Undocumented trans Latina activist Jennicet Gutiérrez interrupted President Obama during last night’s White House pride event to demand that the President end the deportation and detention of LGBTQ immigrants and end the abuse of trans detainees.
“There is no Pride as long as LGBTQ immigrants are being imprisoned.” – Jennicet Gutiérrez
Gutiérrez, founding member of FAMILIA TQLM, an advocacy group for LGBTQ immigrants, said she could not celebrate while “some 75 transgender detainees were still being exposed to assault and abuse in ICE custody at this very moment.” Gutiérrez was referring to the common and dangerous practice of misgendering trans women, housing them in immigration detention centers with men, making them highly vulnerable to attacks. In fact, while trans women make up 1 out of 500 detained immigrants, they account for 1 out of every 5 confirmed sexual assaults in immigration detention. Just this week 35 Congresspeople signed a letter calling for the release of detained LGBTQ immigrants, citing their “extreme vulnerability to abuse” in detention centers.
In reporting the story, major media outlets have essentially praised Obama’s reaction, focusing on two soundbites: “You’re in my house” and “Shame on you”–reactions that also prompted cheers from other guests.
While Obama has been increasingly more blunt as his term comes to a close, the event, his reaction, and the crowd’s cheers encompass everything that’s wrong with the mainstream Pride movement.
President Obama forgets that he sits in the house Latinos/LGBTs helped put him in. He also forgets that Pride has its roots in resistance, not “h’ordeuvres and booze.” It was another trans Latina activist, Sylvia Rivera, who started the Stonewall Riots to protest violence against the LGBTQ community. This violence still continues today despite any mention of it during Pride month, when the deaths of trans women of color are overshadowed by rainbow beads and balloons. It’s this continued violence and the continued neglect of trans issues that justifies Gutiérrez’s bold action last night.
“It’s heartbreaking to see the LGBTQ community I am part of turning their back on me, and the LGBTQ people in detention centers: how can they tolerate that kind of abuse?”