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Jennicet Gutiérrez Is Ready to Challenge Trump

Jennicet Gutiérrez Is Ready to Challenge Trump

jennicet gutierrez

Gutierrez, who interrupted President Obama at a Pride reception last year, says she is prepared to challenge power.


When Jennicet Gutierrez interrupted President Obama last year during a Pride reception at the White House, she was called a "heckler." The Latina trans activist yelled at the president to release LGBT undocumented immigrants from detention centers. Many of the members of LGBT organizations packed into the East Room booed and shouted over Gutierrez. "Shame on you, you shouldn't be doing this," said President Obama, while members of the audience chanted, "Obama! Obama! Obama!"

"Can we escort this person out? Come on," said the president. Gutierrez was removed from the event rapidly. But what would have happened if it were President Donald Trump behind the podium?

Gutierrez tells The Advocate she'd interrupt Trump, though she'd need support, and she's willing to put herself at risk despite being the epitome of a number of identities -- undocumented, transgender, woman, Latina -- derided by the Trump contingent.

Three groups in Los Angeles hosted a popular assembly Tuesday night in Los Angeles in response to Trump's election. Gutierrez was one of those in attendance, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which cosponsored the event with two other organizations, reports there were more than 500 people at the event.

The LGBT community had been divided over how to respond to Gutierrez's interruption last year. Some called it a debate over "respectability politics." Many activists heralded her for using a moment that would've otherwise been a pat on the back for President Obama to bring national spotlight to the plight of undocumented trans women now in detention centers. If the media and Obama weren't paying attention before, they definitely did after her action. But with Trump coming into office, this and other issues need only more activism.

The statistics that follow undocumented transgender women in detention are startling. A Fusion investigation uncovered that U.S. Immigration and Custom's Enforcement houses 75 transgender detainees each night. Out of every five victims of sexual assault in ICE detention, one of those victims is transgender. Fusion's investigation reported instances of transgender women who were housed with men and incidents where transgender women were put into solitary confinement after reporting harassment or violence from their male cellmates.

It was safer, Gutierrez admitted, to protest under Obama, even if he was visibly upset about it at the moment, than it would be under Trump.

"Yes, I am scared. Yes, I am concerned. But fear is not going to hold me back," said Gutierrez Tuesday night.

The fear Gutierrez feels is parly due to the climate in the country. At least 26 transgender people have been killed in 2016 alone. In 2015, 21 transgender women were killed. But even more than that, Gutierrez is worried by Trump's record.

"We have seen already how hostile his supporters are, so we have to be very careful, especially because trans women are very heavily targeted with violence," said Gutierrez.

It's true that protesters at Trump rallies have not been received well by the president-elect's supporters. The president-elect himself has thrown out people from his rallies, sometimes telling supporters not to hurt the protester, other times reminiscing about times when they'd be taken away on a stretcher. Among the most brutal moments was one man who had to be held back by police after repeatedly stomping on a protester.

"I've seen videos of what people have through when they do interruptions during his campaign," said Gutierrez. "But I can tell you that I am ready to challenge, and I will challenge power in the U.S., whether under a Trump presidency, whether under Fidel Castro, that's how committed I am for social change."

The rallies don't seem to be stopping. In a story in The New York Times, a Trump aide confirmed that Trump "likes the instant gratification and adulation that the cheering crowds provide" at his rallies and his team has a plan in place to keep that practice going.

In October, Trump ejected a black man from a rally after his supporters kept pointing at the man, who was to the right of the president-elect. His supporters were pointing at a black man wearing sunglasses in the crowd. Trump resonded by calling the man a protester, but then he escalated his language.

"By the way, were you paid $1,500 to be a thug?" said Trump. The man, who turned out to be a Trump supporter, was escorted out by Trump's security. "You can get him out. Get him out," Trump told them.

Two women were thrown out of another rally two days later. Trump supporters spilled drinks on protesters who were removed from a Florida rally. An 18-year-old half-Indian man who was a Trump supporter was thrown out of a rally in North Carolina by followers who believed he was a protester.

Armando Carmona, a spokesman for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told The Advocate that "the situation that we are currently facing with the election of Donald Trump is not to be taken lightly, his threats of mass deportations of immigrants are very real, the threats against LGBT immigrants, black immigrants, Muslims, and refugees are also very real."

The network has plans to continue hosting events and they are holding another popular assembly December 1. The organization is planning on hosting assemblies throughout the nation in collaboration with worker centers and immigrant rights organizations.

For her part, Gutierrez says she has no plans yet for an action against Trump, but she says "now I feel ready to mobilize the community."

"It would have to be a collective action with this presidency," said Gutierrez. "It has to be very strategic, very smart, with a very clear list of demands. I think this is an opportunity because, this gathering here today, it's a call out for people to unite."

This story is part of The Advocate's #TheResistance series. If you want to receive email updates from The Resistance, such as this article, subscribe to our newsletter below.

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Yezmin Villarreal

Yezmin Villarreal is the former news editor for The Advocate. Her work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Mic, LA Weekly, Out Magazine and The Fader.
Yezmin Villarreal is the former news editor for The Advocate. Her work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Mic, LA Weekly, Out Magazine and The Fader.