While Trans Women Die In Detention Centers, Bamby Salcedo Fights For Her Community With A Determination We Rarely See These Days
Prepare yourself to get familiar with an icon in the making. Bamby Salcedo was born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico by a single working mother who tried to protect her daughter from hate. She couldn’t.
Salcedo doesn’t consider herself a victim. She is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, of drug addiction, of homelessness, of persecution for sex work, of the U.S. prison system. Salcedo has survived a transphobic society and considers it a privilege to work tirelessly for trans rights in an uphill battle with ICE.
Bamby Salcedo is leading the initiative to grant equal rights to detained trans women.
Yet, she tells Latina that she’s “just a pawn in the game.” It’s humbling to learn that Salcedo, often referred to as “La Bamby”, said, “I’m just a piece of the puzzle in the fight for trans rights, especially for trans Latina immigrants.”
La Bamby’s experience of overcoming homelessness, of being imprisoned and addiction has fueled her fire to help others.
“In my case, being homeless, having to participate in the street economy to survive, being imprisoned, being a drug addict, all of those things I faced,” were all drivers to her activism, she tells Latina. “Then, once I had the privilege and opportunity to change my life, it was me seeing my friends and those close to me that I love to continue to experience these things. A combination of both has driven me to stand up and do something about it.”
La Bamby has become an icon in her own right.
This fan’s artwork depicts her as a blossoming flower, with a halo of tropical flowers. She maintains that while she knows she’s the most recognizable voice of trans Latina immigrants, she shouldn’t be.
“I am very privileged and lucky to be one of the people who gets highlighted often,” she tells Latina. “But more and more trans women immigrants, Latinas, are doing so, too, and I hope seeing me out there is encouraging for them. Sharing one’s story is a truth, and it’s impactful because it helps people understand our issues.”
Bamby’s activism led her to create the TransLatin@ Coalition in 2009.
Bamby saw a gap in attention for the trans communities. National, trans-led organizations weren’t addressing the issues of Latina immigrants, so she did something about it.
Remember when this flag dropped at the 2018 World Series?
That was all TransLatin@ Coalition. “I felt my heart was dropping along with it,” she told Huffington Post. “I was kind of exploding because of the adrenaline. You don’t know what’s going to happen with the police and security and all of that.” FOX didn’t air the flag on national television, and the flag waved for a few minutes before they were escorted out.
Last year, TransLatin@ Coalition gifted LA this performance statement during the Pride parade.
“PRIDE has historically been a protest, not a parade,” @translatinacoalition captions. “And it will continue to be a protest so long as our communities are still suffering from corrupt systems. Let us celebrate our beauty but also acknowledge there is work still to be done! There is no liberation without liberation for all. ‘HOW MANY OF US HAVE TO DIE FOR YOU TO GET INVOLVED?'”
This year, it was censored for calling out the abuse trans women face in ICE detention centers by name.
“We marched in pride yesterday and brought attention to the state and governmental violence our community continues to face,” the organization posted. “We were censored by both LAPride and ABC7. We were told to put our signs away. Told that we should be celebrating. Pride reminded us that there is so much to be done, even within our own community. But we won’t stop bringing attention to the injustices our community is facing. Okay! #FREEALEJANDRA #JohanaMedina”
Currently, TransLatin@ Coalition is focused on freeing Alejandra Barrera, a trans woman held by ICE since November 2017.
The campaign petition has received over 26,000 signatures, urging the U.S. government to release Barrera on parole until her next asylum court date. The longer she stays in the detention facility, the higher the risk for sexual abuse and negligent medical care.
TransLatin@ Coalition implements grassroots efforts to gain media coverage for the causes.
“Alejandra’s application for a stay of removal was denied for the 5th time with no valid arguments,” TransLatin@ Coalition writes on Instagram as an update to the #FreeAlejandra press conference post. “She can be deported anytime within the next couple of days. We need you all to help us to put pressure on Congress to intervene and stop ICE from potentially sending Alejandra to her death.”
We are in the midst of a week-long campaign to #FreeAlejandra.
If Alejandra is deported, she will inevitably be murdered. TransLatin@ Coalition describes Alejandra as “a transgender Latina immigrant who was forced to flee El Salvador due to discrimination and violence, her home country in which she has spent years fighting for respect and dignity of transgender people.”
Before founding TransLatin@ Coalition, she was the Health Education and HIV Prevention Services Coordinator at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Needless to say, Bamby’s life mission has been to provide services to the trans community. She quit her job in 2015 to focus on trans immigrants full time.
Since then, she’s spoken at The White House and helped organize #FamiliesBelongTogether protests.
Bamby sees her activism as a privilege. She sees her shift in circumstances from homelessness and sex work as a privilege. That’s because, for trans women, it is a privilege when it should be an inherent right.
The issues facing trans women are nuanced and debilitating.
Trans women who flee their countries for fear of violence come to the U.S. for safety. “But things are bad here, too,” she tells Latina. “And we have to resort to the street economy, whether drugs or prostitution, to survive. Then we risk being arrested and turned into ICE, where we are detained and possibly deported. Immigration is one of the main issues impacting us, but it’s also not the only one, and I don’t want to forget that.”
La Bamby is here to fight for all women.
She celebrated Latina Equal Pay Day like most of our favorite feministas–with a solidarity post that read, “Today is #LatinaEqualPayDay, marking the 10 extra months Latinas must work to make the same amount white men earned last year. The gender pay gap is greatest for Latinas, who get only 54 cents for every $1 a white man makes. This is an injustice. Soy una mujer fenomenal — and I deserve the entire dollar! We’re not 54% phenomenal. We bring 100% every day & it’s time we make 100%.”
She just might be the Selfie Queen.
Her personal Instagram feed is a fabulous stream of selfies. Most of the captions describe what event she is going to, like this one: “On my way to bring my #TransLatinaPower to #northcarolina#deepsouth I’m going deep!! #freealejandra”
She also seems to have a healthy sense of humor.
This classic Strategy Selfie is captioned, “Que disque high class … #transocupayingspace con @life_as_a_queen” 😂
And she’ll take every single opportunity to talk about the cause.
La Bamby ran into John Legend and California’s Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris and took the opportunity to “bring your #TransLatinaPower to highlight #transissues.” 👑👑👑
Unsurprisingly, her story has been captured in documentary format for your leisurely viewing.
Peruvian Director Dante Alencastre gifted the world “TransVisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story” and the world noticed. The film has received Long Beach’s QFilm Festival “Best Documentary” award.
There’s no question: Bamby Salcedo is the revolutionary that will push trans rights to the next level.
To do that, she’s going deep into the murky systems of ICE and making sure to keep every detained trans woman accountable. Nobody else is doing it.