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Here’s Why An Undocumented Trans Latina Helped Create The LGBTQ Pride March Of Our Lifetime

June 11 will be the day that the LGBTQ community makes their voices heard during the Equality March for Unity and Pride scheduled to take place in Washington D.C. The march has been organized by a team of national co-chairs who believe strongly in the idea of advancing the progress for all people in the LGBTQ community, including trans women of color who are disproportionately impacted by violent hate crimes and murder across the country. One of the co-chairs of the national Equality March for Unity and Pride, Catalina Velasquez, a trans undocumented Latina from Colombia, spoke to mitú about the importance of the upcoming march and why she decided to take part as a national co-chair.

Catalina Velasquez (third from the left) is one of the national co-chairs of the upcoming Equality March for Unity and Pride that is bringing attention to the issues impacting the trans and queer community.

CREDIT: Catalina Velasquez / Facebook

“Our platform is very intersectional recognizing that a lot of the transgender and queer community have often times been left behind, both politically and socially, with what current national organizations have done,” Velasquez told mitú. “We have a platform that brings reproductive health rights and justice as a trans queer issue: talking about abortion as a trans queer issue, access to contraception as a trans queer issue, bodily autonomy and agency over one’s reproductive decisions as a trans queer issue.”

Velasquez wants to provide a platform for the LGBTQ community to speak out against anti-blackness, health care needs, and immigration, which is most personal to her.

CREDIT: Catalina Velasquez / Facebook

“As an undocumented trans-Latina, of course making immigration a trans queer issue since over 80 countries criminalize people based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Velasquez expressed to mitú. “Deportation of a transgender immigrant is deportation to a death sentence so we really want to show what it really means to look at the larger trans and queer community of color.”

Velasquez is an immigrant from Colombia who came here when she was only 14 years old.

CREDIT: Catalina Velasquez / Facebook

According to an interview she did with The 41 List, Velasquez talked about how she and her family fled Colombia because of the political environment. Velasquez told The 41 List that her family was very politically active when she was younger and when the political tides changed in that country, she and her family were the direct targets of several threats including attempted kidnappings. One night, her father told her that they were fleeing to the U.S. and not to tell anyone. Velasquez is a beneficiary of deferred action as signed by Janet Napolitano in 2012.

Velasquez told mitú that it is imperative that immigration becomes a part of the LGBTQ debate and fight because of the number of LGBTQ people fleeing deadly persecution in their countries for safety in the U.S.

CREDIT: Catalina Velasquez / Facebook

“We can’t forget that immigration is a symptom of dehumanizing militaristic US foreign policy that kills,” Velasquez told mitú. “I say that very intentionally because the United States’ presence abroad exacerbates and becomes a push factor often that leads to folks making the life changing decision or seeking a life with dignity, seeking a life period, over death. We have seen, that in terms of foreign policy, the United States has not always been one that has centered LGBTQIA+ rights and needs and oftentimes, especially under this current administration, has worked against it and so a conversation about immigration needs to be a conversation about foreign policy.”

“I think what motivated me personally to join this march is the fact that the ‘T’ [in LGBTQ] is no longer silent,” Velasquez told mitú.

CREDIT: Catalina Velasquez / Facebook

Velasquez believes that it is important for the march that is going to be a visible representation of the LGBTQ community show the “vibrant and diverse LGBTQIA+ communities plural.” Velasquez told mitú that she wants to see more trans people being included in these kinds of organizing missions and conversations to add more depth to the work being done by these national LGBTQ organizations.

The Equality March for Unity and Peace is scheduled for June 11 in Washington D.C. and Velasquez is determined to inject some color into the LGBTQ celebration.

CREDIT: The Equality March for Unity and Pride / Facebook

Velasquez says that she understands that as a trans or queer person of color, it is often the case that you function in an Anglo-white, cis-gender, gay male space. This mentality and environment leaves LGBTQ people of color out of the equation and impacts those people’s ability to fight for things that are specific to their experience.

As for what she wants attendees of the march to get from their experience, she wants them to embrace the diversity of the LGBTQ community.

