BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Cries of “no más a la discriminacíon” and “undocumented, unafraid” rang out in Jackson Heights Monday evening as a group of transgender Latina women and allies marched for visibility, respect and equality.
The third annual Translatina March was organized by advocacy group Make the Road New York (MRNY), and stepped off at their offices on Roosevelt Avenue.
Translatina women’s struggles are unique in part because this group is disproportionately affected by unemployment and low wages.
According to the Movement Advancement Project, Latino transgender unemployment was the most pronounced of any race and orientation group. Once in a job, fewer Latino LGBT individuals feel safe coming out at work than white LGBT individuals, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Joselyn Mendoza spoke before the march of her experience in retail, where she said she worked 65 hours a week below the minimum wage and was punished inordinately for being late. She said she is still owed $2,800 from a now-defunct business.
Mendoza also said that when she began her gender transition while working at a restaurant, she stopped getting hours.
“Now I feel that I need to hide my identity if I want to find a job,” Mendoza said.
The Anti-Violence Project (AVP) reports that transgender people, particularly minorities, also face the most severe forms of violence.
According to AVP, 72 percent of hate violence homicides in 2013 were against transgender women, all but one of whom was a minority.
Marchers traveled down Roosevelt Avenue and back up 37th Avenue, stopping on the way outside of El Puerto de Acapulco, a restaurant where one of the members said she had recently received discriminatory service.
According to MRNY, El Puerto de Acapulco refused her request to turn down their music and purposefully brought her the wrong order.
El Puerto de Acapulco declined to comment.
Unlike the larger LGBT pride parades and rallies that have been taking place throughout June in many U.S. cities, MRNY’s Translatina March is geared specifically to the Jackson Heights community.
“Three years ago we started with a dream to create a small march… to create consciousness around the Jackson Heights LGBTQ communities and allies that we’re here, we’re present and we’re a very integral part of this neighborhood,” march organizer Bianey Garcia said.
Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who founded the Queens Pride Parade that took place early in June, considered the importance of a community-centric march.
“This is the most powerful march in New York City,” he said. “This is where change really occurs. When we bring it down to the home level, where people live.”
“We’re a huge presence in Jackson Heights but we are not entitled to all the rights, a slice of the American pie,” marcher Brooke Cerda, a Translatina woman and activist, said.
Cerda said that she hopes the march and similar awareness events will translate into greater attention from politicians, more funding for transgender issues and policy reform.
“We are not recognized as human beings like any other woman,” Cerda said.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.