Teresa Tomassoni's piece in the Washington Post's Dec. 19 Metro section, titled "Transgender immigrant finds new life, protection in D.C.," reads like a caricature of a liberal media feel-good human interest story. The article, about a transgendered Latina illegal immigrant granted asylum in the United States for sexual persecution, is designed to tug at heart strings while at the same time ignoring important questions.
The article tells the story of Valerie Villalta, a gay man and El Salvadoran illegal immigrant granted asylum in the United States because he was attacked for his sexuality. Villalta now identifies himself as a transgender woman - and not just any woman who used to be a man, but "a striking, model-like figure," according to Tomassoni.
Readers are told "The bedroom she sublets near Howard University is adorned with pictures of her boyfriend of three years and the Barbies she wasn't allowed to have as a boy." She probably didn't get to dress for Halloween as she liked either, since the apartment contains a photo in which "She is shown dressed in costumes made of condoms for an HIV/awareness event and wearing a sparkling crown after being elected 'Miss Empowerment' by her peers in 2009."
The article tells how as a boy, his father and brothers beat him and refused to accept his femininity. After high school, he went to a culinary arts school in the capital of San Salvadore. But the school was located in a district controlled by the notoriously violent MS-13 gang. The FBI notes that MS-13 members "engage in a wide range of criminal activity, including drug distribution, murder, rape, prostitution, robbery, home invasions, immigration offenses, kidnapping, carjackings/auto thefts, and vandalism." No doubt the gang members intimidated and attacked him, that's what gang members do. (And they do it in the United States, too. MS-13 has a significant presence in D.C. and surrounding areas. Presumably, they're no more accepting of gays and transgendered people than they are in El Salvador.)
And the remedy is to go somewhere else - legally. Another town or city, or even a neighboring country would seem good places to try. But the Post article takes as logical the jump from a cooking school in San Salvador to being "smuggled into Arizona" in 2006. Villalta somehow turned a case of deplorable local bullying into a case for international asylum, and broke U.S. law in the process.
To Tomassoni, that made Villalta an inspiring figure. She quoted LGBT activist Manuel Ramirez, who said: "Transitioning requires a lot of courage. It's easier to please society. In many Central and South American countries, there is a strong "machismo" culture and clearly defined male and female roles."
"Clearly defined male and female roles?" Horrifying. Thank goodness we in the United States have rejected such barbarism.
Tomassoni filled the article with puffy platitudes ("When you try to help other people, you feel good.") and dutifully mentioned that "President Obama denounced violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world. He commanded U.S. government agencies to step up efforts to protect victims of such violence, particularly those seeking asylum."
But Villalta's torment was at the hands of individual members of a criminal gang, not the systematic repression of a totalitarian government.
Tomassoni never thought to question whether harassment by gang members warranted breaking U.S. law, or whether sexual orientation and its attendant repercussions should be grounds for asylum. She certainly ignored difficulties with the transgender lifestyle - standard practice in the media, which refuses to allow dissent from the media orthodoxy demanding total embrace of the homosexual and transgendered "lifestyles."