An undocumented transgender woman and activist interrupted President Barack Obama while he was speaking at the White House’s annual LGBT Pride Month reception.
Jennicet Gutiérrez, who is a founding member of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, was in the audience listening to Obama say how wonderful everything was for the LGBT community. Gutiérrez protested.
“President Obama, stop the torture and abuse of trans women in detention centers!” Gutiérrez shouted. “President Obama, I am a trans woman. I’m tired of the abuse.”
Obama responded, “You’re in my house. As a general rule, I am just fine with a few hecklers, but not when I’m up in the house.”
The LGBT community at the reception erupted into loud applause and cheering. The president scolded Gutiérrez, “It’s not respectful when you get invited to somebody’s [house].” Plus, “You’re not going to get a good response from me by interrupting me like this.”
People who one would think might show solidarity with a person like Gutiérrez booed. Obama escalated his open berating of Gutiérrez, “Shame on you! You shouldn’t be doing this!”
The community of the people launched into a chant. “Obama! Obama! Obama.”
Seeing how that did not convince Gutiérrez to stop trying to get Obama to address a critical issue, the detention and deportation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender immigrants, Obama asked security to escort Gutiérrez out of the reception. She was removed while many in the room stood around laughing at what happened.
Remarkably, Obama stated later in his speech, “We know that transgender persons still face terrible violence and abuse and poverty here at home and around the world.” A person in the audience shouted, “The transsexuals love you.” Everyone applauded and Obama reacted, “Well, that’s the kind of heckling I can always accept.”
After applause, Obama continued, “Seriously, too many folks are still targeted, and transgender women of color are particularly vulnerable. So that kind of ugliness simply doesn’t belong in America. That’s not who we are.”
Apparently, Obama could not have said that when Gutiérrez protested. He had to patronize and shame her for dissenting against him.
In an interview for The Advocate, Gutiérrez said it was the crowd that “most frustrated” her. “I’m just very disappointed with the way it was handled.”
“I’m part of the LGBT community, and they didn’t back me, instead they were booing, which to me was like a slap in the face to all these people in detention centers,” Gutiérrez added.
Initially, Gutiérrez did not plan to protest at the reception. She was able to get on the list of attendees through someone at the group, GetEQUAL. But she “couldn’t help but think about the conditions,” which “LGBTQ Latino/Latina, especially trans women of color, are facing in detention.”
“To me, that was the moment I had to speak up. I had to raise awareness to the President and to everyone else watching that I’m not just going to celebrate, when my trans sisters are facing a lot of violence in the detention centers. [Trans women are facing] sexual and physical abuse, and I just had to send a message.”