It goes without saying that the Latin American community has a long way to go with issues of LGBT rights, but over the years there have been a handful of pioneers who have stuck their neck out and faced violent discrimination as they bravely laid the groundwork for future generations of struggle. In Southern California, a transgender woman named Bamby Salcedo is one of those pioneers.
A native of Guadalajara, Mexico, Bamby underwent a remarkable personal transformation when she went from living on skid row to founding Trans Latin@ — one of the most important transgender immigrant activist organizations in the region — and ultimately becoming one of the most recognizable and outspoken advocates in the Latino LGBT community. Her traumatic experiences both as an immigrant and Latina, especially her mistreatment in U.S. detention centers, inspired a lifelong fight for the rights of undocumented transgender immigrants who are often categorized by ICE based on their biological sex rather than gender identification.
Now, the 2014 documentary Transvisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story gives Bamby’s inspiring voice a global platform. Bringing together interviews and observational footage, the film weaves a story of personal growth that brought Bamby from the margins of society to being the toast of award ceremonies and human rights conferences the world over.
Director Dante Alencastre and Producer Roland Palencia themselves have long CVs as activists for LGBT rights, which allows them to bring an important, critical perspective to the subject matter. The Pervuian-born Alencastre’s two previous films En el fuego (In the Fire) and El fuego dentro (The Fire Inside) tackled similar themes as they followed a group of transgender activists in Peru; while for his part, Palencia is the co-founder of a LGBT Latino arts organization called Gay and Lesbian Latino Unidos, Viva!
As transgender stories become more and more part of the mainstream, it’s even more important that we look back at how far we have come as a community, and who risked their lives so we could get here.