) are research reports on country conditions. They are requested by IRB decision makers.

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25 May 2018

MEX106111.E

Mexico: Societal norms on gender identity expressions, including in indigenous communities (2016-May 2018)

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Overview

Sources indicate that in Mexican culture, there are traditionally two primary gender roles: machismo [1] and marianismo [2] (Kulis 1 July 2011; Englander July 2012, 65). Sources cite the Mexican President as stating on International Women's Day 2017 that a machista culture exists in Mexico (The New York Times 23 Apr. 2017; El Financiero 8 Mar. 2017). Other sources similarly indicate that machismo attitudes are prevalent in Mexico (The Guardian 1 Aug. 2014; BBC 20 May 2016). In a report on sexual orientation and human rights in the Americas, Andrew Reding [3] states that

[i]n Mexico, … the confluence of two cultures – Spanish and indigenous – that idealized the hyper-masculinity of the warrior has produced a popular culture that is particularly hostile to any sign of the feminine in a man, and, to a lesser degree, of the masculine in a woman. Spaniards and Aztecs alike were [d]raconian in their treatment of sexual nonconformists. (Reding 2003, 58)

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, an academic at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, UNAM), who is an independent researcher and has published on sexual diversity, stated that in Mexico, [translation] "children are taught that they must adhere to characteristics and behaviours according to their biological sex" and that any deviation from this norm is "pointed out or even punished" (Academic 7 May 2018). According to the same source, the notion that [translation] "that which is masculine is superior to that which is feminine continues to be socially important" (Academic 7 May 2018).

2. Societal Norms on Gender Identity Expressions

Sources indicated that even though anti-discrimination legislation exists for sexual minorities (Academic 7 May 2018; Researcher 3 May 2018; Centro de Apoyo a las Identidades Trans, A. C. 6 May 2018), including in the areas of health care, education and the workplace, "the reality is different" (Researcher 3 May 2018). According to sources, homophobia is prevalent across Mexico (Researcher 3 May 2018; Academic 7 May 2018), including in the major cities of the country, such as Mexico City (Academic 7 May 2018). According to the academic, homophobia is translated into acts against those who are gender non-conforming, and these acts range from insults and lewd comments to physical violence and murders, including of minors (Academic 7 May 2018). The same source indicated that

[translation]

in Mexico, gender expression is taken as a point of reference for a person's sexual orientation. As such, women who are perceived to be too masculine or men who are perceived to be too feminine are more likely to be victims of violence and discrimination. (Academic 7 May 2018)

The academic explained that, in contrast, if a man or a woman of a diverse sexual orientation shows traits socially assigned to their gender, they are more tolerated (Academic 7 May 2018).

A global survey [4] conducted by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) on attitudes on "sexual, gender and sex minorities" provides the following results for Mexico:

When asked whether equal rights and protections should be applied to everyone, including people who dress, act or identify as one sex although they were born as another, respondents indicated the following:

Number of Respondents Percentage - weighted
Strongly agree 772 59%
Somewhat agree 179 14%
Neither agree or disagree 243 16%
Somewhat disagree 51 3%
Strongly disagree 110 7%
Total 1355

When asked if one's neighbour is believed to be one sex, but dresses, acts or identify as another, respondents indicated that they would:

Number of Respondents Percentage - weighted
Affirm and support them 267 18%
Accept them 845 65%
Spend less time with them 84 6%
Publicly distance oneself 73 5%
Try to change them 99 6%
Total 1368

When asked whether adults who dress, act or identify as one sex although they were born as another should be granted full legal recognition of the identity they declare, respondents indicated the following:

Number of Respondents Percentage - weighted
Strongly agree 560 43%
Somewhat agree 249 18%
Neither agree or disagree 368 26%
Somewhat disagree 74 6%
Strongly disagree 114 7%
Total 1365

When asked whether it is possible to respect one's own culture and be accepting of people who dress, act or identify as one sex although they were born as another, respondents indicated the following:

Number of Respondents Percentage - weighted
Strongly agree 675 52%
Somewhat agree 207 16%
Neither agree or disagree 295 20%
Somewhat disagree 66 5%
Strongly disagree 120 7%
Total 1363

When asked whether it is possible to respect one's own religion and be accepting of people who dress, act or identify as one sex although they were born as another, respondents indicated the following:

Number of Respondents Percentage - weighted
Strongly agree 677 51%
Somewhat agree 215 16%
Neither agree or disagree 308 20%
Somewhat disagree 72 5%
Strongly disagree 116 8%
Total 1388

(ILGA 2017)

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the LGBT Coordinator of Legal Support for Human Rights (Asistencia Legal por los Derechos Humanos, ASILEGAL, A. C.) [5] explained that the situation of gender non-conforming individuals in Mexico varies and that experiences of discrimination or violence are aggravated according to other social conditions such as gender, socio-economic status, immigration status, indigenous background, and roles such as being a human rights defender (ASILEGAL, A. C. 6 May 2018).

