By Natalia Muñoz
In June 2015, many in the LGBT communities nationwide were in a particularly celebratory mood. As has become an annual custom, New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio hosted a rocking party at Gracie Mansion prior to the city’s mega Pride march.
And President Obama hosted a party at the White House.
Obama’s solidarity with the LGBT communities has become quite solid.
When he was a candidate for the presidency, however, he was leaned toward obfuscation, disingenuously opting to describe his views about LGBT rights as “evolving.” He probably has always been a supporter but in politics, there is a thinking that being 100 percent honest about civil rights is a dangerous stand to take while in candidacy mode.
It felt offensive then and recently, I was reminded of the president’s unflattering recurring need for self-aggrandizement – as if being president was not enough. It came at the expense of a courageous woman, an undocumented transgender woman from Mexico.
Obama’s remarks to someone shouting from deep in the crowd gathered in the White House as he spoke about LGBT inroads were indecorous, and even bullying.
Of all the times to lose his cool, it is distressing that it wasn’t against racists ranters, it wasn’t against haters, it was against an undocumented transgender woman.
The person shouting to him was Jennicet Gutiérrez, who, on behalf of undocumented transgendered people in immigration prisons, pleaded with Obama to let them go because their lives are in danger by being placed in the same cells as homophobic violent people.
The T community suffers violence all the time but it is a non-story for major corporate media outlets.
Obama’s response to her pleas?
“No, no, no, no, no. Hey, listen, you’re in my house,” Obama told her. “Shame on you.”
That’s what she got for her activism from the former South Side community organizer. Haughty talk from the now president
The incident exploded on LGBT media and social media, with many people criticizing Gutiérrez, a founding member of FAMILIA TQLM, an immigrant rights organization, for interrupting the president.
Secret Service guards removed Gutiérrez from the White House as Vice President Biden guffawed along with the crowd of mostly white gay males.
Obama’s conduct at the LBGT celebration – of all places – was just sickening.
If instead of cutting her off, he would have made an effort to listen as he has in other situations, he would have learned about what mattered to her and people like her. Instead, he made it about himself, delighting the crowd with childish retorts about this being his party and he being the one who bought the apps and drinks, so everyone needs to shut up and applaud him.
It’s not an easy job being president, being a black president. Far harder being an undocumented trans woman trying to raise human rights issue.
I get it: Obama gets disrespected all the time because of the color of his skin. But this was not one more time; this was a person, a transgender woman of color, trying to right a heinous wrong.
When progressives interrupted W for making wars and a litany of other painful and lethal mistakes, I didn’t see anyone stand up for him. When he dodged a shoe thrown at him, progressives cheered.
It seems no one knows history anymore.
ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) was formed in the 1980s to push then President Ronald Reagan to address the health crisis killing gay men by the thousands. Everything they achieved was through daring interruption of the status quo.
I suggest to those who defend Obama’s bullying to read the history of ACT UP, and then take a moment to check their reactions against Jennicet.
Human rights are not gained solely in polite company, or at the “right time, right place.” It takes courage to face down police with clubs and bullets. It takes a resolve we are rarely asked to conjure these days to fight for what you believe in, and transcend the fear of being hurt or killed.
If you still feel inclined to defend the most protected man on the face of the earth who was being called to task by one of the most vulnerable people on the planet, read more about the LGBT history because clearly you do not have a sense of all the people who were beaten up, imprisoned, tortured, marched, interrupted formal events, were arrested, lost their jobs, and their lives, so you could, today, be a proud fool.
And one more thing: President Obama: Keep your hors d’oeuvres and drinks. They’re on me. I’m one of taxpayers who bought them for everyone.
Shame on you.
This column originally appeared in The Rainbow Times.