Today, Trans-Latinx DMV appeared at the public hearing for the "Community Safety & Health Amendment Act of 2019" to give a testimony for our community. Thank you to all who took the time to speak their truths in hopes for a positive change for the communities who live in this city. Director of Art & Culture, Xemiyulu Manibusan Tapepechul had the honor and privilege of giving the following testimony, on behalf of Trans-Latinx DMV, in front of D.C. city council members:
Yeyek tunal. Nutukay Xemiyulu Manibusan Tapepechul. Naja ne Siiwayul Nawat. Ninesik tik Kuskatan tik ne shiwit kashtul nawi nawpual majtakti. Ninemi ka tal Piscataway tukay Washington, DC.
Hello all. My name is Xemiyulu Manibusan Tapepechul. I am a Native American Non-Binary Transgender Woman from the Nawat Nation. I was born in El Salvador in 1990. I now live here in DC, on unceded Piscataway land.
I am the Director of Art & Culture of Trans-Latinx DMV, a chapter of the TransLatin@ Coalition, in the DC Metro area, that centers Black. Indigenous , & POC migrants from Latin America. We are a proud member of The Sex Worker Advocates Coalition; and I am here asking you to support my community.
I mentioned the year of my birth because if you know a little bit about the Salvadoran diaspora, many people fled El Salvador in the 80s & early 90s because of the Civil War. Many people continue migrating even today because of the aftermath of the peace agreements were not great. DC has one of the largest Salvadoran communities in the country. People in my community are migrating here for safety.
I am also a former sex worker and survivor of child sexual assault, who recognizes my extreme privilege as a light skin, binary-assumed, person with a legal status & US citizenship. Many women in my community do not have these privileges. Many sex workers in my community do not have a legal status and are at risk of deportation. Still with my privileges, I have been raped, robbed, abused, and discriminated against for being a trans woman sex worker. I could tell you about my experiences, but I would rather use my privilege to tell you the story of another Salvadoran Trans Woman Sex Worker. Her name was Camila Díaz Córdova.
Camila Diaz Cordova - a sex worker who was murdered by police in El Salvador after being deported from the United States. She migrated to the United States, fleeing violence . She asked for asylum - but the United States didn’t believe her. Not only was she denied access to stay in the United States, but she was denied access to employment, housing, food, and so much more - like many trans women of color. Camila was deported, and had to return to El Salvador where she experienced even more discrimination. She had to do sex work for survival. And then she was murdered. She was only 33 years old.
Opponents of this bill say that sex workers “sell their body”. While it is true that many Trans Women of Color in the United States engage in survival sex work; it Is also true that many non-Transgender people sell their bodies for survival in another way. Additionally, opponents do not talk about how sex work can be an empowering profession for many- meaning, having the ability to eat, to survive, to live THANKS TO sex work. This conversation is not about human trafficking, it is about consensual sex exchange & about legal opportunity for some of the most marginalized.
LGBTQIA+ organizations have said “the average life expectancy of a trans woman of color in the United States is 35 years old”. Many trans women are underemployed, homeless,discriminated against, etc. - but this is the risk trans migrants face. This is the risk Camila took, and was shunned. For many migrant trans women of color, not having access to legal employment creates a disparity where they must do survival sex work in order to make it day to day. Criminal offenses for migrants & residents is not the same as criminal offenses for citizens. Criminal offenses are deportable offenses.
The criminalization of Trans Sex Worker Migrants of Color is rooted in white supremacy, transmisogyny, and Christian imperialism. It is easy to criminalize some of the most marginalized people. It is harder to bring justice to victims of human trafficking without scapegoating an already scapegoated community. If DC truly is a city of refuge, a sanctuary state, then sex work MUST be decriminalized. Decriminalization of sex work is vital to the survival of our community. DC must be the example for the rest of the nation to stand behind migrants of all demographics, including trans sex workers of color.
Trans-Latinx DMV asks this council to support the “Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019”.
Decriminalize sex work. Protect Trans migrants.
Thank you. Padiush.