More than three years after interrupting President Barack Obama, transgender Latina activist Jennicet Gutiérrez is once again taking aim at a White House she deems incapable of protecting her community.
On Wednesday night, Gutiérrez spoke to a group of 30 students and faculty, recognizing the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) in a program titled “Power, Joy, & Mobilization,” and participated in a Q&A session moderated by Stephen Chao ’19. This discussion and vigil recalled those lost to discrimination and related violence, but continued encouraging forward movement from mourning.
As the guest speaker for Princeton’s TDoR program, Gutiérrez discussed the power of community and the joy it brings but stressed most of all the necessity of mobilizing such power and joy to make a difference in the lives of transgender individuals. As an organizer for Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Gutiérrez said she hopes to uplift and bring forth the voices of trans women of color within the current state of U.S. politics and society to secure the future freedoms and rights of transgender people.
“The only to change the system, is to listen to those most harmed by it,” Gutiérrez said in her opening statements. True to the objective of Familia, she further stated that “no one is free until everyone is free,” calling for all people to take risks and strategically challenge those in power to protect their communities.
Challenging those in power, however, can be a difficult task for many, according to Gutiérrez. In response to a question from Chao, she identified the Trump administration’s proposal to define gender as biological and determined solely by genitalia at birth, effectively dissolving past attempts at transgender protections, as a particularly recent instance of a problem requiring such a challenge to power.
Gutiérrez responded to the Trump administration’s actions by stating that she doesn’t believe “that the government has any right to define our existence.”
In a more direct and visible example of this resistance, Gutiérrez explained that Familia is working towards the goal of its “first ever national gathering” to take place in Philadelphia.
In tune with this upcoming mobilization, Gutiérrez discussed the current position of the Transgender Day of Remembrance and how such an event can already be seen changing within the context of modern activism.
The “Transgender Day of Resilience” title has been considered to replace the current Day of Remembrance in order to more fully embody the heightened passion for change within the current political climate, according to Gutiérrez.
Gutiérrez mentioned the partner organization “Forward Together,” a group of artists in activism working with Familia to promote this shift in framing the day’s narrative, hoping to inspire transgender individuals seeking a more welcoming community.
Following Gutiérrez’s speech, the program moved to a candlelight vigil, with one candle lit as each of the 35 names of murdered transgender people were read. Candles were also lit to honor trans women in Pakistan and trans women in India.
Gutiérrez ended by challenging University students to engage in this shift in narrative. She encouraged students to attend her workshop, discussing her work within Familia and how students can organize to advocate for trans and queer immigrant communities.
The workshop takes place Thursday, Nov. 15, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the LGBT Center’s Rainbow Lounge.