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More Than a Heckler: My Commitment to Fight for Liberation


What advancing equality in 2016 means for the trans woman known for interrupting President Obama during a Pride reception last year.

My mother takes pride in telling the story of my birth. She recounts how I was the only one her nine children who came into the world without the assistance of a midwife. When her contractions started, she sent my brother and sister to get the midwife. By the time she arrived, though, I had already been born.

My birth is where my journey and struggle for liberation began. And now as then, I cannot wait. We must now work toward ending the systems that incarcerate, deport, and murder people of color here in the United States and across the world.

I became involved in activism because of the social injustices transgender people face in this country, especially transgender women of color. My first participation was in November of 2014 when Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement collaborated with other organizations in Los Angeles to shut down the intersections of Santa Monica Boulevard and Vermont Street. It was during this direct action where I started the process to liberate my fears and my oppression.

This direct action was important to me because we were protesting the murders of transgender women. Sadly, 2015 had the worst statistics for trans murders. Twenty-plus murders were officially registered. Most of the victims were transgender women of color. And it was at this action that I began to connect my struggles beyond trans women of color. I began to realize that my liberation is contingent to the liberation of all people everywhere.

Sylvia Rivera once said the mainstream movement, then called "gay rights," often excluded her (and others like her) for being "too brown, too trans, and too radical." Her words resonate with me because it makes me wonder why the mainstream LGBTQ movement reacted the way it did when I interrupted the president's comments last year during the White House Pride Celebration. Am I too brown? Am I too trans? Was I too loud? Was I too disrespectful?

One thing is for sure, my identities as an undocumented immigrant trans women did not give me an option but to disrupt and confront power. I decided to attend the reception last June because undocumented immigrants continue to be terrorized and deported, trans women of color still face daily violence and discrimination and black and brown bodies are being murdered by police and state violence. As I challenge power, I realized that this fight for liberation was bigger than my trans community and me.

In the fight for liberation, I refuse to limit myself to a single issue or to only fight for the LGBTQ community. I am undocumented, immigrant, transgender, low-income, Latina, and a woman. I am more than a heckler and my fight for liberation includes all of my identities and all my communities.

The White House interruption does not define me, but it created a platform for my voice to be heard. In my journey I am learning and joining other communities fighting and standing against state-sanctioned violence and building movements that are pro-black, pro-immigrant, pro-queer, pro-women and pro-liberation. I am committing my life to fighting to protect the lives and dignity of all people.

JENNICET EVA GUTIERREZ is an undocumented trans Latina activist. She was born in Tuxpan, Jalisco, Mexico. She is passionate about social justice. She lives in Los Angeles and is an active member of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement.

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Jennicet Gutierrez