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September 19, 2017


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What it means to be UndocuTrans

September 19, 2017

Photo Source: @nysylc Instagram

Undocutrans: a person at the intersection of being an undocumented immigrant and a transgender person. For the immigrant community, trans health is not always a priority. For a large part of the LGBTQIA community in the United States, immigration is not always discussed. Erasure of many forms is the daily experience of the undocutrans, who seem to only become visible when they are thrusted into national spotlight for political dissection. The past year has been disastrous for trans well-being. Hatred in politics is mainstream and fervently defended at the expense of our murder, deportations, and incarcerations.

The election of Donald Trump has been a pivotal point for the immigrant rights movement. The complacency that fell upon many young immigrants after being granted DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, has finally faded as Jeff Sessions announced on September 5th that no new applications would be accepted, and all protections expiring before March 5th had to be submitted by October 5th. What is to happen after March 5th is not yet known. Trump himself has indicated he would like for Congress to pass legislation protecting DACA recipients before his March 5th deadline, but for those who have long advocated for comprehensive immigration reform, 6 months is not enough time.

The response to the DACA rescinding has been inspiring. Hashtags like #DefendDACA and #DefendDREAMers have been trending for various weeks. Allies of immigrants are finally coming around to understanding that the undocumented cannot defend themselves, as the main purpose of keeping us undocumented is banning us from political access.

However, allies have been making some mistakes. A common defense of DACA youth is “they had no say in coming here, it was not their choice”; this places the burden of criminality on our parents. My mother and father are not criminals for taking the necessary measures to provide me the kind of future that has placed me at Columbia University and made me a Point Scholar. It is bothersome to hear people defending my human dignity by insulting my parents’ human dignity. Additionally, many have taken to the economic power of DACA as a line of defense, something that monetizes our humanity. As a business major, I understand the economic value of undocumented immigrants, but it is concerning to see millions of people minimized as profits. The pursuit of profits in the name of American exceptionalism have caused the drug wars and unauthorized migration that created this immigration crisis. Human dignity should be our allies’ main cause for allyship, not how I help their stocks.

Sometimes it’s difficult to handle both anti-immigrant developments and anti-trans developments, such as Trump’s transgender military ban. In these dark times, we reach out for love and affection, something trans people are often denied by cisgender people, whether they’re queer or not. Transgender women are not women enough for cishet men, are too fem for cis queer men, or too masculine for cis queer women. Even those who are open to dating trans women make hormones a requirement. The gender binary continues to ensure our loneliness and fetishization, and I make no distinction between this romantic exclusion and the rates by which transgender women of color are ironically pushed to sex work, arrested, or murdered. Despite leading a movement focused on “love”, the LGBQ community does not always apply that to transgender people.


Source: @nysylc Instagram


The undocutrans are not going anywhere, but the powers we are fighting are clearly much stronger than we are on our own. I urge immigration allies to donate to DACA renewal funds, as well as contacting their representatives to pass immigration reform that not only protects DACA recipients, but their parents, the undocumented parents of citizen children, and the rest of the 11 million undocumented immigrants that do not plan on leaving the United States any time soon. I urge cisgender queer people to drop the binary, and stop seeing trans people for our genitalia and clothing, and instead for who we are and what we need. We too deserve to be loved. The undocutrans live on a timeline that does not allow us to go unnoticed or unwanted, and while we have done a fantastic job at ensuring our own liberation, we’re stronger when we are not alone.


This post was written by KPMG Point Scholar Ximena Ospina Vargas.

Ximena is an undocumented trans activist and student seeking to amplify the visibility of the queer immigrant community. She is studying Business at Columbia University, where she was involved in the creation of the school’s first formal undocumented student group. Read more about Ximena here.

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