Sexuality in Color: Can I Tell You a Story?

sexuality in color: writing outside the lines at ScarleteenAfter my last post, I’d like to share some audio storytelling via a few podcasts. I feel like storytelling often provides greater context when trying to understand the complexities of abortion care or reproductive justice.

If you’re looking for more examples of diverse abortion stories, you can check out Abortion Diary and consider starting with the host Dr. Melissa Madera, Ph.D., a Dominican-American doula, storyteller, reproductive justice advocate and founder of the project. Melissa's spoken to over 200 women about their abortions. There’s a neat feature on the site — an abortion story map — where you can take a quick glance and see exactly where Melissa has conducted her interviews. Dr. Madera has done a great job capturing a variety of first-person accounts of abortion and you’ll likely find at least one story you can relate to.

There's also this awesome segment of the “Speak Out with Tim Wise" podcast that features none other than the queen of reproductive justice herself: Episode #22: Loretta Ross on Race, Reproductive Justice and Movement Building in an Age of Backlash. Tim takes the first 18 minutes of the episode to share some history that helps frame their conversation — which begins around 19 minutes into the episode. Their conversation kicks off with the backstory of the Reproductive Justice movement and the founding of SisterSong. Loretta breaks down the nuanced differences between reproductive freedom and reproductive rights and the ramifications these frameworks can have on the lives of black women, people of color and their families.

As a Latinx woman in the United States, I’ve had strong thoughts and feelings about the daily atrocities unfolding at the border. I’ve been plagued late at night with guilty thoughts and worry as I imagine what life is like for all the people making an attempt to immigrate to the U.S. right now.

I’ve been withholding my opinions about immigration reform from people until now, mostly because I didn’t want to be a target of trolling. In my selfish attempt to “self-preserve,” I feel like my silence and my failure to protest injustice is a clear departure from my grandmother’s idea of what it means to be a proud of our Mexican roots. Worse yet, I feel like I’ve been defying her legacy of always fighting for justice and liberation despite the possibility or the reality of personal persecution.

To continue that silence feel like an abuse of my privilege and my personal power to create change. It’s never been more clear to me that I need to reclaim my power and open myself up as a conduit in a position to uplift and amplify voices belonging to those who literally cannot speak out right now.

So, mi gente — my beloved Latinx people who have courageously decided to make the trek north — your stories matter. Please know I admire you and I respect your decision to take action in your own self-care and that of your families. Your decision demonstrates profound acts of self-love and self-preservation. May you travel safe and light, keeping your heads to the sky, for you belong to this land.

In the event you're reading this and are feeling resistance to my words of support and encouragement: I realize looking at this issue from my point of view may be somewhat difficult to understand, especially if you’ve been raised in a xenophobic environment. But trust me, the decision to leave a familiar land and head north into the unknown is not only brave, it is often the only choice a person has if they wish to survive.

This became profoundly apparent to me after reading countless stories covering immigration (like this one: Reproductive Healthcare Access Limited for Many Undocumented Women) and listening to a handful of podcasts interviews (like this one: Gender Violence Against Venezuelan Refugees Near Colombian Border Is Worse Than Expected). These narratives that helped me better have given me a better understanding of why people throughout Latin America decide to migrate north in the first place.

These stories shed light on the realities of extreme poverty, gang violence and violence specifically done to women and transgender people (like sexual assault and femicide) in countries including El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela and Colombia. People aren’t coming to America to “take" jobs and suck up federal resources. People are literally dying to get here; trying to stay alive and keep their families safe from harm. Any denial of that truth and irresponsible regurgitation of xenophobic rhetoric is not only uncompassionate, it’s downright dangerous.

Below are links to a four-part series, "Undocumented and LGBTQ”, produced by Latino Media Collective. Host Oscar Fernandez kicks off this series by reminding listeners that this is a very important topic to cover: the undocumented LGBTQ migrant community is in fact one of the most marginalized sub-groups within a marginalized group of undocumented people. These are rare first-person narratives from highly ostracized migrants. Take a listen for yourself — each of the four conversations set out to address the central question: “What is it like to be undocumented and LGBTQ+?”

Part 1 - Features Dagoberto Bailon and Crystal Zaragoza of Trans Queer Pueblo. This segment highlights immigration, deportation and sanctuary cities, liberation, and what it’s like for those who identify as “undocuqueer.”

Part 2 - Oscar has a conversation with Guilani Alvarenga, an El Salvadorian journalist who covers all sorts of issues faced by the Latinx community. Guilani provides the fascinating backstory of the migrant caravan phenomena and how the LGBTQ community is fighting for their rights — both in the U.S. and in their native Central American communities.

Part 3 - Oscar connects with Jennicet Gutierrez, trans activist and community organizer at Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. Jennicet shares the backstory and death of Roxsana Hernandez, a trans woman who died in May of 2018 after being beaten while in ICE custody and experiencing grave complications due to AIDS.

Part 4 - This is the most recent episode: it features an interview with Maria Ines Taracena, freelance journalist and news production fellow for Democracy Now. Oscar and Maria discuss LGBTQ asylum seekers, Cattrachas and refuge which the LGBTQ migrants are finding at La 72, a Mexican shelter in Tenosique, Tabasco.

That was a lot, my friends. My hope is that the very least any of us with privilege can do is to recognize that we owe it to those with less to educate ourselves, and to inform and elevate our empathy and compassion.

In solidarity,