The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to make marriage equality the law across the country is a victory for the LGBTQ community and for social justice in this country. However, we must celebrate critically.
We know that marriage equality has not necessarily been a priority for LGBTQ people of color, especially for trans women of color, as many people of color are facing police brutality, incarceration and deportation. Many trans women of color are still facing physical and structural violence in our communities.
Trans women, especially trans women of color, are still denied access to employment, health care, housing, and education, and are criminalized for engaging in survival work. So the fight for liberation cannot and must not end with marriage equality. We must get back on the streets, organize, interrupt inside and outside, and not forget the liberation for the trans and queer community was started by trans women of color.
The experience of being escorted out from the White House Pride celebration with President Obama was heartbreaking and humiliating. But, I felt the urgency to speak up because the conditions trans women in detention centers face are inhumane.
The movement for transgender rights is not new. Transgender women of color were actively engaged in the movement since its inception during the Stonewall Riots of 1969, where queer and transgender activists resisted unjust police raids. This was extremely significant because transgender women of color were at the frontlines fighting against police brutality.
The LGBTQ community must never forget the bravery and leadership of Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and Miss Major. They led the way and showed the community the passion and resistance for liberation. Now, new faces are emerging with the hope that our contributions will not be erased and we are bringing visibility to trans undocumented women leaders in the movement.
The trans undocumented community has often been seen as a non-LGBTQ issue. We wanted to send a clear message with my interruption at the White House; the mainstream LGBTQ community must prioritize the issues and struggles of the LGBTQ people of color. The violence and discrimination trans undocumented women and undocumented communities are facing inside detention centers cannot be ignored. This is why I needed to interrupt and demand President Barack Obama release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention and end detention.
The experience of being escorted out from the White House Pride celebration with President Obama was heartbreaking and humiliating. But, I felt the urgency to speak up because the conditions trans women in detention centers face are inhumane. It is unacceptable to tolerate any kind of physical and sexual abuse members of my community face under detention. I spoke to two recently released trans undocumented women from Guatemala where they shared their experience in these centers. Jessica Letona, an undocumented woman from Guatemala, opened up to me about the sexual and physical abuse she faced. In addition, she mentioned that if she complained to the ICE officials, she could face punishment of up to three months in solitary confinement.
The trans undocumented community has often been seen as a non-LGBTQ issue. We wanted to send a clear message with my interruption at the White House; the mainstream LGBTQ community must prioritize the issues and struggles of the LGBTQ people of color.
Nicol Hernandez, another trans woman from Guatemala, shared her agony and pain she suffered while detained. She is still suffering from the abuse she faced and she is having difficulty reintegrating back into society. For me, as someone that has recently started to get involved in the fight for liberation, it is critical that those most impacted by the issues take front and center in the work.
The visibility of trans and gender-nonconforming people is not a positive one in the media and even in our own LGBTQ community. Although visibility of trans people in the media has increased, the representation is often not in a positive way. Media tends to mock, ridicule and perpetuate stereotypes of transgender people.
Our society keeps pressuring trans and gender-nonconforming people to fit the gender binary in order to fit and feel accepted. But we do not want to fit any specific role even if we challenge society’s norms. All of this is troublesome because it adds more social stigma to the community instead of ensuring our communities are safe and can lead authentic lives.
My introduction to the trans and queer liberation movement came about in November 2014 when I was invited to participate in Trans Lives Matter National Day of Action. In this demonstration, we wanted to highlight the plague of violence transgender women of color are currently facing. We blocked the intersections of Santa Monica Boulevard and Vermont Street in Los Angeles during rush hour to bring attention to this important issue.
So far in 2015, at least nine officially reported trans murders have been reported. That does not include trans people who have committed suicide.
We are under a state of an emergency and that is why it was personal and important for me to get involved in activism. And my commitment to organize and fight for liberation is for the long run. I will continue to interrupt and speak to power to change the systems that continue to incarcerate, deport and kill our people.