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Under the Volcano

I have always been fascinated by volcanoes. There is something about their raw power that I can’t help but admiring. Maybe that is one of the reasons that brought me to Pucón, Chile, where the Villarrica volcano towers over the small lakeside town.

The plumes of smoke emerging from its massive crater have never failed to leave me awestruck and somehow terrified. Thoughts of Pompeii seem to pop into my head every time I look at it. Villarrica is one of the most active volcanoes in South America, having claimed almost a hundred lives in its eruptions over the 20th century. I have often wondered how people manage to live under its threat. But the locals dismiss my concerns. They say the volcano has been behaving lately and although many were evacuated from their homes during the last eruption in 2015, they were able to return after a couple of days.

“AS TRANS PEOPLE, WE ALSO LIVE UNDER A VOLCANO..”

As trans people, we also live under a volcano: the hatred and lack of understanding of the hetero-cis society always threatening to burn us in its fiery depths. With violence against us escalating in spite of the LGBT* rights campaigns and the laws passed in recent years, we too have grown used to living on the edge.

The people in Pucón have their warning signals. Much like the horn of the Night’s Watch that announces the coming of the White Walkers in GoT, the firemen here sound their alarms three times when volcanic activity is detected, giving the inhabitants time to self evacuate in an orderly manner.

We, however, have no means of anticipating life-threatening attacks. 2017 appears to be an especially cruel year for our community, with the bodies of our brothers and sisters piling up since the murder of Mesha Caldwell in the first week of the year. As the right wing conquers the governments around the world, crimes against transgender people seem to worsen by the hour.

“ALTHOUGH A LOT IS BEING DONE BY LGBT\ ACTIVISTS TO PROMOTE GENDER IDENTITY AND EQUAL MARRIAGE LAWS HERE, HOMO-TRANSPHOBIA REMAINS POPULAR IN THE COUNTRY.”*

During one of my first conversations with Chilean people, I was told by my interlocutor -who was completely unaware of my gender identity and regarded me as a cis man- that while my country had passed the Equal Marriage law that allowed gay people to marry, Chile “would never have any of that shit”. With deep Catholic roots, he continued, Chile only accepted the union of a man and a woman. Although a lot is being done by LGBT* activists to promote Gender Identity and Equal Marriage laws here, homo-transphobia remains popular in the country.

In difficult times like these, we have to develop new ways of keeping safe. Now is the time to be creative, resilient, and generous to the members of our community anywhere in the world. We cannot tolerate this hateful rampage that bullies and murders our brothers and sisters. We have to create safe havens. Organization, networking, and solidarity have become essential if we are to survive and thrive under the shadow of the volcanoes of hatred.

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