CREDIT: Catalina Velasquez / Facebook

“Ultimately, [I want them to] find strength and unity from diversity without taking away the particularities and distinctions that each of us have as we walk this earth and all come together to fight for the right to breathe and walk unapologetically in our truths,” Velasquez told mitú.


READ: Here’s How Three Women, Including A Mexican-American, Came Together To Organize One Of The Biggest Marches Of Our Time

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Recognizing Its Diversity Issue, Argentina Is Working To Add More Transgender Workers To Its Labor Force

Things That Matter

Recognizing Its Diversity Issue, Argentina Is Working To Add More Transgender Workers To Its Labor Force

Leonardo Munoz/VIEWpress via Getty Images

Argentina has long been a progressive bastion in Latin America. It was one of the first countries in the region to allow same-sex marriage and also has anti-discrimination laws in many cities. It’s also been a beacon of hope for the transgender community, with the government long allowing individuals to choose their self-perceived identity regardless of their biological sex.

However, transgender workers still face immense discrimination and that has left a reported 95% of the community without formal employment. To help try and address this issue, the nation’s leaders have instituted a program to ensure that at least 1% of the workforce is made up of trans workers. It’s an ambitious task but the government is already making progress.

Argentina launched a program to ensure better transgender representation in the workforce.

Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández signed a decree in September establishing a 1 percent employment quota for transgender people in the public sector. The law went into effect on January 1 and its aim is to bring more trans workers into the formal economy.

According to Argentina’s LGBTQ community, 95 percent of transgender people do not have formal employment, with many forced to work in the sex industry where they face violence.

“If all the institutions implemented the trans quota, it would change a lot for many of my colleagues. It would change the quality of their lives and they would not die at 34, or 40, which is their life expectancy today,” Angeles Rojas, who recently landed a job at a national bank, told NBC News.

There are no official figures on the size of the transgender community in Argentina, since it was not included in the last 2010 census. But LGBTQ organizations estimate there are 12,000 to 13,000 transgender adults in Argentina, which has a population topping 44 million.

Few countries in the world are stepping up to help trans workers quite like Argentina.

Argentina has long prided itself on its progressive policies. The nation was one of the first in the Americas to recognize same-sex unions and several cities have anti-discrimination laws aimed at protecting the LGBTQ community.

In 2012, Argentina adopted an unprecedented gender identity law allowing transgender people to choose their self-perceived identity regardless of their biological sex. The law also guarantees free access to sex-reassignment surgeries and hormonal treatments without prior legal or medical consent.

Worldwide, only neighboring Uruguay has a comparable quota law promoting the labor inclusion of transgender people. And a law such as this one has the potential to greatly impact the lives of transgendered Argentinians.

Despite the program, transgender people still face enormous challenges in Argentina.

A recent report by the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People published in December said “the vast majority of trans women in the region have sex work as their sole economic and subsistence livelihood.”

It goes on to say: In Latin America and the Caribbean transgender people have their right to work violated along with all their human rights, and this takes place “in a context of extreme violence.”

Despite legal protections, Argentina’s trans community remains at risk. Many of the country’s trans citizens live in the Gondolín, a building in the Buenos Aires’ Palermo neighborhood, for protection and strength in numbers.

There have been advances in Argentina. This year, Diana Zurco became the first transgender presenter of Argentine television news, Mara Gómez was authorized by the Argentine Football Association to play in the professional women’s league and soprano María Castillo de Lima was the first transgender artist to go on stage at Teatro Colón.

However, the gap between the equality established by law and the real one remains large, warned Ese Montenegro, a male transgender activist hired as an adviser to the Chamber of Deputies’ women’s and diversity commission.

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‘Juno’ Star Elliot Page Thanked Supportive Fans And Highlighted Latinx Trans Women While Opening Up About Transgender Identity

Entertainment

‘Juno’ Star Elliot Page Thanked Supportive Fans And Highlighted Latinx Trans Women While Opening Up About Transgender Identity

Dia Dipasupil / Getty

Elliot Page, the Oscar-nominated star of films such as Juno and X-Men: Days of Future Past, shared with fans that they identify as transgender and non-binary at the beginning of the month.

