FEM(ME) eventkicks off LA Pride by celebrating LGBTQ+ women and raising awareness of collective struggle.
By Jorge Paniagua
Violence against transgender people, specifically transgender women, continues to be an unyielding issue across the country. In 2018 alone, 26 transgender people were killed in the United States. This year, the number of transgender deaths, caused by either violence or mistreatment, continues to rise.
For Trans Activist, Bamby Salcedo, last Sunday’s LA Pride women’s kick-off party, “FEM(ME): Fueling The Female Force Within,” not only involved her being awarded the LA Pride Activist award from the Alexis Arquette Family Foundation, it also served as an opportunity to share a sentiment about saving transgender lives.
“Yesterday, a transgender woman named Johana Medina was brutally murdered in the custody of ICE,” Salcedo, President and CEO of the TransLatina Coalition, said during her award acceptance speech. “This is the fourth transwoman who has been murdered by ICE. Joanna was a 23 year old transwoman from El Salvador who came to this country seeking the American dream. Only to come and find the American nightmare.”
Medina was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for two months in a New Mexico facility. As reported in an article by website ThinkProgress, For two months, Medina pleaded ICE officials for medical attention. However, it wasn’t until she fell unconscious, due to complications with HIV/AIDS, that ICE officials finally took her to Las Palmas del Sol Hospital in El Paso, Texas where she later died.
“If there is only one thing that you can take with you tonight, I would invite you to connect through our humanity,” Salcedo said toward the end of her speech. “Don’t look at us any different because we’re not different. We’re part of all of you, we’re part of our society.”
“FEM(ME): Fueling The Female Force Within,” which took place at Palihouse West Hollywood, invited guests to celebrate the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ women while, simultaneously, raising awareness of the marginalization many of them continuously face.
The event, which was created by the Executive Director of Christopher Street West, Madonna Cacciatore, featured a nearly 5-hour program that included an awards ceremony, comedy show, live performances and awareness-raising dialogue.
“FEM(ME)” also showcased a screening of “I Remember Nicole,” a music video highlighting the adversity caused by domestic violence through recognition of Nicole Brown Simpson, the former wife of retired football player and convicted robber and kidnapper, O.J. Simpson.
“It was important for us to showcase this film because it speaks to that issue very positively — not to the violence but to the triumph over it,” Cacciatore said. “We hope that it will impact somebody who may be going through it who doesn’t know how to talk about it and who might need support.”
Tanya Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson’s sister, shared her disposition regarding domestic violence, and her sister’s tragic murder, following the anthem’s screening.
“We are here to celebrate, not only Nicole, but all the Nicole’s that are out there,” Brown said at the event. “The only thing that made Nicole stand out is because she was murdered by somebody famous. Other than that, it [domestic violence] happens one out of three houses that we live in.”
The event highlighted the importance of reaching out for help when faced with an issue such as domestic violence. For example, domestic abuse-survivor Courtney Allen was invited on-stage to share her story about overcoming an abusive relationship.
“I deserve to be loved by someone who doesn’t hurt me,” Allen shared at the event. “Last month I took a moment to silently celebrate six years since the last time that Rebecca hit me.” The crowd, filled with members from across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, erupted in cheers following Allen’s share.
Furthermore, the event served as a platform to recognize LGBTQ+ women that have served their community in considerable ways. For instance, Executive Director of the Trans Wellness Center, Mariana Marroquin, and Training Director at the Net Zero Plus Electrical Training Institute, Diana Limon, both received the LA Pride Women Who Lead award from the Alexis Arquette Family Foundation.
“There are only 3 percent women in the United States within the electrical industry,” Limon said during her speech. “Out of all the work that I do, that is the most important thing that I can do — to be visible, to help women to lead and to move up in their pathway. On behalf of all the trades-women and the LGBTQI+ community [working] in construction, I, humbly, accept this [award].”
An array of performances and speeches were featured at the event’s official stage including words from actresses Rosanna Arquette and Joely Fisher and stand-up performances by comedians Robin Tran and Suzanne Westenhoefer.
“It’s a “femme” event — let’s hear it for the lezzies,” Westenhoefer, an openly Lesbian comedian, joked during her stand-up performance. “This is just a crazy night to do stand-up.”
“I didn’t want this to just be a women’s event,” Cacciatore said. “There are so many strong, wonderful men and people who identify [as] gender-fluid, people who identify [as] non-binary — we’re all part of the same community. I wanted us all together in one room as much as I could get us together.”
“FEM(ME): Fueling The Female Force Within” was a creative collaboration involving an array of community partners such as Eden Entertainment Group, #IRememberNicole, LOL: Ladies of LA and Madcatch Entertainment. The event served as a kick-off party for LA Pride this upcoming weekend.
“I think it’s important for people to understand that Pride initially started as a revolution,” Salcedo said. “As a revolt of the injustices that we were experiencing. Pride has evolved into being something different — which is great — we need to celebrate ourselves but, at the same time, we need to understand that there are so many things that still need to happen. Pride should be used, to not only bring awareness to the issues that we continue to have, but to continue to revolt.”