That sounds extremely distressing. How has this impacted you?
It impacts me in many ways, especially when we are talking about murder. When I get news that a trans woman has been attacked and we need to quickly mobilize into action and investigation, the advocacy work, it’s hard for me not to really take it personally because I could easily be that woman, that person. I’ve had really close calls out on the street and by myself, having to be careful and know that at any moment, any simple interaction or catcall can go badly if I respond. That’s how trans people live their lives: with fear, misgendering, blatant disrespect, people gawking at us while grocery shopping or on public transportation. It makes us want to isolate ourselves, and many of us do. But that’s a problem, too. As humans, we need connection. We need community. That’s why we need spaces where trans people can intentionally come together.
I know a lot of your work centers extensively on trans Latinas and immigrants’ rights, so I want to focus on that a bit. For starters, according to #Not1More, there are more than 267,000 undocumented queer and trans immigrants living in the United States, many persecuted by current immigration policies. How do these policies impact trans people, particularly women, differently than cis folks?
A couple things: I know people use that data a lot, but we actually don’t know how many LGBTQ+ immigrants there are because of how ICE gathers that information. Detention centers are really violent places, and many people in them won’t disclose their true identity in hopes of avoiding abuses like physical and sexual assault as well as being placed in solitary confinement for long periods of time. For a trans person to disclose their identity, and for ICE to think they can do so safely, doesn’t make sense to me, as detention centers are inherently violent. But to answer your question, transphobia is very present in detention centers. Trans women are currently being placed with cis men, where 1 in 4 will experience sexual assault in the first 12 months, whether by fellow detainees or guards. These women are constantly being misgendered, and they’re not given their preferred name. There’s no respect for them. Their identities are broken down and denied on a daily basis. I’ve participated in actions where I was arrested and in the first 30 minutes of the booking process I was denied my identity. It’s dehumanizing, and these women experience this every day. This takes a mental toll on you, and the system is designed to do this – to break you down.
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