Pride in Mourning: On the Death of Transgender Activist Roxsana Hernández in an ICE Detention Center
June 13, 2018
Pride is much more than the corporate capitalist fantasy of young white gay men prancing around in Andrew Christian underwear at the parade: It's about honoring our ancestors, such as Marsha P. Johnson, who fought against the militarization of police. She knew that police terror had to stop. We have lost so many people at the hands of police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers because, let's be honest, these are military machines of the same cloth, determined to terrorize and murder our marginalized communities.
Roxsana Hernández, an HIV-positive Honduran trans woman, died on May 25 inside a detention center in the custody of U.S. immigration officials due to the neglect and apathy of the officers detaining her. She was only 33 years old and had attempted the arduous journey to the U.S. three times; she had been deported on all three occasions. What does it mean to lose a trans sister on the eve of Pride because she was denied health services and left to die alone of HIV complications in a detention center? Where is the Pride in that?
Roxsana relentlessly fought for her life. She made her last attempt to cross the border with a Central American caravan consisting of 1,200 people traveling mainly from Honduras. Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a grassroots organization committed to sheltering migrants in transit, organized this caravan. This organization mobilized a group of Central Americans to cross the Mexican and U.S. border together so as to protect them from the dangers that come with the journey.
Due to the U.S.'s militarized borders, this journey is a tragic one for many Central Americans. Claudia Gomez, a 20-year-old indigenous woman from Guatemala who identified as Mam, lost her life to a border patrol officer's bullet. She was shot on May 23, just two days before the death of our Honduran trans sister, Roxsana. Girls and LGBT folks are especially vulnerable because they become easy targets for human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
The LGBT communities in Central America are some of the more terrorized political/social groups on the continent. According to Reuters, "In Honduras, at least 264 LGBT people have been killed since 2009." This type of persecution is driving hundreds of LGBT people to flee north; only then can they try to avoid gang violence and discrimination, as well as seek better HIV services.
Victoria Castro, health educator for El/La Para TransLatinas, attended a vigil for Roxsana Hernández in San Francisco, and said that denying health services to a trans woman simply because she is in a detention center is inhumane. She also shared that trans women need better health services and better access to HIV medicine, which is why they risk their lives to make that journey to the U.S. in the first place. Their situation is a catch-22, because they either run the risk of dying in their home country or face dangers on their journey to a country that might not even support them.
The death of Roxsana has made an impact on the lives of trans women all over Latin America. For example, Alexandra De Ruiz, an activist born in Mexico but raised in California, organized a vigil in honor of Roxsana. De Ruiz was a founder of El/La in San Francisco before moving back Mexico City, where she now works as both an academic and activist. This past Wednesday, people transnationally united to honor Roxsana, and Mexico City was one of the cities where activists organized a community response to her death. In the press release that was sent out to the Mexico City media, De Ruiz and other organizers, such as Abigail Madariaga, declared:
The death of Roxsana Hernández has stirred a wave of rage among the LGBTQ community, in particular our migrant trans sisters who can empathize with Roxsana's story. Jennicet Eva Gutierrez, another trans activist, who is located in Los Angeles, has helped create two hashtags in honor of Roxsana -- #JusticeForRoxana and #AbolishICE. As we march and remember why are proud of our multi-faceted differences, let us also remember our trans sisters who have had to die in the hands of these institutions. Their deaths are not in vain. Let us march with our trans community and show them that we are here every step of the way.
Roxsana Hernández presente!
Giuliani Alvarenga is a UC Berkeley alumnus who double majored in English and Gender & Women's Studies. He is a Sidley Austin Pre-Law Scholar and wrapping up his two-year clerkship with Munger, Tolles, & Olson before he begins law school.
This article was provided by TheBody.
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