As part of a global movement toward trans visibility, an internationally recognized transgender Latina activist paid SF State a visit Thursday for the only Bay Area screening of a film documenting her story.
Students gathered at the Richard Oakes Multicultural Center to watch Dante Alencastre’s film “Transvisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story,” which chronicles Salcedo from her drug addiction to becoming a leader for transgender rights.
Salcedo’s confidence in her male-to-female transition has inspired others in the transgender community to come out, resulting in increased visibility, according to the documentary.
“Yes, there is visibility, but we are not getting what we should get,” said Salcedo. “Those structures that govern our societies and our lives are not changing.”
Salcedo walked in at the end of the film and greeted every person in the room with a hug to thank them for attending before she took questions from the audience.
The gratitude was reciprocated with one student in particular, Itza Muñoz, who shared her experience with a high school friend who committed suicide. She attributed this to a lack of support and resources for transgender youth.
“I had a friend who passed away three years ago, era una (she was a) Latina transitioning from male-to-female,” said Muñoz. “Unfortunately I lost her due to self-violence since she committed suicide, and it hurts me so much because all these resources that I’m learning about now weren’t available to us.”
To present positive images of transgender youth, Salcedo initiated Angels of Change, an annual fundraising calendar.
“They are told for so much of their life that who they are is not okay, and to have an experience where they’re being celebrated for who they are is life-changing,” said Johanna Johnson, M.D. of the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles.
The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, the largest survey of gender non-conforming and transgender people to date, found attempted suicide rates are highest among transgender youth. Transgender youth from 18 to 24 years old reported a 45 percent rate of attempted suicide.
Salcedo, who is currently a student at California State University Los Angeles, said the scarcity of resources catering to the transgender community deals directly with the invisibility of transgender people.
“We don’t know how many trans people are in the world, in the United States,” she said.
One of Salcedo’s most recent contributions in policy regarding transgender rights was advocating for the 2010 “We All Matter, We All Count” campaign, in which the US Census Bureau agreed to start collecting and forming data inclusive of the transgender community.
“We need to focus on the day-to-day realities that affect queer and trans folks,” said Cassidy Barrington, founder of the former Queer Resource Center. “Every time you open Facebook or open the newspaper, another transgender woman — it’s usually a transgender woman — has been beaten or killed, or has been arrested because she was defending herself during an attack.”
Barrington graduated from SF State last semester, but not before she worked to change the name of the Queer Resource Center to the Queer and Trans Resource Center.
She explained that the term queer is generally a sexuality-related identity, whereas transgender is a gender-based identity.
“To not give (transgender) people a name of their own, to just subsume them into that umbrella is at the heart transphobic,” Barrington said.
The growing number of freshman students who identify as transgender and question their gender identity led to a weekly group called Gender Spectrum for transgender, gender queer, non-binary and gender questioning people, according to QTRC Director Sebastián Francisco Ochoa-Kaup.
“I think here at SF State there’s a general theme of the school not seeing a need to having a QRC or QTRC because we’re in San Francisco,” said Ochoa-Kaup. “There’s this idea that we’re more liberal, we’re more safe even though it’s not true at all. It ignores all the oppressive factors that are at SF State.”
Salcedo ended her talk with a personal piece of written expression called “Aquí Estoy (I am here)” and announced plans for a National Trans Lives Matter Day of Action November 18 to demand comprehensive investigations of murdered transgender people.
“Stop killing us,” Salcedo said. “It is our given right to exist.”