Joseph Vazquez knows that his younger brother, Earvin Otero, prefers to dress as a woman.
The younger sibling, he said, was taking hormone pills and had discussed with him his plans to ultimately transition into a woman.
Vazquez knows that Otero was dressed as a woman on Saturday night when he met up with friends at Mamajuana nightclub in Lebanon.
That was the last time Otero, 26, was seen. He is being considered a missing person by police.
Vazquez said his brother’s disappearance is particularly worrisome because the specter of violence against gender non-conforming people.
“It’s one of those cases that seems very common but it’s really another hate crime against the gay community and Latinos,” said Vazquez, who this week traveled to the Harrisburg area after learning of his brother’s disappearance. “It’s 2022. This is bigger than my brother. We need to be safe outside. We need to be able to go out.”
Authorities are investigating Otero’s disappearance. He left the club Saturday and headed home to change before a rendezvous with someone he had never met in person, according to the family.
Vazquez fears his brother may have been a victim of a hate crime.
Transgender people have a higher rate of being killed than their cis counterparts, multiple studies have shown in recent years. In 2021 alone, more than 57 transgender or gender non-conforming people were fatally shot or killed by other violent means. Most stories go unreported, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
The majority of transgender people killed are Black and Latinx transgender women. Prior to last year, 2020 held the record of most transgender women killed in this country – 44.
“I have more friends who dress as women. Why should they be afraid to go out because someone would hurt them?” Vazquez said. “This is about a lot more than my brother gone missing.”
Vazquez has been working with law enforcement authorities from various counties, and including New Jersey, to trace his younger brother’s steps on Saturday.
Vazquez used his brother’s iPad to track his text messages.
One stream involved a person he was supposed to meet in Camden County, N.J. Vazquez tracked the location to a Motel 6 in Brooklawn. His brother texted to someone “Are you here,” Vazquez said. But there was no answer.
“That’s when everything gets weird and dark,” he said.
Otero’s mother and sister also traveled from Puerto Rico to the Harrisburg region after learning of his disappearance.
“We are worried,” said his sister Lydie Otero. “We are desperately waiting for information form the police.”
Lydie Otero and Vazquez described their brother as a warm and loving individual with no enemies.
“My brother was loved by everyone,” she said. “He is not a person who gets into trouble.”
No one in the Otero family has heard from Earvin since Saturday, including his mother. Family members say he usually speaks with her daily.
Vazquez said his younger brother has lived in the Harrisburg region for about six years, and about six months in his new apartment in Harrisburg.
His family grew concerned when all calls to him went right to voicemail. Otero left his Harrisburg home untouched. His bank accounts have not been accessed since last weekend.
Vazquez said he did not detect anything in the last text messages that his brother sent that signaled anything dangerous or disconcerting.
“In reality there are people of good heart but there are others who want to do harm. We think this is a case of someone who had hate in their hearts.”
Earvin Otero’s car is also missing: He could be traveling in a silver 2016 Nissan Rogue, with Pennsylvania registration LKL-4831.
Family members are asking anyone who sees Earvin Otero or his vehicle to call Harrisburg police at 717-558-6900, or the Otero family at 717-797-7362.
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