The co-executive director of an organization that advocates on behalf of transgender and gender non-conforming immigrants has declined an invitation to attend the White House’s Pride Month celebration on Wednesday.
Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement Co-Executive Director Jennicet Gutiérrez on Tuesday told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview that she “very consciously” decided “not to attend” the event “because the community is under attack.”
“There are people that are coming after us, both politicians and white supremacists, and it just doesn’t feel right to me coming and celebrating and listening to a speech when there are all these attacks happening,” said Gutiérrez. “I don’t see how that can be a solution to what we are dealing with in our daily lives.”
Gutiérrez is a trans woman who was born in Mexico’s Jalisco state.
Gutiérrez noted she and her Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement colleagues over the last eight years have organized around a variety of immigration-related issues that include ending the detention of trans people in immigrant detention centers and stopping the deportation of trans people who ask for asylum in the U.S.
“Those things are still happening,” said Gutiérrez. “So, that’s why I made the conscious decision to decline the invitation.”
Gutiérrez noted three trans women — Victoria Orellano, Roxsana Hernández and Johana “Joa” Medina León — who died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody or immediately after their release in 2007, 2018 and 2019 respectively. (Neither President Obama, nor President Biden were in the White House when Orellano, Hernández or Medina passed away.)
Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic, remains in place.
The White House in April announced it would terminate the rule the previous administration implemented in March 2020. Title 42 was to have ended on May 23, but a federal judge blocked the Biden administration’s plans.
“Title 42 is still in place and people are stuck, and that’s not ok,” said Gutiérrez. “Communities here are willing to welcome them, to support them, to get them back on track so they can find their way and fight for dreams overall.”
Gutiérrez in 2015 heckled Obama during a White House Pride Month reception.
She pointed out that Biden was standing next to him. Gutiérrez also noted many attendees booed her.
“I was really surprised by the reaction,” said Gutiérrez. “I thought I was surrounded by people that truly care about change, that were fighting for the most vulnerable among us and when they were just bullying and silencing.”
Gutiérrez further described the treatment she received at the reception as “very humiliating.”
“It was really heartbreaking and that’s also part of the problem,” she said. “If we can’t get behind people who are facing so many injustices, then how are we going to fight for all of us … it’s been shown that time after time trans folks and non-binary individuals are often left behind.”
The 2015 reception took place two days before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark Obergefell ruling that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples throughout the country. Growing concerns over whether the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down Roe v. Wade will loom over this year’s event.
Gutiérrez described marriage equality to the Blade as an issue that is “very digestible, very pleasing to the mainstream.”
“Rarely did you see trans folks in campaigns and people of color in general being part of it,” she said, once again referring to the reaction she received when she challenged Obama in 2015. “So that to me was very disappointing to see that reaction and to live it and to feel the hypocrisy and how some people are seeking their own benefit and don’t really care about the rest of us.”
The White House has yet to respond to the Blade’s request for comment on Gutiérrez’s decision.
The letter in which Gutiérrez declined the invitation is here.