Remembering Luis Ángel Díaz Castro, Puerto Rican Transgender Man Killed in San Juan, Puerto Rico

by Jarred Keller

Luis Ángel Díaz Castro was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico where he studied at The Universidad de Puerto Rico en Arecibo. He was working in the Department of Education at the time of his tragic murder on August 12, 2023, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Luis was a 22-year-old trans man remembered by his family for his love of Latino music, noting Hector Maysonet and Chema y JohnD as his favorite musicians Sadly, Luis’s death is the 19th violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2023. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.

According to news sources, “His mother reported him missing, she hadn’t seen him since the Monday before. She told police that her son had reported his ex-partner Domingo Rafael Aquino Ubri for domestic violence, and she granted permission to search Luis’ apartment. Police found his body in the closet of one of the rooms with various fabrics and objects on top.” Domingo is currently in police custody. Despite his appalling death, his family honored his legacy by using his authentic name and identity in his burial.

“Although it brings the community some solace knowing Luis’s killer is in police custody, it breaks my heart to witness the life of my trans brother end far too early. Luis was only twenty-two and should still be alive to experience the joy that comes with being in your twenties. Luis’s death adds to the drastic uptick we’ve seen in trans murders in 2023, yet in his death we must remember to celebrate his life.”

Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative

Tragically, interpersonal violence accounts for a significant number of fatalities against transgender and gender non-conforming people. A report by the HRC Foundation, An Epidemic of Violence 2022” found that between 2013 and 2022, approximately one third (29%) of transgender and gender non-conforming people with known killers had their lives taken by an acquaintance, friend, family member or intimate partner. Intimate partners specifically accounted for one in five (19%) of all known perpetrators–and it is likely this may even be an undercount. To date, the relationship of the victim to the killer is still unknown for a plurality of 44% of all identified cases of fatal violence.

At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Puerto Rico are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. Police in Puerto Rico do not collect LGBTQ+ identifying information. Although Puerto Rico’s hate crime laws expressly include both sexual orientation and gender identity, prosecutors in Puerto Rico rarely apply it.

Though we have recently seen some political gains that support and affirm transgender people, we have also faced unprecedented anti-LGBTQ+ attacks in the states. Over 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in state legislatures across the country during the 2023 legislative session, over 220 of which directly targeted transgender people. As of this writing, 85 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been signed into law–more than any other year on record.

We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation at the local, state and federal levels, while also considering every possible way to make ending this violence a reality. It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, especially Black transgender women. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive, so we must all work together to cultivate acceptance, reject hate and end stigma for everyone in the trans and gender non-conforming community.

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