MILK EXPO 'They Can Cut All The Flowers, But They Cannot Stop Spring'

MILK EXPO 'They Can Cut All The Flowers, But They Cannot Stop Spring'

Iris Haverkamp Begemann

MILK

Please note: this event has already taken place

MILK EXPO 'They Can Cut All The Flowers, But They Cannot Stop Spring'

Iris Haverkamp Begemann

In doing research for the project I Went on a Holiday to the Country You Fled From—on view at Melkweg Expo from 15 July to 21 August 2022—Dutch documentary photographer Iris Haverkamp Begemann discovered that there are few, if any, hard facts showing that Mexico is unsafe for transgender individuals. This is partly due to the fact that as much as 98% of murders in Mexico remain unsolved and unpunished, and the authorities often show little inclination to investigate the killings of transgender people. Many transgender victims are misgendered (and deadnamed) in local police statements and media reports. 

The facts show that by law, Mexico actually seems to be quite safe for transgender people, and queer people in general. They introduced same sex marriage, and transgender people can carry out the administrative process for gender recognition. However, there’s a gap between law and the lived reality. Cis-heteronormativity, machismo and the enforcement of the genderbinary continue to pathologise transgender people. 

In fact, Mexico became even more dangerous for transgender people after the introduction of same-sex marriage. A lot of people fail to acknowledge the distinction between gender identity and sexual orientation. Transgender and queer people have been targeted by people who believe that gay marriage is an affront to Christian family norms and values. LGBTQ+ phobia remains prevalent and Mexico has fallen short of its obligation to respect and ensure these human rights. This complicates their access to dignified health service, influences their mental state and their ability to take part in society. Unfortunately, often, the only option for trans women is to work as sex workers or hairstylists to survive, which furthers the stereotypes and the survival methods of transgender women. 

So, while on a holiday to the country Alejandra Ortiz fled from, Iris decided to meet up with transgender people who live in Mexico City, to let themselves elaborate on their experience of safety in Mexico—to focus on the lived reality of individuals, instead of only looking at the (missing) facts. This epilogue of the exhibition tells the story of transgender people of various ages, still living in Mexico City, and how they perceive their own safety in Mexico. 

The project was realised together with Alexandra Rodriguez, a trans woman who is a freelance consultant in gender and sexuality and of migrant’s experience living in Mexico City. While in Mexico City, Iris went to a shelter for transgender people, called Casa Hogar Paola Buen Rostro, founded by Casa de las Muñecas Tiresias, to meet up with transgender people staying there. Most of their residents are transgender individuals from nearby countries that flee to Mexico to escape violence and persecution, only to end up in this shelter. She also met young trans kids, who felt very empowered, but only because of having supportive parents. Iris conducted interviews beforehand with the participants and took their pictures. Afterwards, Iris sent photos back to the portrayed individuals and asked them to evaluate their portrait. We can only speculate how they will fare once they fly out into the world.

This Melkweg Expo is made possible by the support of the Mondriaan Fund.