An Interview with Bamby Salcedo
By Karla Padrón
Transgender justice, like reproductive justice acknowledges the importance of gender self-determination. I spoke to the Transvisible co-researcher Bamby Salcedo about the challenges faced by TransLatina immigrants in the U.S. Salcedo is a tireless advocate, activist, and proud TransLatina. Most recently awarded the Susan J. Hyde Award for Longevity in the Movement at the Creating Change Conference in 2014, Bamby Salcedo’s activism with and for transgender, queer, and immigrant communities has earned her a special place in the heart of those who care deeply about social justice. Bamby has dedicated her life to transgender rights and advocacy.
Karla: Bamby, in your opinion, what does it mean for a person to honor their gender identity and authentic self?
Bamby: Thanks for the question, Karla. We live in a world in which we are told what to do… we are told that blue is for boys and pink is for girls, but the reality for many people, like myself, is that, that is not necessarily true. I was told I was a boy, but when I was growing up I did not feel like a boy. I was not able to say anything because according to society, that was who I was. It was until later in my life that I was able to be who I truly am. Honoring the woman that I am gives me the realization and the true power that I possess… I am not living in the shadows trying to be someone I am not. Honoring my gender identity and my authentic self gives me the confidence to face the world as it is. Knowing that I am a Guerrera (a Warrior)! If I can be who I truly am, I can make a difference in the world because I am honest with myself and with everyone else.
K: In your experience, what does it mean for a young person to affirm their gender identity?
B: What I have seen through the [many] years working in the community is that, when young people are valued as the individuals that they are, they tend to do great things. I have known so many young people who are incredible despite obstacles that they have faced [including] family rejection, homelessness and other issues. When they affirm their gender identity [it’s] really like they can be whoever they want to be in the world and they can do whatever they want to do in the world… Validating our young people, their gender identities and their strength, validates our future, because our youth are our future.
K: What are some of the retributions suffered by transgender people who honor their authentic gender identity?
B: Well as we know for most trans people living their authentic lives means being rejected often times by the ones we love. Society sends a message that being trans is living in sin, something that is wrong. Unfortunately most of society and our families are influenced by what we are told. Too many of our families and friends think it is better to let a trans brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, wife, etc go, than to love them unconditionally. It seems that when we are challenged to think differently, we would rather go with what other people think and feel is “normal” so that people stop judging us. I would say the biggest challenge for a trans person to honor their gender identity is that there is a great possibility that our loved ones will not stay around to honor us as the individuals that we are.
K: What are some of the personal and communal rewards for honoring one’s authentic self as a trans person?
B: I think honoring a person, is really giving respect. There have been studies that self-esteem plays a huge role in one’s life. Being the person that one is, accepting oneself, being accepted by others obviously increases one’s self value and self worth. If we constantly are hearing degrading messages directed towards us, we obviously begin to believe those messages. Respecting trans people for who they are is the least we can do as a society.
K: What advice would you give reproductive justice advocates who want to form coalition with trans people?
B: It is important to understand that we all have reproductive needs. We just need to understand each other’s needs and how we can support one another in the struggle. When we unite our voices, we are going to be a stronger movement.
K: Why is reproductive justice important in the lives of trans people?
B: Reproductive health and needs are part of one being healthy and making healthy decisions, we can’t say that my needs are not important, all the needs of the people are important and we need to stop dividing our communities thinking that we have different needs, we all deserved justice regardless of who we are.
K: You are right, Bamby, reproductive health is important to people of all genders and ages. I think it is important to remember that some men have vaginas and some women have penises. Our sexual and reproductive organs do not define our gender.
Medical practitioners, counselors and everyone else involved in sexual and reproductive health should ask us how we define our gender. It is important to avoid misgendering people based on our perceived notions of what their bodies should or shouldn’t do in terms of sex and reproduction. Reproductive justice concerns all of us and it should be respectful of our various relationships to gender, sex, and bodily functions.
Speaking of being respectful of all genders, what would you want cisgender Latinas working in reproductive justice to know about transgender people of color in the U.S.?
B: I would say – Queridas hermanas, compañeras y colegas. Please know that being a woman does not mean wearing make up, having long hair, wearing a dress, or even having a vagina. In my opinion, being a woman is power! Let’s use our power to concentrate on what is important to advance our movements. My reproductive needs may be the same slightly different than yours whether I have a vagina or a penis. I identify as a woman because I am one. Our struggle and issues are what we should focus on to continue to move our community forward.
K: Thanks, Bamby!
For more on TransVisible visit: http://www.translatinacoalition.org/