If you’ve ever read or seen a TV program about our penal incarceration system, you know that what goes on in jails and prisons is the stuff of nightmares. And it is increasingly coming to light that what goes on in immigration detention is not so different. In a sense, this revelation may not be very shocking considering that in 2009, about half of immigration detainees were held in detention centers operated by private entities—typically those that focus on criminal corrections “solutions”—while the other half was actually housed in jails or prisons. But despite the increasingly clear similarities between our criminal and immigration detention systems, including an awareness that sexual abuse in immigration detention is a widespread phenomenon that continues to occur, largely with impunity, there is resistance from various quarters to applying the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to immigration detainees. Women and LGBTQ detainees, in particular, will continue to pay with their dignity so long as PREA’s application to immigration detention is not ensured.
Archive for the ‘LGBTQ’ Category
The National Center for Transgender Equality has partnered with the League of United Latin American Citizens to bring us a closer look at the Latin@ respondents of their critical and groundbreaking National Transgender Discrimination Survey, and the findings show some pretty sobering truths about the reality of being Latin@ and Trans. Trans Latin@s were among the most vulnerable of the survey’s respondents to harassment, abuse, and violence; often live in extreme poverty; and were affected by HIV in devastating numbers.
The vast majority of Latin@ respondents with experience being transgender students reported harassment in school, and many reported physical and/or sexual assault in school. In fact, 21% reported harassment so severe that it led to leaving school altogether. The data also show that respondents who were harassed and abused by teachers in K-12 show worse health outcomes than those who did not report such abuse.
Perhaps the most devastating piece of information garnered from this new analysis is that 47% – nearly half of all respondents – reported having attempted suicide. We have got to do better. The combined forces of racism, xenophobia and transphobia are devastating to the health and lives of trans folks in our communities, and we must work to eliminate these structural barriers. This is reproductive justice – we must work towards salud, dignidad y justicia for everyone in our communities.
Last week, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement telling their members that they should be prepared to treat transgender patients or refer them to physicians who might be able to do so.
“Transgender patients have many of the same health care needs as the rest of our patients,” said Eliza Buyers, MD, former member of The College’s Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women who helped develop the new recommendations. Health outcomes for the transgender community are very poor due to their lack of access to health care, noted Dr. Buyers. “It would be wonderful if all transgender patients had the resources to be seen in a specialized clinic, but the reality is that many forgo care because they don’t. By increasing the number of ob-gyns providing care to transgender patients we can help improve the overall health of the transgender community.”
This is great news, and hopefully represents a general shift in the way providers serve LGBTQ patients. As we have said in the past, LGBTQ Latin@s do have specific reproductive health needs, and it is important that provider organizations are helping to prepare their members to attend to the needs of this population. Of course, much more is needed for providers to be fully trained on LGBTQ health – LGBTQ health needs to appear in medical school curricula, providers need to be culturally competent to the multiple communities that LGBTQ folks are a part of – but this represents a great start.
As a reproductive justice organization working in the Latin@ community, people often ask us what we do to get people to understand such complex and intertwined issues such as abortion, immigration, and LGBTQ liberation. It is true that these issues are complicated. The way we talk about them is nuanced, they ways in which they connect are varied and intricate. But the reason we advocate for our issues in this way is not to overly complicate, but rather because this is the way we live our lives. As renown freedom-fighter Audre Lorde once said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
Our communities understand the complex nature of these issues because it’s the way our lives play out – we are a sum of identities and realities that make us who we are. In fact, it’s the fact that we speaking about many different issues in the context of each other that facilitates our community’s connection to our work.
We want to share this video of Felipe Matos after the pilot of our training on LGBTQ liberation and reproductive justice this summer as an example of those connections, and the natural ways they play out in the lives of Latin@s in the United States. Thank you so much, Felipe, for spending a beautiful Friday evening in Miami with us, and for your dedication to our movements for justice.
Anti-immigrant rhetoric frequently dehumanizes immigrants, erroneously reducing them to individuals who only take from our society without giving and ignoring the valuable contributions immigrants make as workers, spouses, parents, and friends. Proponents of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) often cite family values as a rationale for denying same-sex couples legal recognition, human dignity, and equal rights. Yet denying individuals the right to have a family just because of who they love—and denying children homes just because of who their parents love—is truly at odds with family values.
We applaud efforts like that of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who, along with 132 members of the House of Representatives, recently filed an amicus brief in the pending court case challenging DOMA’s constitutionality. Although the Obama administration and Attorney General Holder announced earlier this year their conclusion that DOMA is unconstitutional, and the Department of Justice has abandoned its defense of the legislation in several court cases, others in government have deemed state non-recognition of same-sex couples and their children a priority. But attention is not the only resource diverted to this debate: in these times of economic austerity and deep cuts to cutting social safety programs, the original salary cap for legal counsel defending the constitutionality of DOMA have been tripled to a maximum of $1.5 million. On November 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee will take another step in this important fight against DOMA as committee members begin debate and mark-up on S. 598—a bill that would repeal Section 3 of DOMA and incorporate language that provides for some same-sex relationship recognition under federal law. Bringing down DOMA is integral to recognizing the invaluable contributions that immigrants and LGBTQ—and their families—make in the United States.
