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Whispers of Joy: Undocumented Trans Narratives


In May 2014 Time magazine declared that we had arrived at the “transgender tipping point,” as visibility of the transgender community increased. Yet, this was hardly the tipping point as violence against transgender men and women had been part of the daily-lived experiences. Indeed, a month earlier the body of Zoraida Reyes, an undocumented transgender women and community activist from Orange County, California was murdered. Reyes’ death was certainly not the first of its kind but one that was followed by an unprecedented number of murdered transgender women in the year of 2015. This paper explores the pedagogical importance of queer and trans communities of color telling their own stories to create a counter narrative to the co-optation of trans narratives via a neoliberal framework of inclusivity that disregards the material condition that transgender woman of color face.

Through an analysis of the short-film Afuera (2016) directed by Steven Liang explores the lives of Jennifer an undocumented transgender women living in Los Angeles. The film portrays the constraint choices that undocumented transgender women face as they attempt to live their authentic self. This paper also examines what took place after a civil disobedience on May 28, 2015 in Santa Ana, California. The civil disobedience called for the release of all undocumented transgender detainees. Santa Ana, Ca. was targeted because the city at the time had a designated space for LGBTQ undocumented migrants. These counter narratives offer sites of epistemology grounded in their everyday experiences that offer both collective and individual stories that speak against power demonstrating moments of joy.

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