2.1 Indigenous Communities

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a researcher from the Mexican National Institute of Public Health (Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública), who has worked on sexual and reproductive health and rights internationally and in Mexico, stated, while speaking on his own behalf, that "classism and racism are very strong in Mexican society, maybe even more than LGBTphobia. That means that indigenous LGBT people will definitely experience more challenges in all spaces" (Researcher 3 May 2018). Other sources similarly indicate that in Mexico, indigenous persons are marginalized (Academic 7 May 2018; ASILEGAL, A. C. 6 May 2018), and that being indigenous in Mexico brings with it a [translation] "series of negative perceptions," and even more if the person is a sexual minority (Academic 7 May 2018). The academic explained that there is [translation] "institutional prejudice" against indigenous persons and there is a lack of knowledge among indigenous persons in terms of defending their rights (Academic 7 May 2018). Sources indicate that gender non-conforming indigenous persons may experience [translation] "double discrimination" (Centro de Apoyo a las Identidades Trans, A. C. 6 May 2018; ASILEGAL, A. C. 6 May 2018).

When asked how gender non-conforming individuals are regarded and treated in indigenous communities and whether they face any challenges, the researcher stated that "[i]t depends," and explained that "zapotecos and some groups in Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guerrero are quite open to sexual diversity, but that [this] is not the case in all the communities in those states and in other indigenous groups" (Researcher 3 May 2018). According to the academic, sexual diversity within indigenous communities is a subject that has been scarcely researched and little is known about the situation of sexual minorities within indigenous communities (Academic 7 May 2018). According to ASILEGAL, A. C., it is difficult to generalize the experiences of sexual minorities in indigenous communities, given that there are 68 recognized indigenous communities in Mexico, which vary in population and geography (ASILEGAL, A. C. 6 May 2018). The academic stated, however, that [translation] "within indigenous groups, there are homophobic acts against LGBT men and women, as well as discriminatory notions that sustain the men-women, masculine-feminine binary" (Academic 7 May 2018). The academic stated that, in the case of women, they are subject to acts of rape as a way to [translation] "'cure'" them from what is considered "unnatural," and in the case of men, they are subject to sexual activities with women in order for them to "'become men'," while physical violence can occur in other cases (Academic 3 May 2018). According to the academic, when [translation] "'correcting'" their conduct is not successful, social pressure forces them to leave their communities for the cities (Academic 7 May 2018). The researcher similarly indicated that, while research on this area shows that LGBT indigenous people have to migrate to big cities in order to live "openly," "the problem is the context of small towns and not necessarily culture" (Researcher 3 May 2018). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Director General of the Support Centre for Trans Identities (Centro de Apoyo a las Identidades Trans, A. C.) [6] indicated that in the majority of indigenous communities, trans persons are rejected and excluded due to machismo and misogyny, causing them to move to urban areas (Centro de Apoyo a las Identidades Trans, A. C. 6 May 2018). According to the academic, the experiences of indigenous persons who live in cities can be diverse, depending on their motives for moving to the city and whether their families had moved to the city generations ago (Academic 7 May 2018).

2.2 Muxes

Sources indicate that the muxes are considered a "third-gender" (Reuters 12 Sept. 2017; Culture Trip 1 Dec. 2017; Vice Media 26 Nov. 2016). Sources describe muxes to be born biologically as men, who display a feminine identity (Reuters 12 Sept. 2017; Culture Trip 1 Dec. 2017; Vice Media 26 Nov 2016). The Guardian reports, however, that "[b]eing muxe is often confused with being transgender" and that "the muxe identity has more in common with being non-binary [7]" (The Guardian 27 Oct. 2017). An article on muxes published by Vice Media, similarly states that muxes do not "consider themselves cross-dressers or transgender" and that they "identify neither as men nor as women" (Vice Media 26 Nov. 2016). According to the National Public Radio (NPR), a Washington-based multimedia organization, some muxes "are men who live as women, or who identify beyond a single gender" (NPR 5 June 2012).

According to The Guardian, the muxe identity is specific to the Oaxaca region and the indigenous Zapoteca culture (The Guardian 27 Oct. 2017). Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that, according to Melendre, a civil society organization that advocates for the Zapotec culture, of the 75,000 inhabitants of Juchitán, approximately 5,000 are muxes and that muxes are also present in villages like Niltepec and Ixtepec (AFP 6 Oct. 2017). Reuters reports that, according to residents in Juchitán, there is a muxe in every Juchitán family and that they are known for their "dedication to family" (Reuters 12 Sept. 2017). Sources indicate that muxes are caregivers of their elderly mothers (Reuters 12 Sept. 2017; Culture Trip 1 Dec. 2017; NPR 5 June 2012). Sources indicate that muxes are generally accepted in Juchitán (Reuters 12 Sept. 2017; Centro de Apoyo a las Identidades Trans A. C.; The Guardian 27 Oct. 2017). According to the NPR, in Juchitán, there are some Catholic priests who hold services for muxes (NPR 5 June 2012). The Mexican daily newspaper La Jornada cites Letra S, a Mexico City-based NGO specializing in health and sexuality (Letra S n.d.), as stating that [translation] "muxes are completely adapted in their families" and that mothers are generally more accepting of muxes than the fathers, as a result of machismo (La Jornada 6 June 2013).

