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Transgender women have died in ICE custody, where is the outrage?

(For June, which is designated LGBTQ Pride Month, Q Voice News featured a series of first person essays under the theme What Pride Means To Me. (Click the link to read other articles in the series.) We all know Pride is more than one month and have extended the series. This essay is written by Alessandro Negrete, an undocumented queer activist who lives in Boyle Heights. Happy Pride.)

What Pride Means To Me

“If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see” — James Baldwin

When June 1st came around, it was beautiful to see so many of my queer and trans siblings being proud and sharing their rainbow posts on social media.

But I couldn’t help but think how Pride has evolved from queer-trans liberation to a tradition of weekend drinking and corporate propaganda. Capitalism has made strides in embedding and benefitting from queer and trans labor.

Pride is more than a rainbow

But supporting and uplifting queer and trans people is more than slapping a rainbow on your window, product, or store.

  • Support is speaking to injustices we face daily.
  • Support is hiring and advocating to hire trans women of color who are disproportionately unemployed in our communities.
  • Support is ensuring that your place of business is a safe space for our gender non-conforming and trans siblings.

Sometimes with great sadness I think about our complacency as a community, myself included.

Queer, trans liberation

Historically, Pride was a celebration of uproars and chants DEMANDING queer-trans liberation and rights.

The strongest moment we have had since the times of The Mattachine Society and the Stonewall Rebellion was the fight against the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. That isn’t to say that those fights weren’t necessary, but what have we done since then?

  • Every year trans women of color are murdered, and we are not protecting them.
  • Every day queer, gender non-conforming, or transgender youth are kicked out of their homes and become homeless.
  • 1 in 7 gay and bisexual men are living with HIV and don’t know it.

You know what queer and trans people of color did not care about? Marriage equality. We want homes. We want job security.

Transgender Women ICE custody

Marsha P. Johnson was a transgender activist who lived in New York City in the 1960s and 70s and fought for housing for homeless queer youth. Photo: Netflix.

Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera

This is not the Pride that Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera imagined.

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were not asking for marriage. They weren’t demanding to serve in the U.S. Army. They wanted housing for trans and gender non-conforming youth. They wanted resources to go to our community.

I think about those sheroes and think about how we often tell history through a lens of erasure. People hate hearing it, but race is a huge factor. We still have white, cis-queer folks in power who are not advocating for those folks in the trenches. We also have people in power who pander to our community and people of color.

President Obama confronted

In June 2015, President Barack Obama hosted a celebration for the accomplishments his administration had made for the LGBTQ community. The sea of mostly white, queer males was evident when Jennicet Gutiérrez, an undocumented trans woman from Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, raised her voice to the president while he gave a speech.

“President Obama, release all LGBTQ people from detention centers,” she said.

Jennicet Gutiérrez

Members of the audience told Gutiérrez to be quiet, and the president dismissed her concerns because he was “up in the house.”

Gutiérrez brought to light the issue of trans women of color in ICE custody who, according to critics, had been discriminated against, persecuted, and abused in the detention centers. That issue is still relevant today, but many people have ignored it.

We need to collaborate

I began this piece thinking of James Baldwin: “If I love you, I must make you conscious of what you do not see” because as a community we love each other, or, at the bare minimum, we break bread together. While we think about what Pride is, I can’t help but want to shake my white, queer, and trans allies. We are passed marriage. We are passed wanting to serve in the military.

We are being attacked by someone in the highest office in the country, yet we do very little to address it.

We need to take action

I want us to channel the strength of those before us to move collectively without leaving people behind. Let’s put our personal agendas behind. Let’s put our dollars where they matter, and let’s call each other in for accountability when we drop the ball. Out of the clubs and into the streets!

About the author

Alessandro Negrete

Alessandro Negrete is a loud-mouth activist from Boyle Heights who cries at Morrissey songs.

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