Culture

Victoria Villalba, an Undocumented Transgender Activist Inspiring Change

She’s 19 years-old, an LGBT and immigration activist, undocumented, transgender and this year’s recipient of the Colin Higgins Foundation Youth Courage Award. She’s a fighter. She’s Victoria Villalba.

Victoria first came to the U.S. when she was three years old, but when her father was deported, the family returned to Mexico. Twelve years later, Victoria bravely came out to her parents.

“When I came out they rejected me. I no longer talk to my parents,” confessed Villalba, who after being outcasted by her family lived on her own for three years in Mexico. She struggled to find housing and employment.

READ: Trans Latina Women Share their Story with #MyVanityFairCover

She sought political asylum at the U.S. border. However, her request was denied, and she was held in a detention center. Her situation worsened after Victoria reported the injustices taking place in the detention center. As a result, she was placed in solitary confinement for three and a half months. It’s been a year since she was released.

“Getting out was the only thing that kept me going,” said Villalba. “I didn’t have someone outside waiting for me, and I didn’t know what would become of me if I ever got released. [Would I be] getting killed in my country of birth for my gender expression or in this U.S. detention center?”

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Photo Credit: United We Dream/Facebook

Shortly after being released, Victoria joined the United We Dream: Queer Undocumented Immigrant Rights Project (QUIP) chapter in Arizona, an opportunity that would help her explore a new mission in life. Victoria became an avid activist fighting for the liberation of transgender and queer people in U.S. detention centers.

“I know I’m not the first one, and I know I won’t be the last,” said Villalba. “That’s why I’m standing up [for the trans community], hopefully the system stops discriminating against [transgender people] and starts treating us as humans.”

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Photo Credit: Sam Hubbard/Facebook

Her efforts have included launching hunger strikes, organizing informational conferences for undocumented transgender people, and spearheading success efforts to have three transgender women released from detention. Earlier this month the Colin Higgins Foundation presented Victoria with the Youth Courage Award and awarded her $10,000. The prize also included an all expense paid trip to L.A. Pride festival, one of the nation’s largest LGBT celebrations, where she’ll also be recognized at an awards ceremony.

“I feel honored to be receiving this award,” said Victoria. “I share this award with the trans community. I want to use the money to return to school and pursue a higher education. I want to become an immigration paralegal.”

READ: UndocuQueer Activist Changing the Immigration Debate

Despite her successes, her one wish is to be back with her family.

“Even though they don’t accept me, I want to be with my sisters and brothers again. I hope it changes one day. I want them to be proud of me and happy of how far I’ve come along,” said Villalba.

Her message to other transgender people, “you don’t need long hair, makeup or surgical proceedings to be who you are. If I want to wear makeup and get dolled up, I will. If I don’t want to I won’t. I perfectly love myself either way.”

Tell us about other LGBT  or immigrant activists that you admire. Please leave comments below.

Netflix’s ‘Disclosure’ Gets Honest About The Evolution Of Trans Representation In Media

Culture

Netflix’s ‘Disclosure’ Gets Honest About The Evolution Of Trans Representation In Media

Netflix / YouTube

Representation in media is something that is often taken for granted.

Representation in media is crucial. Seeing positive examples of yourself reflected in media is something that many people don’t have. Representation in the media does more than offer a new storyline. It validates someone else’s life experience. Showing the transgender experience is the latest big push in Hollywood for a more accurate representation of the country.

Another benefit of accurate and diverse representation in media is being able to expose people to different people. According to a study by GLAAD, 80 percent of Americans claim not to know anyone who is trans. Documentaries like “Disclosure” and shows like “Orange Is the New Black” and “Pose” break that barrier.

As discussed in the trailer, the scope of trans visibility in media has increased exponentially in recent years. The landscape of television has changed tremendously and trans people are playing trans characters to tell trans stories.

One of the most celebrated examples of trans representation in mainstream media is FX’s “Pose.” The show is an unapologetic look at the lives of trans and queer people of color in the late 1980s and early 1990s New York City. It brings ballroom culture to an audience like never before. For one of the first times in history, people watching the show can see trans people of color leading the narrative about their experiences and history.

Before now, trans and queer people had few moments of representation in media and most are in a negative light. As you hear in the documentary, many of the trans actors have played trans characters but they are usually dead or the prostitute. It is a reflection of what society sees these people as and that message is transmitted to anyone who is watching the show.

You can now stream “Disclosure” on Netflix. The documentary is sure to change the way you see trans lives and trans representation in media.

READ: ‘Pose’ Cast Calls On NAACP To Include Ways For The Organization To Guarantee That Black Trans Lives Matter

Supreme Court Blocks Trump Administration From Eliminating DACA

Things That Matter

Supreme Court Blocks Trump Administration From Eliminating DACA

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

For three years, people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status faced an uncertain future. The Trump administration was involved in legal battles after abruptly eliminating the program. For the third time this week, the Supreme Court has handed down a major loss for the Trump administration as they protected DACA from Trump’s attack.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration cannot end DACA.

The 5-4 decision is the third major legal loss for the Trump administration this week. SCOTUS ruled earlier this week that LGBTQ+ cannot be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity. The court also refused to take up a case challenging California’s sanctuary state law letting the law stand.

The decision to temporarily protect DACA was a split decision with all of the conservative justices (Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel A. Alito Jr.) voting in favor of the Trump administration. Justice John Robert joined the liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan saving the program from the Trump administration, for now.

In the ruling, written by Justice John Roberts, the court cites that the acting secretary of state violated the Administrative Procedures Act when ending the program. Basically, the announcement was lacking substance and did not address key parts of the policy. This made the announcement void of an argument supporting the dismantling of the program.

The ruling is only temporary relief for the hundreds of thousands of young people on DACA.

While the program has been spared, it is not completely saved. The decision from the Supreme Court today focuses on the way DACA was eliminated, not the actual elimination. This means that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) now has time to reevaluate its case against DACA to try again.

“The Court still does not resolve the question of DACA’s rescission,” Alito wrote in his dissent. “Instead, it tells the Department of Homeland Security to go back and try again.”

The conservative justices, while dissenting, did release statements that agreed with parts of the decision to block the Trump administration from eliminating DACA. The Trump administration first announced that they were ending DACA in 2017 with a press conference on the border led by Jeff Sessions.

Justice Sotomayor made her own headlines after calling the case a racist attack.

“I would not so readily dismiss the allegation that an executive decision disproportionately harms the same racial group that the President branded as less desirable mere months earlier,” Justice Sotomayor wrote in her concurrence of the decision.

Organizers and activists are giving credit to the DACA community for this victory.

The DACA community has led the charge to protect their status in the U.S. The movement has largely been done thanks to the work of DACA recipients fighting for their right to be here. For many, it is the only country they know after arriving to the U.S. without proper documentation when they were young children.

The president has tweeted his clear displeasure on the Supreme Court that he tried to stack in his favor by appointing two justices.

Both justice Kavanaugh and Gorsuch were Trump’s appointees. After three losses from the Supreme Court, President Trump followed his usual playbook and accused the Supreme Court of not liking him.

Now, it is time for Congress to act.

With DACA recipients temporarily spared sudden deportation, Congress must act and pass legislation protecting Dreamers from being deported. The Dream Act is one piece of legislation that offers DACA recipients a pathway to citizenship, something most Americans agree with.

READ: ICE Is Threatening To Reopen Deportation Proceedings Against All DACA Recipients Regardless Of DACA Status