“Hi friends, I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they, and my name is Elliot. I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life. I feel overwhelming gratitude for the incredible people who have supported me along this journey. I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self. I’ve been endlessly inspired by so many in the trans community,” Page wrote in their statement.

In a moving statement shared to the star’s social media feeds, Page explained how the trans community had “inspired” and supported them in the lead up to their decision to share the news with the world. They went onto thank the trans community for “ceaselessly working to make this world a more inclusive and compassionate place.”

Elliot Page expressed their gratitude for the support of friends and fans after recently coming out as non-binary and transgender.

“From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Your love and support has been the greatest gift,” Page wrote in a post on Sunday. “Stay safe. Be there for each other. If you are able, support @transanta and @translifeline See you in 2021, Xoxo Elliot”

In issuing their announcement on December 1st, Page also made an effort to underline their privileges in comparison to the trans Black and Latinx people murdered this year.

Speaking about their transgender and non-binary identity, the latter of which is a term used to describe a person whose gender identity is neither man nor woman, Page wrote “I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life… I feel overwhelming gratitude for the incredible people who have supported me along this journey. I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self.”

Page went onto emphasize “To be clear, I am not trying to dampen a moment that is joyous and one that I celebrate, but I want to address the full picture. The statistics are staggering. The discrimination towards trans people is rife, insidious and cruel, resulting in horrific consequences. In 2020 alone it has been reported that at least 40 transgender people have been murdered, the majority of which were Black and Latinx women.”

Page’s highlight of the fatal violence against Black and Latinx trans people in 2020 is such an important step.

This year, the Human Rights Campaign noted that 2020 saw at least 40 trans or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed. The majority of these victims were Black and Latinx transgender women.

Page also condemned politicians who have rejected the rights and humanity of trans people and criminalized trans health care. “You have blood on your hands,” Page wrote. “You unleash a fury of vile and demeaning rage that lands on the shoulders of the trans community.”

Page went onto share his efforts to fight for the trans community continues “To all the trans people who deal with harassment, self-loathing, abuse and the threat of violence every day: I see you, I love you and I will do everything I can to change this world for the better.”

Page stated that their pronouns are “he” and “they.”

HRC listed the transgender and gender non-conforming people lost in 2020. The victims are listed directly from HRC’s site below.

