By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com June 18 2014 3:24 PM ET
Trans activist Bamby Salcedo gave a stirring speech on transgender rights, focusing on issues of oppression and privilege, at a Lambda Legal event.
Salcedo, who was honored last Friday at Lambda Legal's 2014 West Coast Liberty Awards for her groundbreaking work in Angels of Change, an organization that provides health care services for trans youth, spoke candidly about the ongoing fight for LGBT equality and pinpointed the key issues to address in this battle.
“I want to talk about two things that I think are very important. One of them is oppression, and one of them is privilege,” Salcedo told the audience at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles after an introduction by trans actress Candis Cayne. “And I do want to say that I’m a very privileged trans woman. I do have a job. I am able to go to school. I have a car — a cute car too! But that’s not the reality of my community.”
After an emotional pause, Salcedo revealed that a tragedy almost prevented her attendance that evening. But ultimately, the terrible event had galvanized her to come out and speak against the systemic, legal, and social discrimination faced by trans people.
“I almost didn’t make it tonight … yesterday, a very dear friend of mine was found dead in an alley, and I was notified today,” Salcedo said of Zoraida Rayes, a 28-year-old trans woman who died in Santa Ana last week. “And it saddens me, because she was a woman, a trans woman, who was actually walking beside me in the movement. She is… she was one of the few young activists that are doing this kind of work. And for me to learn she was dead today was really devastating. So I want to give honor to Ms. Reyes, who is no longer with us.”
“Let’s look at our privilege and let’s be grateful for where we are tonight. But at the same time, let’s not forget those that continue to be oppressed,” she said, adding, “We also need to be mindful of the way we advocate for laws that are supposed to protect us. Trans people are not protected the way we should be protected.”
At the conclusion of her speech, Salcedo elicited cheers and applause when she turned the stage into an impromptu runway, performing a few triumphant turns on the catwalk.
Lambda Legal is at the forefront of legal advocacy for transgender people and has published an online legal guide titled "Know Your Rights."
In addition to Salcedo, the legal organization also honored Rep. Henry Waxman, actor Dan Bucatinsky, and the creators and executive producer of ABC Family’s The Fosters at the 2014 West Coast Liberty Awards.
Watch the video of Salcedo’s emotional awards speech, courtesy of Lambda Legal, below.