By Diana Moreno and Miranda Zapata on Jul 24, 2019
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“At the march, we are fighting for all the people. For those who can go and those who cannot go. For those who were given authorization at work and for those who were not; for those who are dead and for those who are just being born; for those who are outside the closet and those who are inside, and cannot say: this is the way I feel. We march for all those who are defenseless and their rights are being denied.”
The Sylvia Rivera Law Project was at the Translatinx March in Queens on July 8, 2019. In the eighth year of that protest, we celebrated the diversity of our community, creating visibility and awareness about the claim of the rights of transgender people, gender nonconforming and queer color (TGNCIQ). We fight to have more social equality and stop transphobia and homophobia. Trans people exist and we are part of this neighborhood.
To tell you more about this experience, we interviewed Miranda Zapata, a Colombian trans woman who marched with us. Miranda has been living in the United States for more than 20 years and considers herself as a strong and tolerant woman. Miranda stands out for always getting the best of all the experiences she has had in her life. This is what Miranda told us about the march:
Miranda, tell us the first time you went to a march.
I left my country many years ago. There was no one there to defend trans people and there was discrimination in many aspects. From family, neighbors, colleagues, with the police and at hospitals. We had no choice but to go to sex work and live on the street.
In Colombia, I never left safe. Just for marching people could be killed. Maybe that’s why in the first march I went to – one of the first translatinx marches in Queens – I didn’t feel safe. I was invited by a friend in the trans community. But I was very afraid that people were going to stone us, throw us eggs, run us over or hurt us in any way. At that time we were helpless. They treated me and my trans sisters badly for no reason. That fear was still with me.
In the end, nothing happened to us during that march. Maybe one or another person yelled at us, but overall everything went well.
Why did you decide to come this year?
This year I felt very comfortable. I knew we had a lot of support, and even the police were on our side this time. Being able to go was a relief. Now that I am attending different groups with trans people, I have confidence because I know that if something happens to us in the march, we will defend ourselves. I know we have the support of other organizations to protect us too.
What did it meant for you to march this year?
Marching this year meant many things. I realized that we are not alone. I realized that people can listen to us this way. There is support for us and we must look for it. Also, we must support each other.
Also, I realized that many bad things continue to happen to us, to transgender people. And what nobody notices! They keep killing us. The marches make them see us as the people we are and not as objects to use us.
How did you feel marching?
I felt very well. Although sometimes I felt pain for all of us, for trans people. For the way in which we have been excluded and even killed.
What would you say to people who like you have been afraid to march?
You should advocate changing our reality and uniting! Rely on organizations that are willing to support us. Be happy, be the person you want to be. If you want to be trans, let yourself feel that, let yourself live that! Be yourself and not what others want you to be.
I advise you to join the trans community, to find out where other trans people are, to ask, to be fearless. You will be taken into account; you will be observed and heard. Do not be afraid about how you want to look or act. You can be yourself and organizations will know you and support you. Being who you are, you can also be supported by organizations.
I recommend everyone to be part of the demonstrations. None of us should miss it. We will make them recognize us, respect us and respect our rights, take us into account and support us.
What did you like most about the march?
I liked that there were trans men. I had almost never seen them. It is important to see them because they are part of our community and culture. They suffer the same as we do and that must be made visible. They are people just like us and they have live what we have lived. Plus, they are very handsome!
What were the main issues around the march? Why were people marching?
The deaths of our sisters were the main theme, both in the United States and in the rest of the world. People think we have no value. That is why they exclude us and kill us.
Also, the demand for respect and equality was one of the main points. The need to tolerate diversity.
Also, definitely, the issue of migration is important. Many people are afraid to leave because they are afraid of being arrested and deported. That is the biggest barrier for undocumented trans people to attend the march.
I think that in fighting for trans people we also fight for others, such as people who are undocumented and those who have documents, in the end we all pay taxes.
At the march, we are fighting for all the people, for those who can go and those who cannot go. For those who were given authorization at work and for those who were not; for those who are dead and for those who are just being born; for those who are outside the closet and those who are inside, and cannot say: this is the way I feel. We march for all those who are defenseless and their rights are being denied.
Why do you think it is important for the march to take place in Queens?
That the march takes place in Queens is very important because many of us live in that area. It is important that they see us march right there, on those streets. Let them see our presence and power. We are not alone or helpless. We have rights just like everyone else. Just like everyone else we fulfill all of our duties; we pay our bills and our taxes. So why don’t we have the same rights?
Would you like to continue participating in the march?
Yes, I would like to continue participating. I would like to lead the march and continue attending. I would like to participate as an organizer and try to get more people to come. Also, I would like to give security to the people I invite that absolutely nothing will happen to them.
What have you learned from working with organizations?
I have learned that I have rights. I have learned to be more understanding with others, understand their ignorance and why they want to exclude us. I have learned that there are many more people like me, that there are trans people who happen to be trans men and that our community is in continuous renewal. I have learned that I can access support, that I can access health, for example, have access to hormones – something that did not exist years ago or we had to get them on the black market – and that we have rights like everyone else.
How do you imagine a march in 30 years?
A march with more power, with many more rights, with many more people, more solidarity from other identities, from the police, from the media. I think it will be stronger and stronger. People will understand us more; they will respect us much more.
How would you like society to change?
I would like society to look at us as human beings. As normal people who belong to the community. Society should respect our rights, respect our opinion, and respect our tastes and our actions. I wish we could all be treated the same, to have the same freedom and rights, because we all pay taxes. We should have the same rights in hospitals, in schools and with the police.
Miranda, with all these years of experience, what would you like to say to trans boys and girls?
Be who you want to be. Accept your reality so that you can be happy in life. Do not hide what you feel. Say it. Talk to experts, teachers, psychologists, counselors. Open up with professionals first and then with your parents. Do not be afraid, because now there are organizations that can help you. Do not fear the truth or what you feel. Be real with yourself. Express yourself and don’t hide. Those who will love you will love you for who you are.
What would you like to say to the parents of trans people?
I would like to tell you to be very tolerant. Accept your children. Do not throw them into the street. Support them in the best way. Understand them. Join them in their fight. Try to help others understand them. Especially the schools. Before judging, inform yourself and investigate about gender dysphoria and what sexual orientation and identity means.
And what would you say to the rest of LGBT people?
Please, let us feel your support, come to the march, and come out to the streets and talk. Do not remain silent. We are in a crucial moment, one we should take advantage of. We cannot let them overshadow us or make us feel less. Now is the opportunity for all of us to support each other. Together we will make people understand and respect us at the same time. Support us!