Sources indicate, however, that muxes in Juchitán face discrimination (AFP 10 June 2017; Academic 7 May 2018) and can still be subject to violence (Academic 7 May 2018). The Guardian reports that "life outside Juchitán is not always easy" for muxes (The Guardian 27 Oct. 2017). Further information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. Support Services

Sources indicate that there are "[v]ery few" organizations in Mexico that provide support for gender non-conforming individuals and that they face financial and resource constraints (Researcher 3 May 2018; ASILEGAL, A. C. 6 May 2018). According to the researcher, "most LGBT organizations in the country work on advocacy or provide HIV services, but there are very few spaces that provide a more comprehensive approach" (Researcher 3 May 2018). The researcher indicated the following organizations that provide support to gender non-conforming individuals: Colectivo 41, in San Miguel de Allende; ProDiana, in Mexico City; Comunidad Metropolitana, A. C., in Monterrey; Vida Plena, in Puebla; and Cohesión de Diversidades para la Sustenabilidad, A. C., in Guadalajara (Researcher 3 May 2018). According to ASILEGAL, A. C., there are various organizations, all in Mexico City, that promote and defend the human rights of sexual minorities, including ASILEGAL, A. C.; Letra S; Centro de Apoyo a las Identidades Trans, A. C.; Fundación Arcoíris, A. C.; El Clóset de Sor Juana, A. C.; Almas Cautivas, A. C.; and Cuenta Conmigo Diversidad Sexual Incluyente, A. C. (ASILEGAL, A. C. 6 May 2018).

The information in the following paragraph was provided by the academic in correspondence with the Research Directorate:

Assistance for indigenous sexual minorities in Mexico [translation] "is a subject that has not received the attention it requires" and it remains "unclear." Many government programs intended for indigenous populations are focused on agricultural activities and, in terms of health care, the focus of the assistance is on reproductive health and birth control. Since indigenous languages are generally not spoken by those responsible for health care programs, indigenous individuals prefer not to solicit help. Indigenous sexual minorities in cities do not receive adequate attention. LGBT organizations have little concern for the indigenous population and their inclusion is not evident. Within the LGBT community, indigenous persons are discriminated against and segregated due to, among others, their poverty, physical traits, way of dressing, and speech manner (Academic 7 May 2018).

For further information about the situation of sexual minorities in Mexico, including state protection and support services, see Response to Information Request MEX105953 of February 2018.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Notes

[1] According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "machismo" is defined as "[s]trong or aggressive masculine pride" (Oxford English Dictionary n.d.a).

[2] According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "marianismo" is defined as a "pattern of behaviour that is regarded as conforming to a traditional or archetypal female role" (Oxford English Dictionary n.d.b).

[3] Andrew Reding is a senior fellow at World Policy Institute and Director of the Project for Global Democracy and Human Rights (Reding Dec. 2003). The World Policy Institute is a New York-based think tank that "identifies critical emerging global issues in an interdependent world and gives voice to compelling new global perspectives and innovative policy solution" (World Policy Institute n.d.a). The Project for Global Democracy and Human Rights "explores issues of democracy and human rights in the context of globalization. It identifies problems and points to solutions, with an emphasis on multilateral approaches" (World Policy Institute n.d.b).

[4] The sample of the survey was around 116,000 respondents in 75 countries, including Mexico (ILGA Oct. 2017, 8).

[5] ASILEGAL, A. C. is a Mexico City-based NGO that works for the defence and promotion of the human rights of groups in a situation of "vulnerability," including indigenous communities, youth, women and sexual minorities (ASILEGAL, A. C. n.d.). ASILEGAL, A. C. provides legal support and carries out research and educational training for young human rights defenders (ASILEGAL, A. C. n.d.).

[6] Centro de Apoyo a las Identidades Trans, A. C. is a Mexican civil society organization founded in 2011 that works for the defence and promotion of the human rights of the trans population (Centro de Apoyo a las Identidades Trans, A. C. 6 May 2018).

[7] Non-binary "is a term used by those whose identities do not fit into a strictly male/female binary" (CBC 20 Jan. 2018). "It encompasses … those who identify as neither male nor female, those who identify as both, those who are gender-fluid and identify periodically more as feminine or masculine" (CBC 20 Jan. 2018).

