Melina Bourdeau/THE GATEPOST
By Melina Bourdeau
Imagine waiting in a cell, in solitary con2nement at a detention center. You have not seen the sun or talked to anyone for days. What would be the first thing that you would do when you were free?
Juliàn Cancino, a transgender immigrant and one of the founding members of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, provided one person’s answer when he visited the Center for Inclusive Excellence on Wednesday Oct. 14.
Paolo Palomar’s choice, as Cancino described it in his talk, was to protest the system which imprisoned him. Cancino presented a photograph of Paolo with his 2st in the air, wrapped from his shoulders to his torso in chains.
“There are four chains like the four corners and holding the four chains, there are drag queens,” said Cancino.
“High heels and full attire and wigs at the corners. What were you expecting? We’re a queer transgender movement – of course we’re going to do that! The gay f*gs, the trans f*gs all over the place. We call these glitter parties. This is to call attention to the inhumane treatment of immigrants.”
Despite his humor, Cancino described the risks that people take when protesting, such as losing asylum status or getting deported.
“It is putting our bodies on the line,” Cancino said. “This is a violent interaction.”
In his talk, Cancino broke down the Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement word by word, deepening the term and its significance in relation to their goals.
The movement is “committed to the collective liberation of every transgender and queer Latinx in the U.S. and beyond. We are here to help envision a new world founded on the principles of self-realization and self-determination,” according to Cancino’s slide show.
Cancino, an immigrant from Chiapas, Mexico, described the influence that his homeland had on his core beliefs, which impacted the construction of the movement.
“It’s an autonomous, indigenous community,” he said. “So for half of my life I lived in this dream world, if you will, and then I came into capitalism... I came into all these other systems...The phrase that we use in Chiapas is, ‘another world is possible.’... I really believe another world is possible because for half of my life, I lived it.”
One of the differences between other movements and Familia is that they are not “reactionary.”
Cancino explained that Familia aims to proceed with the instructions, “‘come back to yourself, figure out what it is that you want and let us do that.’ Not in reaction to others, but in reaction to your core self. Then, not just about one person, but about everybody.”
He gave the example of the movement’s use of the words “familia” and “trans.”
Familia refers not only to the reclaiming of Latino heritage through the Spanish word rather than English, but also their stance on immigration. It didn’t matter who the person was, as Cancino explained – everyone was at risk of being put in a detainment center.
The trans part of the movement referred to transgender people, non-gender conforming, agender, non- binary, etc. Gender justice is as important to the movement as justice for immigrants.
Both of these elements are especially important to Cancino. He walked to America, crossing over the border and, as a transgender man, he had a second “crossing from one gender to another.”
When describing Zoraida Reyes, one of the co-founders of the movement, who was strangled to death because she was transgender, Cancino said, “she was doing immigrant rights work. For us it’s an intersectionality. A lot of us don’t think about it, we just do it because that’s who we are. The people who are doing the work, need also to be lifted.”