Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Body of trans woman dressed as boy at viewing


Ruby Ordeñana
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Friends and community members are upset that the body of murdered Latina transgender Ruby Ordeñana was dressed as a boy for a memorial viewing earlier this month.

As friends and Bay Area family members arrived to pay their respects to Ordeñana at Driscoll's Valencia Street Serra Mortuary in San Francisco on April 2, the mortuary received a phone call from the Nicaraguan Consulate.

The consulate, according to funeral director Ruth Maltez, received word that a community viewing was going to take place. According to Maltez, who already had Ordeñana dressed in the dress suit that her friends purchased for her, Ordeñana's father contacted the consulate and requested that she be dressed as a boy.

Maltez said that she complied with the father's request due to legal concerns. Maltez changed Ordeñana's clothing and pulled back her hair into a ponytail to make her appear as a boy. She did not cut her hair.

"I wish things could have been different because we are not tying to offend anybody," said Maltez, who has handled viewings for other transgender individuals. "We respect faith, religion, sexual preferences – that's no big deal how people want to live their life, but we have to go by the law and what the next of kin [request]."

Ordeñana apparently did not have a will.

Friends and community members were upset.

"She looked like a boy," said Alexandra Byerly, program coordinator of EL-LA Program Para Trans-Latinas, who received a call from a mutual friend, Ramon Ramirez, moments before she arrived at the mortuary. Ramirez told her that someone from the Nicaraguan Consulate called and told them that Ordeñana's father "could not have his son dressed up as a girl."

Ramirez, program coordinator of Gente Latina de Ambiente [LGBT for Latin People] and one of Ordeñana's close friends, told the B.A.R. that between 10 and 15 of Ordeñana's friends and community members attended the viewing. Many were upset upon seeing her dressed as a boy and immediately left the mortuary.

"It hurt because Ruby was already being violated, strangled, and hurt and humiliated and thrown on the street like nothing and even on her deathbed she's still being humiliated and disrespected," said Byerly. "It's something that is going to be there like a little splinter and you can't get it out. It hurts, but I guess that's the way society is.�

Marcia Ochoa, program supervisor, EL-LA Program Para Trans-Latinas, told the B.A.R. that she unsuccessfully tried to contact the Nicaraguan Consulate to discuss the issue about the inappropriateness of Ordeñana's viewing.

"I don't know if I will be meeting with the consulate in the future," said Tina D'Elia, hate violence survivor program director of the Community United Against Violence.

Mayra Centeno St. Andrew, acting consul general of Nicaragua who worked with Maltez, did not respond to repeated messages seeking comment.

Ordeñana, 24, was found dead on March 16. Her body was discovered naked on a sidewalk without personal belongings near Interstate 280. The San Francisco Police Department told the Bay Area Reporter on March 26 that Ordeñana was identified through fingerprints.

A vigil by community members was held for Ordeñana on March 23 and a memorial was set up at the site where her body was found.

Unknown family

A second surprise to her friends was that Ordeñana had family members living in the Bay Area and that they were present at the viewing.

Claudia Cabrera, prevention case manager of Familia de la Raza, who knew Ordeñana for three years because she was a client at the agency, told the B.A.R. that she thought Ordeñana was "all alone and by herself" and that "Ruby's family was people from the community."

"A lot of people were shocked to find out that Ruby had family in the U.S.," said Byerly. "She never mentioned them."

Due to the situation at Ordeñana's viewing, Cabrera is working on putting together a living will workshop. It is her goal to assist transgender individuals in making preparations to have their wishes carried out when they are no longer able to speak for themselves.

Meanwhile, the investigation into Ordeñana's murder continues. San Francisco Police Department Inspector Karen Lynch told the B.A.R. on April 13 that there are no new developments regarding the case, but she submitted a request for a reward to the mayor's office. She is waiting for a decision.

Friends aren't forgetting Ordeñana. According to Byerly and Ochoa, memorial events are currently being planned.

A contingent in memory of Ordeñana and other transgender Latinas who have been victimized will participate in the annual Immigration Day March on May 1.

A special account has been set up at CUAV to remember Ordeñana. Around $2,000 has been raised to go toward family and memorial expenses. Any additional monies will be set aside specifically for Latina transgender programs, according to Morgan Bassichis, development associate at CUAV.

To make a donation to the Ruby Ordeñana Memorial Fund, checks can be made out to CUAV and mailed to Morgan Bassichis, development associate, 170-A Capp Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.

The SFPD is asking community members to contact Inspectors Karen Lynch or Tom Cleary at (415) 553-1388 if they have any information about the case.

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