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‘You should build yourself up as a whole product’: Transgender female identity in Lima, Peru


Transgender women in Lima, Peru have, until recently, been grouped together with gay and bisexual men in the category MSM, or men who have sex with men, with little consideration of their unique situation and needs. Transgender women, self-identified in Peru as travesti, are a socially vulnerable population with many unmet health needs, including an HIV prevalence of 30%. Understanding specific transgender identities and their contexts will contribute to the improvement and development of HIV prevention programs. Through qualitative open-ended interviews with trans-identified women in Lima, Peru, this study found that the non-normative travesti identity is constructed within a conservative homophobic and heteronormative social context. Participants strive towards appearances and relationships perceived as feminine, seeking out silicone injections and abusive men as social markers of this femininity. Sex work is the primary economic activity available and travestis are often alienated from their families and communities. Work is needed to increase self-esteem and decrease violence, stigma, and discrimination. There is a need for multilevel HIV prevention campaigns prioritising travesti in Lima, utilising a human rights framework.

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