As transgender immigrants in New York, we know what it’s like to feel unsafe.
We recently organized the 6th Annual Trans-Latina March in Queens through the same streets where two transgender women were attacked in Jackson Heights in early March, just for being trans.
This was only one of many attacks that threaten our community, particularly transgender women of color. By our count, 20 transgender people were attacked in Queens in the last 18 months. And 22 transgender people were killed in the United States last year, according to advocates.
For transgender immigrants, the situation is dire. When members of our community try to report incidents to the police, they are routinely questioned as if they’ve done something wrong, and denied interpretation services required under the law.
Even though New York city and state are believed to be progressive and safe havens for transgender people of color, the reality is alarming. Transgender New Yorkers of color face discrimination — on the streets, in employment and in housing. When we find jobs and places to live, we have faced exploitation and discrimination by landlords and employers. The city and state have led the way on important LGBTQ issues, such as same-sex marriage. They must stringently enforce regulations and expand policies to ensure transgender New Yorkers are treated with dignity.
This means ensuring that:
Health care providers and city agencies, including schools, are trained to interact with transgender New Yorkers.
Legal services specializing in the issues of the trans community are available — particularly services for cases of discrimination because of gender expression or sexuality, or potential asylum for those whose lives would be at risk if they were sent to another country.
Jobs and educational opportunities are more widely available to trans people. The city could, for instance, offer high school equivalency classes that offer outreach and a safe space for us, and could more aggressively go after employers who discriminate.
We need all New Yorkers, regardless of sexual identity, to stand with us in the fight against discrimination.
Bianey Garcia and Mateo Guerrero-Tabares are organizers with Make the Road New York, a grass-roots immigrant organization.