Oh, the media is ridiculing Jennicet Gutiérrez, an activist and protester that President Obama shushed during an event last night. That is, if and when they bother to use her name or discuss things like issues.
Few are reporting what Ms. Gutiérrez was speaking about. That must change. I will try to do my part with this column. The issues she spoke about at the event deserve attention and, more important, action now. There is a community that is suffering terrible harm right now as I type this simply because its members are different and are seeking a new life in a new country that they hoped would be safer for them.
The President handled the protest that she launched into—alone, with no support from anyone—during a dinner last night at the White House in an almost tolerant/amusingly annoyed way, which is fine, I suppose, but not many are reporting what the event was: the White House was publicly hosting a Pride Month event, which is a sentence that I never thought that I would ever be able to type. This makes me happy.
Of course right-wingers are stomping angry today that the President scolded Ms. Gutiérrez with the phrase, “my house.” The President pointed out that when a person is invited to a person’s house and enjoys the hospitality, perhaps this is not the best time to start complaining about well, anything.
Right-wing heads have been exploding over this “my house” phrasing all day. Good. This makes me happy, too. Go to YouTube and peruse the nasty comments at the bottom of this video clip:
I’ll go ahead and supply two sample quotes. “Not Obama’s house. It’s the peoples house and Obama’s our servant,” one person typed. And “carlindelco” typed, “His house?? It’s the people’s house!! He has NO regard for law, the American people he has NO class whatsoeverHe is arrogant immoral manchild” (Punctuation retained out of respect for the writers.)
Right-wingers can’t pick which part of the whole scene is causing their heads to explode more over: 1. A Pride Month event at the White House, 2. An immigrant transgender activist who was invited to an event at the White House and protested his policies there, or 3. The President saying, “my house.” Dingdingding! It looks like Fox News picked the President’s phrase as the “Winner of the Things We Do Not Like Today” Award of the Day.
This anger at his use of the phrase, “my house,” gives them cover to ignore what the story really is about.
What the story is about is heartbreaking, and it can be stopped immediately with executive action; laws can be passed and implemented, sure, but the President can act on what Ms. Gutiérrez was speaking about tonight. Right now. And that is what she was telling him over his shushing of her.
So here was a room full of people representing communities that have had to scream for decades merely to be heard slightly as loud as a whisper. Jennicet Gutiérrez simply continued the yelling. She called out, “President Obama, release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention and stop all deportations.” And she was shouted down by others in attendance and escorted out while the crowd chanted “O-ba-ma” in support of a President, who by doing anything at all on behalf of the LGBTQ community is doing more than all 43 presidents before him combined. Heck, by simply mentioning the LGBTQ community he is doing more than almost all 43 of his predecessors.
Which side would you be on? With those applauding because progress is taking place, or with those who know how damn much remains to be done before resistance and protest are no longer necessary?
It is probably more of an indication of my complete and self-willed naiveté that I notice the President gave Ms. Gutiérrez more than a minute to stop, during which he was shushing her, I concede, but she brilliantly and bravely used that minute like the bright spotlight that it was to continue to make her points. Finally, he asked for her to be escorted out and she was.
But this story can be changed, now. That is why she was protesting. That is why her community is impatient. We all should be angry about this story. Think Progress gives some difficult-to-read statistics about the LGBTQ immigrant population: “LGBTQ immigrant detainees are uniquely vulnerable to abuse, including sexual assault, while in custody. Between October 2009 and March 2013, 40 percent of sexual assault allegations went unreported by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in detention centers, a Government Accountability Office report found. In prison settings, nonhetereosexual prison inmates report sexual assault at higher rates than heterosexual inmates, a finding backed up by the Bureau of Justice Statistics which found that almost 40 percent of transgender inmates in prisons are sexually assaulted.”
That’s prisons. What about undocumented LGBTQ immigrants? “Facilities place LGBT immigrants in administrative segregation, or solitary confinement, in an attempt to protect them from the general population, a 2013 Center for American Progress report stated. There are also cases where transgender women are housed in men’s detention facilities. LGBT and HIV-positive detainees also receive inadequate medicare care in immigration detention facilities. In 2007, an HIV-positive female transgender Mexican immigrant ‘died while shackled to a bed’ after officials refused to give her medical attention and her medication, the Washington Post reported at the time. Transgender detainees have also noted that they are sometimes denied hormone treatment, in violation of the Eight Amendment’s requirement that they receive ‘adequate medicare care’ in detention.”
Further, “because ICE officers have the final say, they choose to detain LGBT people more than two-thirds of the time in cases where the recommended guidelines were for release. The CAP report also found that ICE overrode recommendations for release in ‘7.6 percent of cases for the general population. The rate for LGBT detainees was more than twice this, at 19 percent.'”
The beatings and medical non-attention are the worst, but that last part is heart-breaking. ICE bureaucrats regularly make the decision to keep LGBTQ detainees in prison, even when all other factors and officers from other agencies recommend that the person be released from custody.
The Think Progress article tells of an asylum seeker from Azerbaijan, which criminalizes being LGBT, and quotes him: “When you put me in jail and keep me when I didn’t do anything, when I didn’t commit any crime, when you put me in jail and keep me in a freezing room like a refrigerator. You don’t expect that from this. I kind of expect that from Azerbaijan police.” He was seeking political asylum and received injuries instead.
These people are who Jennicet Gutiérrez was speaking for. They deserve to be heard. She deserves to be heard.
She wrote an article in the Washington Blade today, “I interrupted Obama because we need to be heard.” She writes, “I spoke out because our issues and struggles can no longer be ignored.”
She continues, “It is heartbreaking to see how raising these issues were received by the president and by those in attendance. In the tradition of how Pride started, I interrupted his speech because it is time for our issues and struggles to be heard. I stood for what is right. Instead of silencing our voices, President Obama can also stand and do the right thing for our immigrant LGBTQ community.”
She was shushed, but this column stands as a little proof that she was heard.
Breaking the chains of shame, I found my voice and I bring along the voices of my community who are so often silenced. #Not1More
— Jennicet Gutiérrez (@JennicetG) June 25, 2015
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