  • Dustin Parker, 25, was fatally shot in McAlester, Oklahoma, early on New Year’s Day. His employers released a statement shortly after his death, remembering Parker as “a steadfast friend, an amazing husband and father and generous to a fault. He loved fiercely, worked tirelessly and took on life with so much hope and enthusiasm that his presence brightened all of our lives.”
  • Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, was fatally shot in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico on February 24. According to Metro Puerto Rico, members of her community knew her as “humble” and “noble.”
  • Yampi Méndez Arocho, 19, was killed in Moca, Puerto Rico, on March 5. Arocho, a transgender man, shared his love for basketball and the NBA — donning Miami Heat apparel on social media. The biography line on his Facebook reads simply, “Humility Prevails.”
  • Scott/ Scottlynn Devore, a 51-year old gender non-conforming person, was killed in Augusta, Georgia. Friends remembered Devore as “sweet” and “beautiful” on Facebook.
  • Monika Diamond, 34, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 18. Diamond was active in the Charlotte LGBTQ and nightlife community and was the co-owner of an event promotion company. She also was the co-CEO of the International Mother of the Year Pageantry System — a pageant that honors LGBTQ mothers.
  • Lexi, 33, a transgender woman, was killed in Harlem, New York on March 28. According to reports, Lexi was fatally stabbed in Harlem River Park. “I really looked up to her because of her tolerance and respect,” said Lavonia Brooks, a friend of Lexi. “Lexi had a beautiful heart, she was very gifted.” Brooks also noted that Lexi loved poetry, makeup and fashion.
  • Johanna Metzger, a transgender woman, was killed in Baltimore, Maryland on April 11. According to reports, she was visiting a Baltimore recovery center from Pennsylvania at the time. Johanna was known for her love of music and taught herself to play multiple instruments.
  • Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, 32, was killed in Puerto Rico on April 21. Ramos was killed alongside Layla Pelaez Sánchez, 21. According to reports, Ramos was visiting the island on vacation, and was set to return to her home in Queens, New York, at the end of the month. Loved ones are mourning her death, calling her “full of life,” a “happy person,” and a “sincere friend.” On May 1, two men were charged under federal hate crimes law for Ramos’s death.
  • Layla Pelaez Sánchez, 21, was killed in Puerto Rico on April 21. Sánchez was killed alongside Serena Angelique Velázquez RamosAccording to reports, Sánchez had recently moved to the island, and was living in the Tejas neighborhood in Las Piedras. On May 1, two Puerto Rican men were charged under federal hate crimes law for Sánchez’s death.
  • Penélope Díaz Ramírez, a transgender woman, was killed in Puerto Rico on April 13. “Penélope did not deserve to die. Transgender people do not deserve to die. Every single advocate, ally, elected official and community member must stand up in light of this horrific news and say ‘No more.’ What we are doing is not enough,” said Tori Cooper, HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.
  • Nina Pop, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Sikeston, Missouri, on May 3. She was deeply loved by her family, friends and community, according to her Facebook page.
  • Helle Jae O’Regan, 20, a transgender woman, was killed in San Antonio, Texas, on May 6. O’Regan was proud of her trans identity and on Twitter, she often spoke out against injustice, including the LGBTQ inequality, the prison industrial complex and the need to decriminalize sex work. Damion Terrell Campbell, 42, has been charged with O’Regan’s murder.
  • Tony McDade, a Black transgender man, was killed in Tallhassee, Florida, on May 27. His friends and family shared how he was an energetic, giving person with a big heart.
  • Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, a Black transgender woman was killed in Philadelphia, Pennsyania, on June 9. One personal friend posted online, “Dom was a unique and beautiful soul who I am lucky to have known personally. I am beside myself right now. We need to fight!! We need to do more!!!! We will get justice.”
  • Riah Milton, a 25-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed in Liberty Township, Ohio on June 9. In March, she posted the status “Never been scared to struggle. Imma get it eventually” — a comment highlighting her resilience and optimism as a person facing a transphobic, misogynist and racist society.
  • Jayne Thompson, a 33-year old white transgender woman, was killed in Mesa County, Colorado, on May 9. She was killed by a Colorado State Patrol trooper and misgendered in initial news reports.
  • Selena Reyes-Hernandez, a 37-year old transgender woman, was killed in Chicago on May 31. “We have lost a beloved member of our trans family because of hate — hate that has corrupted our country’s soul and that shatters lives and futures every day,” said Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.
  • Brian “Egypt’ Powers, a 43-year old Black transgender person, was killed in Akron, Ohio, on June 13. Powers worked at a local catering company and is remembered for wearing long, colorful braids — “unicorn braids,” as Powers called them.
  • Brayla Stone, a 17-year old Black transgender girl, was found killed in Little Rock, Arkansas, on June 25. “Brayla Stone was a child. A child, just beginning to live her life. A child of trans experience. A Black girl. A person who had hopes and dreams, plans and community,” said Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. On September 4, a man was arrested on a murder charge in connection to her death.
  • Merci Mack, a 22-year old Black transgender woman, was killed in Dallas, Texas, on June 30. Her loved ones shared how beautiful of a friend she was. On her social media, she had recently posted that she enjoyed baking and that she was looking forward to returning to work. On July 8, a man was arrested on a murder charge in connection to her death.
