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.
“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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.