References

Academic. 7 May 2018. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 6 October 2017. "Usar vestidos tradicionales, el nuevo estigma de los Muxes." [Accessed 25 Apr. 2018]

Asistencia Legal por los Derechos Humanos, A. C. (ASILEGAL, A. C.). 6 May 2018. Correspondence from the LGBTI Coordinator to the Research Directorate.

Asistencia Legal por los Derechos Humanos, A. C. (ASILEGAL, A. C.). N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 23 May 2018]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 20 May 2016. Katy Watson. "Making a Noise About Machismo in Mexico." [Accessed 3 May 2018]

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). 20 January 2018. Sara Fraser. "10 Things You Always Wanted to Know About Being Non-binary but Were Afraid to Ask." [Accessed 14 May 2018]

Centro de Apoyo a las Identidades Trans, A. C. 6 May 2018. Correspondence from the Director General to the Research Directorate.

Culture Trip. 1 December 2017. Lauren Cocking. "A Brief History of Muxe, Mexico's Third Gender." [Accessed 25 Apr. 2018]

El Financiero. 8 March 2017. Eduardo Ortega. "Peña Nieto llama a erradicar Machismo." [Accessed 3 May 2018]

Englander, Karen, Carmen Yáñez, and Xochitl Barney. July 2012. "Doing Science Within a Culture of Machismo and Marianismo." Journal of International Women's Studies. Vol. 13, No. 3.

The Guardian. 27 October 2017. "Muxes: Gender-fluid Lives in a Small Mexican Town." [Accessed 25 Apr. 2018]

The Guardian. 1 August 2014. Nina Lakhani. "Mexico's Machismo Culture Has Forced Me to Change the Way I Dress." [Accessed 23 May 2018]

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). October 2017. Minorities Report 2017: Attitudes to Sexual and Gender Minorities Around the World. [Accessed 2 May 2018]

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). 2017. The ILGA-RIWI Global Attitudes Survey on Sexual, Gender and Sex Minorities, 2017, in Partnership with Viacom, Logo and SAGE. [Accessed 2 May 2018]

Kulis, Stephen, Flavio F. Marsiglia, and Julie L. Nagoshi. 1 July 2010. "Gender Roles, Externalizing Behaviors, and Substance Use Among Mexican-American Adolescents." Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions. Vol. 10, No. 3.

La Jornada. 6 Junio de 2013. Leonardo Bastida Aguilar. "Muxes: entre la tradición y el cambio." [Accessed 25 Apr. 2018]

Letra S. N.d. "Historia." [Accessed 4 May 2018]

National Public Radio (NPR). 5 June 2012. Padmananda Rama. "In Mexico, Mixed Genders and 'Muxes'." [Accessed 25 Apr. 2018]

The New York Times. 23 April 2017. Paulina Villegas. "Where Machismo Is Entrenched, Focus Moves to the Trenches." [Accessed 3 May 2018]

Oxford English Dictionary. N.d.a. "Machismo." [Accessed 3 May 2018]

Oxford English Dictionary. N.d.b. "Marianismo." [Accessed 3 May 2018]

Reding, Andrew. December 2003. Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in the Americas. [Accessed 1 May 2018]

Researcher. 3 May 2018. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Reuters. 12 September 2017. David Alire Garcia. "In Mexican Town, Women and 'Muxes' Take Charge After Massive Quake." [Accessed 25 Apr. 2018]

Vice Media. 26 November 2016. Luis Cobelo. "Cooking with Muxes, Mexico's Third Gender." [Accessed 25 Apr. 2018]

World Policy Institute. N.d.a. "Mission." [Accessed 1 May 2018]

World Policy Institute. N.d.b. "Global Democracy and Human Rights." [Accessed 1 May 2018]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Academics specializing in indigenous issues and gender identity in Mexico; ARC International; Arcus Foundation; Asociación Internacional de Lesbianas, Gays, Bisexuales, Trans e Intersex para America Latina y el Caribe; Association of Women in Development; Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir, A. C.; Centro Comunitario de Atención a la Diversidad Sexual; Ciudadanos Yucatecos por la Diversidad; Colectivo León Gay, A. C.; Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos; Comunidad Metropolitana, A. C.; Género, Ética y Salud Sexual, A. C.; ILGA; independent researcher specializing in sexual orientation and gender identity issues in Mexico; Investigaciones Queer, A. C.; Letra S; Organization of American States - Rapporteurship on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Persons; Outright Action; Transgender Law Center; UN – Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity; World Policy Institute.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; ARC International; Arcus Foundation; Asistencia Legal por los Derechos Humanos; Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir, A. C.; ecoi.net; Fusion; Human Rights Watch; La Izquierda Diario; OutRight Action; UN – Refworld; University of Toronto – International Human Rights Program.