On March 4, the Earlham College Border Studies Program, cosponsored by the Departments of Global and International Studies and Latin American Studies, Latinas Unidas, O.L.A.S., TQPOC and Bodies of Diversity virtually engaged students, faculty and staff in an informational session about the TransQueer (TQ) Pueblo. Located in Tucson, Arizona, TQPueblo is a migrant and LBGT+ community. The organization focuses on community solutions in the fight for social justice.
Earlham College, in collaboration with TQPueblo, brought speakers Jeff Boyce, Karla Bautista and Javier Ferrer Llanos to speak about queer migrant issues. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Border Studies Program is engaging in virtual speaker series. While this creates the potential of difficulties, the Border Studies Program was able to engage with their communities without geographical limits. While most students attended the talk from their dorm rooms or homes, the speakers themselves were scattered throughout Arizona.
Jeff Boyce, a native English speaker and academic director of Earlham College’s Border Studies program, began with a language acknowledgement. Boyce addressed that all languages should be given equal representation regardless of popularity. To emphasize this, he delivered this message in both English and Spanish. Boyce then introduced the translator and explained that Bautista and Ferrer Llanos would be using a translator for the duration of the presentation.
Bautista opened her presentation by asking everyone to take a deep breath. She joked, “It doesn’t matter if you get a booger!” Then she began her own story. Bautista is a trans woman originally from Guatemala. In 2005, she departed from her home country, fleeing homophobic and transphobic violence. She arrived in the U.S. in 2005, but was detained before being deported six times. Finally, she was able to stay and reside in the U.S. At the end of 2017, Bautista was finally able to take hormones and was able to get involved with TQPueblo. She was invited to participate in the organization’s yearly summit to map out goals and action plans for the upcoming year. Bautista explained that her experiences “gave [her] anger and rage, which gave [her] strength to participate.”
Bautista explained the ways in which TQPueblo engages with the queer migrant community. The Liberation project takes a multifaceted approach. The organization undertakes all aspects of the migrant experience ranging from legal difficulties to emotional struggles to post-detention support.
Ferrer Llanos, originally from Venezuela, fled home to escape persecution. He explained that in Venezuala, expressing one’s gay identity results in immediate rejection and discrimination. Although he did not want to leave his home, he was forced to migrate for his own safety. Ferrer Llanos first went to Mexico, where he experienced sexual harassment, extortion and threats of deportation. When he finally arrived at the U.S. border, he was put on a two month long waitlist to request asylum. Ferrer Llanos spent six months in detention under horrible conditions. “If you get sick,” he recalled, “you have to fill out a request. It can take up to three days to get a response. Guards would only tell you to drink water.” Because of these inhumane conditions, Ferrer Llanos was extremely depressed and reached out to TQPueblo for moral support. The organization helped Ferrer Llanos navigate the legal system and he was ultimately able to qualify for parole. However, Ferrer Llanos explained, he still does not feel liberated. He has to wear a tracking device on his ankle; he is always presumed to be a criminal and he still does not have the documents to be able to support himself.
Both speakers expressed their appreciation for their community, particularly during the pandemic. To get involved, visit tqpueblo.org.
This is part of a three-part speaker series hosted by the Earlham College Border Studies Program. On March 11, Nellie Jo David will speak on the O’odham Anti Border Collective and on March 18, Genevieve Shroeder will speak on the No More Deaths Abuse Documentation Team. You can find the links to these virtual events in your email.