This week’s #WCW Isa Noyola can usually be spotted with a bullhorn in hand, raising the volume on the violence trans Latinas like her experience every day.
Texas-born and Cali-raised, this mujer, with her indigenous roots from Comitán, Chiapas and San Luis Potosí, Mexico, is the director of programs at the Transgender Law Center, where she fights for the rights and justice of trans and queer immigrant communities of color.
Ahead, learn how Isa works to dismantle the white supremacist, anti-immigrant, transphobic patriarchy.
You are the director of programs at the Transgender Law Center (TLC). Can you tell our readers a little about TLC and what your position there is like?
The Transgender Law Center is a legal nonprofit organization working to change laws, policies and attitudes so that transgender people can live authentic and safe lives that are free from discrimination. Many people believe that with the increased visibility of Caitlyn Jenner or trans characters in films that transgender people have “arrived.” But the reality is that trans people have lived throughout all civilizations and have always been a part of people’s communities. We aren’t new or just arriving, and we still have a long road ahead when it comes to human rights. As the director of programs at TLC, a new and unique position at the center, I figure out ways our programs can engage in communities, trans ones in particular, and also work to bring this community into our work and strategies. In this area of law and policy, the people who are most impacted generally don’t have a seat at the table. So I help ensure that our strategies, the ones we bring to policymakers, lawyers and legal experts, are rooted in the community. The trans community is really complex, so we need as much of our people engaged as possible.
When you’re not getting your community involved, you’re bringing their issues directly to the very systems that have a history of harming trans Latinas. What is that like?
A lot of the places I navigate are hostile. I’m meeting with directors of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and political figures on Capitol Hill who know little to nothing about transgender people. I know as a Latina how much responsibility is placed on my shoulders to carry the voices of my community and make sure that the nuances of our community are present, so I share our stories with these leaders on how systems, some they are a part of, hurt us. It’s a challenge. It’s highly structured, and we’re only given a couple minutes to share the complexities of our community. But before I can even do that, a lot of the work I do is in humanizing and legitimizing our existence. And this isn’t just in the workplace. All around, I have to make a case that trans people are people and that our identities are legitimate.
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