Cross-Dresser Gets Second Shot At Refuge

Cross-Dresser Gets Second Shot At Refuge

January 18, 2008

A transgender Mexican who claims he'll be killed in his homeland for dressing like a woman is getting a second shot at refugee status in what may be the first case of its kind in Canada.

Jose Arturo Contreras Hernandez, who now lives in Toronto, claims his life is in danger in Mexico because he's a transgender cross-dresser.

“He fears danger to return to Mexico because he is a homosexual and likes to dress as a woman,” Mr. Justice John O'Keefe said in a Federal Court of Canada decision last month.

Hernandez arrived in Canada in 2006 and filed an unsuccessful refugee claim, which was thrown out by an Immigration and Refugee Board whose members didn't believe he was in peril.


He successfully appealed the decision to the federal court, who granted another hearing, which immigration lawyers say will likely see him remain in Canada.

Other Toronto-area lawyers contacted said they weren't aware of other individuals like Hernandez seeking refugee status in Canada.

“My client is very pleased with the decision,” Hernandez' lawyer Lani Gozlan said yesterday. “He is a very feminine man who likes to dress as a woman at times.”

Gozlan said Hernandez will undergo another hearing by another board, probably next month.


“This is the first case I know of involving a cross-dresser,” she said. “Mexico is a very macho society and it is too dangerous for him.”

David Garcia, a former president of Latino Grupo Hola, a Toronto group that works with Latino lesbians and gays, said Hernandez will have a tough time if returned to Mexico.

“He will be called a freak,” Garcia said yesterday.

The group has written letters to immigration officials in support of Hernandez.

Hernandez claimed he was attacked by his father when he told him about his sexual orientation. He testified he was attacked in a washroom of the department of agriculture where he worked and kidnapped in December 2001 and forced to drive around with a gun in his mouth.