I Interrupted Obama Because We Need To Be Heard
Jennicet Gutiérrez at the White House on June 24, 2015 Photo: Melissa Sklarz
Pride celebrations of the LGBTQ community are taking place throughout the nation. The community takes great pride in celebrating our diversity and the progress we have made throughout the years. However, for the immigrant LGBTQ community progress has not been fully realized because of the continuous discrimination and violence we face in our daily lives.
I was fortunate to be invited to the White House to listen to President Obama’s speech recognizing the LGBTQ community and the progress being made. But while he spoke of ‘trans women of color being targeted,’ his administration holds LGBTQ and trans immigrants in detention. I spoke out because our issues and struggles can no longer be ignored.
Immigrant trans women are 12 times more likely to face discrimination because of our gender identity. If we add our immigration status to the equation, the discrimination increases. Transgender immigrants make up one out of every 500 people in detention, but we account for one out of five confirmed sexual abuse cases in ICE custody.
The violence my trans sisters face in detention centers is one of torture and abuse. The torture and abuse come from ICE officials and other detainees in these detention centers. I have spoken with my trans immigrant sisters who were recently released from detention centers. With a lot of emotional pain and heavy tears in their eyes, they opened up about the horrendous treatment they all experienced. Often seeking asylum to escape threats of violence because of their gender identity and sexuality, this is how they’re greeted in this country. At times misgendered, exposed to assault, and put in detention centers with men.
Last night I spoke out to demand respect and acknowledgement of our gender expression and the release of the estimated 75 transgender immigrants in detention right now. There is no pride in how LGBTQ immigrants are treated in this country and there can be no celebration with an administration that has the ability to keep us detained and in danger or release us to freedom.
It is heartbreaking to see how raising these issues were received by the president and by those in attendance. In the tradition of how Pride started, I interrupted his speech because it is time for our issues and struggles to be heard. I stood for what is right. Instead of silencing our voices, President Obama can also stand and do the right thing for our immigrant LGBTQ community.