Daniel’s Story: “I feel like this place could change my life”

For years, transgender men in El Salvador have needed to hide their identities for fear of violence and persecution from their families and society at large. But HT El Salvador is shining a light on this community, increasing the visibility of trans men through years of hard face-to-face organizing — creating allies of parents, teachers and medical professionals, and through public marches, protests and demonstrations. And they’ve made their widest impact online.

Dozens of young trans men in El Salvador have found their way to HT’s warm, supportive community through social media. 18-year-old Daniel Stefan Valle Martinez is one of them. He saw a reel posted on HT El Salvador’s TikTok channel, and showed up at their office to learn more — a brave call for help in a moment of genuine crisis.

When he first arrived at HT’s offices, his mother had just kicked him out of their house. She rejected him as a trans man and wanted to make space for her partner — who had abused Daniel, and was about to be released from jail. Daniel had dropped out of school after enduring intense discrimination from other students and teachers.

He was desperate for a place to simply exhale — and the staff of HT welcomed him with open arms. As standard intake, the HT team first ensured he had enough to eat and a safe place to sleep.

“I’ve never seen other trans men together like this — they seem happy. They talk about activism and my human rights. I know I’m at the beginning of a long journey. And I know I have a lot to learn,” says Daniel. “But I feel like this place could change my life.”