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Monday, April 21, 2014

Intersectionality and Trans* Immigration

by eliza dyer

So I’ve been so excited by the success and messages coming from “QPOCS!”’s Queer People of Color Visibility Week on campus, particularly their Intersectionality 101 Workshop. Which, has gotten me thinking about how the queer struggle that I participate in can be more intersectional and better link itself to the struggles of racism and classism. One of the most illustrative examples of intersectionality (the concept that loosely means that we all carry all of our identities with us at all times, and those identities can’t be examined separately) that I like to use is the experiences of Trans* Immigrants. Their immigration status is directly linked to their ethnicity and directly linked with their gender identity which is directly linked to their class status.
This is because their immigration status affects their educational and employment opportunities while their gender identity affects those opportunities in a different and compounding way. This means (particularly undocumented) trans* immigrants are more likely to be economically vulnerable and potentially need to resort to survival crime like sex work to survive than either cisgender immigrants or trans* citizens. Trans* immigrants who are of particular ethnic origins are even more likely than other trans* immigrants. Transwomen who are immigrants are more likely than those with other gender identities. To make this even more complex, this is all important because economically vulnerable people are more likely to come into contact with law enforcement, which exponentially raises the chances for detainment and deportation. This is just to show how useful intersectional analysis is because trans* immigrant individual experiences are directly situated in each identity status.
For us visual learners, this is a super useful graph from an awesome organization, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project:

This shows step by step how legal institutions criminalize particularly trans* people and how trans* identities can prevent people from accessing legal immigration status. This includes how trans* people have less access to secure employment, but that most documented forms of immigration require secure employment of a certain wage OR family members to vouch financial support which is much more difficult for trans* immigrants than cisgender immigrants statistically. This graph shows how criminalization and barriers to documented immigration compound to create disproportionate detention and deportation of trans* people, but also that that process for them is much more dangerous for them. This is in part because of the lack of proper medical attention in detention centers and in countries of origin, because of the disproportionate levels of violence faced in detention centers and countries of origin.

The importance of recognizing these intersectional experiences is that we can recognize how all of our oppressions are connected and the extent of the change that is necessary for the equitable treatment of everyone in our communities. For trans* immigrants, we need changes police practices, legal procedures, fund allocation to detention centers, amnesty processes, legal protection based on gender identity, and so on. Trans* immigrants have a strong and unique perspective into the systems that oppress us and we can’t get anywhere worth going without them. We can use this analysis to understand the importance of immigrant organizing and representation to our struggle as queer and trans* people, the importance of the organizing for sex worker rights, the lack of universal experiences in the community we try to represent. This is just one small look into how intersectional analysis works and what trans* immigrants must navigate, but I hope it makes the case of much farther we can go if we acknowledge that our experiences aren’t like everyone else’s and of how much farther we can go when we incorporate that into our activism and world views.

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