Building power within the trans masculine movement in Peru

Over the course of 9 weeks, the 2021 EMPODERA political participation training in Peru gathered LGBTQI experts from around Latin America to conduct rigorous trainings on building advocacy campaigns, creating communications and messaging strategies, and best practices for digital, mental and emotional safety. The participant cohort for this program exemplified the meaning of building LGBTI political power in every community at every level by featuring LGBTI leaders from around the country including students, organizers, house mothers, sex workers, and community leaders ranging from ages 18 to 50+.  

I spoke with Iker Solis (29) and Damián Tapia Romero (18), two EMPODERA participants who are members of Fraternidad TransMasculina (FTM) Peru. According to their mission statement, the “TransMasculine Fraternity” in English, is a collective of transmasculine people participating in intersectional feminist organizing in the defense of human rights in Peru. They hold a series of educational, social, and community events and campaigns, and they are members of a regional coalition called REDCAHT+ which is a Central American network of transgender men.  

Iker Solis, Regional Coordinator of Lima 

The Fraternity means so much more to me than a space to simply engage in advocacy. Having found the organization has provided me with a community of advocates with a shared experience – a shared struggle. Through this brotherhood of transmasc peers I’ve found friendships with others who dream of a future free of transphobia and toxic masculinity.  

Damián Tapia, Youth Program Deputy Coordinator 

[The Fraternity] provided a space for me to express myself freely, safely, and confidently. It is undoubtedly a unique and valuable experience to organize with advocates who have been at the forefront of transgender rights through this collective. For this reason, I challenge myself to give back to my community by becoming a better advocate and participating in programs like EMPODERA.  

Module after module, we saw participants step further into their leadership, their identities, and the roles they play in their immediate communities – be they in person or virtual on-line. The common catalyst for this awakening or reclaimed sense of ownership over their leadership was the demystification of the political process, institutions, and the state of LGBTI rights in the region. At the closing ceremony, most participants shared that the tools and insights they learned helped them reframe their understanding of advocacy from participating in political actions to truly building LGBTI political power 

Iker Solis, Regional Coordinator of Lima 

Having the opportunity to obtain a deeper understanding about government and politics, reinforce the knowledge I already had, and meet and work with activists from different regions and learn about the issues they experience in their communities is something incredibly enriching. This program gave me the tools to develop strategies and campaigns to challenge transphobia and improve the lives of transmasculine people.   

Damián Tapia, Youth Program Deputy Coordinator 

On a personal level, it was a very enriching experience, it allowed me to understand myself and have more confidence in myself as a person and to deconstruct stereotypes that I had internalized. Likewise, I was able to meet incredible people with whom I have built great bonds of friendship. As an activist, EMPODERA provided me with the tools to develop advocacy campaigns through my organization, and it helped me better understand the reality of our community in my country. This program has expanded my perspective and helped me become a more effective advocate in the defense of LGBTIQ human rights.  

As a response to the pandemic, the Fraternity has focused on providing survival resources for transgender men and non-binary people including through a fund called “Ayuda Trans” that provided funds for 145 people. Most recently, they have been advocating for a safer alternative to displaying name and gender on vaccination cards for transgender people who are not able to update their identity documents. You can follow their work on twitter and Facebook @ftmpe.