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Trans Latina Heckles President Obama, Follows in Sylvia Rivera's Footsteps

Trans Latina Heckles President Obama, Follows in Sylvia Rivera's Footsteps

Trans Latina Heckles President Obama, Follows in Sylvia Rivera's Footsteps

If you haven’t heard by now — with one week left in the month — President Obama hosted a Pride reception to celebrate National LGBT Pride Month at the White House. In the past few weeks, there have been and continue to be, numerous parades and Pride celebrations commemorating the LGBTQ community and the Stonewall Riots that incited the movement on June 27 and 28 in 1969.

Keeping in line with the celebrations, President Obama hosted numerous movers, shakers and organizations all fighting for LGBTQ equality, but what caused the biggest stir was an interruption by trans immigration activist Jennicet Gutiérrez, who called out Obama for not doing more for trans immigrants who face physical and sexual abuse in detention centers.

Gutiérrez’s outburst harkens back to the work of the trans women of color who spearheaded the fight for LGBTQ equality. So it was disappointing to see LGBTQ “family" members heckle her for having the audacity to speak up, instead of standing with her in solidarity.

This disgusting display of transphobia, transmisogyny and racism has followed the movement since its inception. During a 1973 Gay Liberation rally in New York, Sylvia Rivera — a pioneering trans Latin@ woman — forced her way on stage. Rivera wanted to make it clear that the LGBTQ community should focus on lifting the marginalized, disenfranchised and impoverished gender non-conforming and low-income people of color who are most at-risk for discrimination. Rivera's organization, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), was dedicated to helping homeless gender non-conforming and transgender women of color

At the rally, Rivera called out to the crowd of mostly gay and lesbian individuals who could assimilate into the American Dream more easily. She said, “the people who are trying to do something for all of us, not just men and women who belong to a white, middle class white club.”

Along with other revolutionaries like Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major, Rivera paved the way for the kind of radical thinking needed to keep the movement from succumbing to white supremacy and capitalism. However, as the years passed — that’s inevitably what happened.

The LGBTQ movement has championed Marriage Equality on the backs (and lives) of trans, gender non-conforming people and queer people of color. Trans Latin@s, following in the footsteps of Rivera, consistently make a case for immigrants’ rights and how they intersect with a federal system built on racism, homophobia, transphobia and transmisogyny. Organizations like Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Trans Latin@ Coalition and #Not1More (#Ni1Mas) are leading this effort, amongst many others.

So sure, when “gay” marriage is legal, it will open some doors. But trans woman are still at a higher risk for violence and descrimination. This year, nine trans woman have been killed while trans people are constantly incarcerated for defending themselves from rapists and intolerant attackers. The trans community fights for the right to use public facilities in peace and for adequate health insurance, and some find it difficult to celebrate Pride.

For the nearly 75 trans women who will be detained tonight by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), there's a lot of work to be done done on liberation front.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Raquel Willis

A black trans queer feminist media maven. A proponent of all things equality.

A black trans queer feminist media maven. A proponent of all things equality.