LGBTQ people have been a part of movements for reproductive health and justice for as long as these movements have existed, and we are proud to honor that work and highlight the issues that LGBTQ Latin@s face when it comes to reproductive health and justice.
Though some might say that reproductive health issues aren’t queer issues at all, we believe that this could not be further from the truth. The heavily gendered nature of reproductive health services, employment discrimination, and family recognition are all issues that affect LGBTQ people’s health and their access to quality care, and it’s time for reproductive health, rights and justice organizations to recognize and fight against these barriers. Immigration, too, places a set of barriers specific to LGBTQ communities, such as access to health care, safety in detention centers for transgender and gender-nonconforming people, and family reunification policies that do not recognize LGBTQ families.
At the same time, it is important to acknowledge the resilience of LGBT Latin@s and communities of color, who are resisting exclusionary systems and recognizing reproductive justice as a critical issue in their communities.
Our new issue brief highlights research and provides analysis on these and other issues affecting LGBTQ Latin@ communities – take a look!
Despite a devastating loss on the DREAM (the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health applauds the Senate’s 65-31 vote on Saturday to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT). DADT is the law that forces LGBT military members to hide their sexuality at the risk of losing their careers.
Latinas have been devastated under DADT because women and racial minorities are particularly vulnerable under the law. Although women make up only 14% of the Army, for example, women received 46% of the Army’s DADT discharges in FY 2009. And while 20% of Air Force personnel are women, almost half of its discharges under the policy last year were women. These trends are similarly disproportionate for racial minorities.
We join activists in celebrating this bittersweet victory while continuing to work toward the day when human rights and justice will be within reach for all who call the U.S. home.
Today is the seventh annual Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, and NLIRH would like to invite you to a free event we have co-sponsored with the Sex Workers’ Outreach Project of New York City and other fabulous organizations to commemorate the day. Please join us to hear fabulous speakers, join a community speak-out, and remember those we have lost:
Metropolitan Community Church of New York
446 W 36th st (between 9th & 10th aves), New York, NY 10018
Ending violence against sex workers in particular, and sex workers’ rights in general, are matters of reproductive justice. Some sex workers have specific health care needs that often go unmet because of the clandestine nature of their work, or the stigma faced at doctors’ offices; some are forced to work in unsuitable or unsafe conditions; and others work in environments where they are unable to organize for adequate wages. Though much violence against sex workers is perpetuated by clients, it is important to recognize that the most common perpetrators of violence against sex workers are not clients at all, but governments:
Although the purported mission of governments who criminalize sex work is to abolish the industry, sometimes with overtones of rescue, in reality the laws punish sex workers and make their lives harder.
In fact, the criminalization of sex work disproportionately affects low-income women, women of color, immigrants and gender non-conforming persons, putting them at increased risk of deportation and violence within the criminal justice system. And though much is said about women who are victims of sex trafficking, much less often is the issue of trafficking talked about as a matter of immigrant’s rights and global economic justice – the lack of which is the real problem behind all human trafficking. Violence against sex workers is as much – if not more – about criminalization of sex work and oppression at the hands of the state as it is about violent clients. The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is proud to support the rights and well-being of sex workers, and we hope you can join us at tonight’s event!
We are applauding the House’s vote to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) yesterday. DADT is the law that forces LGBT military members to hide their sexuality at the risk of losing their careers.
Congressman Patrick Murphy said that “with today’s vote, we are a step closer to dismantling a policy that is not only discriminatory but is harmful to our national security.We’ve lost thousands of patriotic, highly-trained troops…who were kicked out of the military just because they happened to be gay.”
We have been advocating for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell because of its devastating impact on Latinas who are vulnerable under this law which disproportionately discriminates against women and racial minorities. Although women make up only 14% of the Army, for example, women received 46% of the Army’s DADT discharges in FY 2009. And while 20% of Air Force personnel are women, almost half of its discharges under the policy last year were women. These trends are similarly disproportionate for racial minorities.
By Stephanie Rodriguez, Policy Intern
The Congressional Lame Duck session has become more active than ever before with important legislation hopefully going up for votes after the Thanksgiving recess. Recently Senator Robert Menendez met with President Obama to discuss his version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the possibility of it passing as legislation. One of the key fixtures added to CIR has been the Uniting American Families Act which gives LGBTQ couples a chance at obtaining the same rights as same sex couples when it comes to immigration.
According to the 2000 census, over 36,000 binational couples have been estimated to live in the US without possibility of reunification. That is 36,000 families that have been separated. Binational couples are forced to decide between living together or living in their country of residence. It is an unfair circumstance where the request for sponsorship is denied based on subjective norms of what a family is supposed to look like.
“If UAFA passes it would be the first time that LGBT families would be recognized on a federal level” said Steve Rall, spokesperson for Immigration Equality.