  • Shaki Peters, a 32-year old Black transgender woman, was killed in Amite CIty, Louisiana, on July 1. “In just four days, we have seen the deaths of at least three transgender and gender non-conforming people, including Shaki Peters. This horrific spike in violence against our community must be an urgent call to action for every single person in this nation,” said Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for HRC’s Trans Justice Initiative.
  • Bree Black, a 27-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed in Pompano Beach, Florida, on July 3. “These killings are being fueled by the deadly combination of racism and transphobia, and they must cease. We must come together as a community and demand justice for those who were taken from us,” said Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for HRC’s Trans Justice Initiative.
  • Summer Taylor, a white non-binary person, was in Seattle, Washington, on July 4. Taylor was participating in the Black Femme March in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and against police brutality. Taylor worked full time at Urban Animal veterinary hospital.
  • Marilyn Cazares was a transgender Latina killed in Brawley, California. Mindy Garcia, an aunt of Cazares, said she “loved to sing and dance” and “never bothered anyone.”
  • Dior H Ova, who some reports identify as Tiffany Harris, a Black transgender woman, was killed in the Bronx, New York. According to her Facebook, Ova loved fashion — listing her career as a personal shopper and posting photos with luxury fashion brands that she loved. On August 13, a man was arrested on a murder charge in connection to her death.
  • Queasha D Hardy, a 22-year old Black transgender woman, was killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on July 27. Hardy, a hairstylist, was extremely loved by her community. Friends and loved ones describe her as loyal, loving, “always smiling,” “the life of all parties” and “truly one of a kind.”
  • Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears, who sometimes used the name Rocky Rhone, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Portland, Oregon, on July 28. According to Facebook, she studied at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and was the owner and founder of International Barbie, a Portland-based clothing brand.
  • Lea Rayshon Daye, a 28-year old Black transgender woman, died in Cuyahoga County Jail in Cleveland, Ohio on August 30. “Lea’s death is unacceptable. Increased risk factors such as homelessness, combined with racism, sexism and transphobia, conspired to lead to a death that never should have happened,” said Tori Cooper, HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.
  • Kee Sam, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Lafeyette, Louisiana, on August 12. “We must all speak up in support of trans and gender non-conforming people and affirm that Black Trans Lives Matter,” said HRC’s Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.
  • Aerrion Burnett, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Indepedence, Missouri, on September 19. Her friends and family shared “if you wanted to have a good day, you need to smile, Aerrion was the person you wanted by your side.”
  • Mia Green, a 29-year old Black transgender woman, was killed in Philadelphia on September 28. Her friends and family shared how “her smile was so perfect and so contagious. She made me laugh.”
  • Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas, a transgender woman from Puerto Rico in her mid-30s, was killed in San Germán, Puerto Rico on September 30. “This level of violence— any level of violence — is unacceptable. We are not doing enough to protect transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially trans women,” said HRC’s Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.
  • Felycya Harris, a 33-year old transgender woman, was killed in Augusta, Georgia in October. Felycya was an interior decorator who ran her own company where she enjoyed lending her eye to improve the surroundings of others, and made others feel comfortable in their own space.
  • Brooklyn Deshuna, 20, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Shreveport, Louisiana, on October 7. Brooklyn attended Bossier Parish Community College and studied cosmetology.
  • Sara Blackwood, a transgender woman, was killed in Indianapolis, Indiana on October 11, recognized as National Coming Out Day. She enjoyed playing video games and was a fan of the show “My Little Pony.”
  • Angel Unique, a 25-year old Black transgender woman, was killed in Memphis, Tennessee, on October 25. A licensed cosmetologist, friends and family of Angel remembered her for being “very funny, very nice to everybody she met” and “such a bright person [with] a positive spirit.”
  • Skylar Heath, a 20-year-old Black trans woman killed on Nov. 4 in Miami, Fl., was described as a “kind and gentle soul” who “had such a love for family and close friends.” Skylar had a “warm personality” and a “friendly spirit,” and brought people who knew her “so much joy.”
  • Yunieski Carey Herrera, also known as Yuni Carey, a 39-year old Latina transgender woman was killed in Miami, Fl. on Nov. 17. Herrera was a well-known model, performer, dancer and activist loved by the LGBTQ community in Miami. A friend of Herrera described her as “besides being strikingly beautiful, she was kind and she was good.”
  • Asia Jynae Foster, a 22-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed on November 20 in Houston, Texas. Her death occurred on Trans Day of Remembrance, a day created to honor those in our community taken by violence. Asia was remembered during a candlelight vigil where family and friends described her as “a beacon of light in their community.”
  • Chae’Meshia Simms, a Black transgender woman in her 30s, was killed on Nov. 23 in Richmond, Virginia. Simms, who sometimes used the nickname “ChaeChae,” was close with her family and friends. They remembered her on social media as “good,” “kind” and “caring.”

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