This is my first Pride Month as an openly trans person. It is also my first year in graduate school as a first-generation student of color, as a mental health counselor, and as the Executive Director of SOMOS FAMILIA VALLE. SOMOS FAMILIA VALLE is a QTPOC-led community-based organization in the San Fernando Valley. SOMOS FAMILIA VALLE focuses on the education, empowerment, and mobilization of queer and trans people of color and immigrants for racial, gender, environmental, and economic justice.
My life is blooming and I am empowered to use my voice for social change. In light of this, it is important for me to share who I am and why I have Pride today.
Growing up as a trans child in Peru, I witnessed no Pride March; neither had I heard of a Pride Month. I was a poor, chubby, indigenous, Afro-Peruvian, trans non-binary kid who witnessed queer lives lost to terrorism during the 90’s. I lived in constant fear.
At 4 years old, I knew I was different, but my self-awareness was not given a platform to thrive with a real sense of dignity, diversity, and inclusion. In elementary, I was treated as an outsider and a “disruption” by many childcare and social workers. My parents believed the Catholic Church could protect us better as a family. However, as a religious middle school student and altar volunteer, I was persistently told that being gay and/or trans was not only “just a phase” and a sin, but an “ill choice”, a “violation of principles”, and an “abomination”. I began to develop feelings of anxiety and helplessness. My Dad told me my favorite sport, tennis, was “too girly” and for maricones. I forced myself to be a soccer athlete to avoid castigos at home, but I ended up falling in love and in a “down low” relationship with the captain of the team.
Throughout my schooling, I was heavily surveilled, disciplined, and blamed for my own victimization, particularly by teachers. I was referred to a psychologist who tried to change my sexual orientation and gender identity. Undergoing conversion therapy resulted in truancy, self hate, and self harm. Suicidal ideations quickly became a getaway to safety. I attempted suicide at ages 12, 14, and 16. Fleeing the Valley of Moche in Peru for the San Fernando Valley in California, I was determined to foster, reclaim, and celebrate Pride. I left behind my mom and three siblings to pursue a better life. My family and I have since reunited, and I am privileged to still be alive: too trans for legislative binaries; black, brown, and femme enough to prioritize mental health over violence despite all the bullying; and immigrant as f***, ready to take on Donald Trump’s wall.
However, there are thousands of homeless, food insecure, academically pushed out, hospitalized, vulnerable-to-deportation, gang involved, formerly incarcerated, and unemployed people and families who are trans and queer, yet feel invisible and unworthy of liberation and Pride. In many ways, the meaning of Pride has shifted to neglect the most vulnerable members of our LGBTQ+ communities.
SOMOS FAMILIA VALLE invites you to talk about the commercialization and corporatization of our bodies by pink-washing the ancestral knowledge, grassroots coalitions, and community power in the history of Pride. We invite you to invest in trans and queer leadership of color and listen to the lived experiences of no-income/low-income LGBTQ+ youth in order to organize for intersectional justice and liberation through cultural humility, transformative dialogue, advocacy, and civic engagement.
To me, Pride means resilience. Queer and trans communities of color are still pushing forward to defy their odds, showing their strengths, and letting others know they are not alone. They are rising up as one beyond the month of June, beyond big cities, and firmly against the status quo.
These are my resilient communities.
They are my pride.