Non-binary trans activist savagely beaten: “My scars map out a war I never enlisted in, but one I will no longer hide from.”

The attacker towered over me. He kicked me relentlessly while I tried to defend myself, begging him to stop. One last strike and he vanished, leaving me physically scarred.

  • 6 months ago
  • November 13, 2023
5 min read
Activist Manu Mireles at Mocha Celis High School | Photo courtesy of Manu Mireles Activist Manu Mireles at Mocha Celis High School | Photo courtesy of Manu Mireles
interview subject
Manu Mireles, according to Maridian, is a non-binary person, migrant, trans-feminist and human rights activist with an emphasis on the rights of the trans collective. Manu holds a degree in Education Sciences and is an academic secretary and teacher with Popular Trans High School Mocha Celis and general secretary and partner/founder of the Mocha Celis Civil Association. Manu has served as general coordinator of the Popular School of Genders and Diversity La Mocha-Brandon and as a professor and researcher at UBA. Manu is also a doctoral student studying Education.
background information
After enduring two public attacks for being a non-binary trans person, Manu began to speak out about the assaults publicly, receiving a groundswell of support from individuals and organizations. The Mocha Celis civic organization which Manu helped create, they are dedicated to promoting the social equality of trans and non-binary people in a comprehensive way.”

In Argentina, trans women are disproportionately victims of hate crimes, a reality underscored by reports from the National Observatory of Hate Crimes. Despite government efforts, such as employment quotas and social programs, their participation in the formal job market remains alarmingly low, underscoring the need for more effective support and inclusion measures. A deeper look into these issues is available at Chequeado.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Within a single week in early September, I endured two savage attacks. After being beaten by strangers, I lay helpless on the pavement, their homophobic slurs slicing through the air. The first assault shocked me, but the second attack proved far worse—a single punch sent me into darkness, and I awoke in a pool of blood. Bystanders merely watched, offering me no help. This must change.

I reclaimed my voice by taking to social media and narrating my trauma. I received both a stream of support and backlash. With hate crimes escalating, it is imperative we speak out. Our voices must rise in unison to stop this violence.

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Two physical attacks left my body broken and mind consumed by grief

One night, as I walked through the Caballito neighborhood in Buenos Aires, a group of men began taunting me. I was leaving a meeting, and their insults left me feeling desperate. I needed to flee. Despite speeding up my pace, the men caught with me in seconds—hands shoving and feet kicking.

This was the first attack I endured, and their violence left me reeling; I became sick to my stomach. Lying on the sidewalk after the assault, I watched people pass by. Their gazes remained indifferent. I finally stood up, brushed away the tears, tried to clean my clothing, and caught a taxi home.

The experience of that night plunged me into deep anguish. I felt helpless, frustrated, and exposed. It was like a mirror of past cruelties I endured in the schoolyard as a young person. I just began healing from the first assault when tragedy struck again.

A few days later, I walked through the quiet streets of the Tribunales neighborhood when a sudden shout shattered the silence. I felt frozen by panic. My pulse hammered inside my body. Before I could react, blows rained down on me, sending me sprawling to the pavement, covered in blood. The attacker towered over me. He kicked me relentlessly while I tried to defend myself, begging him to stop. One last strike and he vanished, leaving me physically scarred.

Bystanders witnessed the attack but watched passively. Again, their eyes met mine, but they offered no help. Their inaction amplified my agony. With great effort, I crawled to safety, shaking, and stumbling until I could run. By the time I reached my house, tears streamed down my face and I was engulfed by grief.

Social media became my platform to fight against hate

Once I was alone, I replayed the haunting attack in my mind. I wanted to understand, but the answers alluded me. After the shock wore off, I turned to social media to tell my story. I posted photos of my injuries, and believed sharing my trauma would help me heal.

Holding my phone with a firm grip, I photographed my face, documenting the aftermath of the attack. Despite my shanking hands, I kept taking pictures – each one a testament to the horror I endured. I posted my story online, and it spread swiftly.

Comments flooded in like, “This can’t be real,” and “Hasn’t Argentina progressed beyond this?” Others seized the opportunity to promote hate, flinging threats at me. Yet, the vast majority rallied around me sending messages that brimmed with empathy. The support I received from individuals and organizations touched my heart.

“Love triumphs over violence,” they said. “We stand by you!” This groundswell of solidarity and affection bolstered my spirit, and their words became my shield. As I wiped away my tears, I began to understand the power of my story. My scars map out a war I never enlisted in, but one I will no longer hide from. These are the marks of survival, and I will wear them with defiance.

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I pledge to stride through the world with my head held high, no matter what threats I face. Love empowers me and hate will not dim my light. I am on a courageous journey. Today marks a step forward as I begin to use my voice in the face of violence to fight for a kinder world. My mission is clear—forge ahead and champion change.

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