As the title suggests, everything on this blog concerns violence against trans women.
The Trans Women's Anti-Violence Project is a trans feminist project addressing issues of systematic, institutional and interpersonal violence and oppression experienced by trans women (those who were coercively assigned male at birth and identify or are identified as women/female) across multiple identities (e.g., race, class, dis/ability, citizen-status, nationality, sexuality, age, HIV status, and form, status, or age of transition, etc.)
Ida Hammer is a writer and social justice communicator. She organizes the Trans Women's Anti-Violence Project. She presents workshops and trainings on cis privilege and being a trans ally. She's also involved in organizing against sexualized violence. She's a proud dyke-identified trans woman and an organizer of the New York City Dyke March.
DARIEN, Conn. – The plight of transgender illegal immigrants is probably a mystery to most people. But Darien native Isabel Castro is working on a documentary that will share the tale of three transgender women from Mexico who fled to Los Angeles.
“Crossing Over” focuses on Francis Murillo, Brenda Gonzalez and Abigail Madariaga. All three come from rural areas of Mexico and suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of family, friends and police because they are transgender.
“Their story is fascinating. The cultural and social pressures in Mexico just made it impossible for them to live there,” Castro said.
A student at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Castro heard the story of these women from a lawyer she consulted with on a journalism paper. She traveled to Los Angeles with other students and shot some footage for a documentary that she is hoping to expand.
Castro started a Kickstarter page to raise money to finish her project. She is trying to raise $4,000 in 40 days to help pay for a crew, travel and equipment to shoot a documentary about 45 minutes long.
Castro says she is not a proponent of illegal immigrants but believes that reforms must be made to help people move here who are unable to live in their own countries. She is interested in documenting the reasons people immigrate to the United States and the troubles they face here.
“Because these women are both illegal immigrants and transsexual, it’s a double whammy. Many of them turn to prostitution, and several contract HIV or AIDS.”
The three women in the documentary have all found stable jobs, but it was not easy. Madariaga became addicted to drugs while working as a prostitute, and Gonzalez contracted HIV. Both have been granted political asylum, but Murillo still has a final hearing scheduled in February. If she is denied, she will be deported to Mexico.
Castro is hoping to raise enough money to travel to Los Angeles two or three times and finish the film by summer. She and her colleagues will pitch it to film festivals to try to raise awareness of the struggles of transgender immigrants.
I’m very wary of cis people who take on the role of the “White Knight” while doing projects that they claim are for the benefit of trans women. I want to welcome projects by cis people that highlight the issues of violence against trans women. The voices of trans women need to be amplified by cis people. But it needs to be the actual voices trans women and not the cis directors ventriloquist vision of how trans women should be represented.
After viewing the video on Kickstarter, I feel there is reason to be concerned about this project. For instance, right away Isabel Castro follows the transmisogynist cliché of showing trans women putting on makeup — and it continues for virtually all the shot of the women, as if their entire existence outside of being interviewed for this video consists of putting on makeup and primping themselves. Later in the video, Castro says “a grand majority of them [trans women immigrants who do survivor sex work] are contracting HIV and AIDS.” While it is true that trans women of color who are sex workers and immigrants have disproportionately high rates of HIV infection when compared to others, the rate of infection is still less than a third. Obviously this is still an outrage, even if it’s actually not even close to a “grand majority.” The exaggeration sensationalizes a serious issue that needs serious and accurate attention. Otherwise it’s just playing on socially perpetuated paranoia about trans women, people of color, sex workers, and immigrants.
So I fear that this project, while couching itself in good intentions of addressing violence against trans women, still caters to a voyeuristic and exotifying cis gaze.