TRANSCRIPT: TransLash Podcast Episode 10, ‘Looking Back at 2020 ‘

Imara Jones: Hey fam, it’s Imara here. Welcome to the TransLash Podcast, our last one of 2020. TransLash Podcast is a show about news and culture from a trans perspective. If you’re just tuning in, or if you just subscribed or followed us recently, this is a great episode to tune into, because I’m going to be sharing some of my favorite interviews and segments from this past year–or has it been 10 years in one? I and the TransLash team are going to be getting some badly needed rest over the next few weeks. So in addition to this, my favorites episode, I hope that you will go back and listen to other episodes you might have missed. Not surprisingly, one way I think that we can reflect on this year is to actually hear each other’s thoughts and experiences. I hope that you will be able to do that through our podcast. We will be back with a new TransLash Podcast on Thursday, January 21 2021, where we will be unpacking the Biden inauguration with Sarah McBride, who made history as the first trans person elected to a State Senate seat in US history, as well as other guests. 

In the meantime, because this has been a rough, traumatizing year for us all–woo child–if you can, please rest and take care of yourself. And if you are in need, I hope that you will ask for help and get the help that you request. On behalf of everyone on the TransLash Podcast team, we are sending you the best for the holiday season in whatever ways that you celebrate: with alcohol, without alcohol. We are so grateful to you, and all the support you have given to make this podcast a success. Speaking of which, I just wanted to thank you for all of the love you’ve been sharing on social media, and the wonderful reviews you’ve been leaving on Apple Podcasts. It really helps us get the word out about our show. And that helps us keep bringing you all of these critical conversations. Thanks this week to Jared LK on Apple who said quote, “I am LOVING–“and that’s all caps, y’all “–these conversations,” close quote. Please give us a shout out online, on social media, or in a podcast review. And we will shout you out here. On to the heart of our show. I’ve been blown away by all of the guests and conversations here this year. But today I’m sharing with you some special moments. 

These moments are a combination of exchanges, which are either my favorites or ones that I think did not receive enough attention when they first came out when we released them, or ones which I think should be heard again by us all. So sit back and listen to the best of our Trans Joy, The News and Transform segments, along with a special tribute to Monica Roberts, whose light shines over all of our work as trans communicators, journalists, artists, writers, and thinkers. Let’s start as we always do, with a particularly heartwarming moment of Trans Joy from earlier this year. One thing that always brings me joy is trans people getting what we need to feel at home in our bodies. That’s why I’m shining the spotlight on Point of Pride’s binder exchange program. They’ve given nearly 9000 binders to trans people who need them since 2014. Tyler Rodriguez runs the binder exchange program. He says they’ve sent binders to people in all 50 states and more than 60 countries.

Tyler Rodriguez: Sometimes I get emails from folks who have gotten their binder, and they’re just so excited. And I just find myself laughing at their email. And I can feel their excitement through this text that shouldn’t be carrying the emotion the way that it is, but it is, and it just it makes me so happy that I laugh. You know, and especially right now with everything going on in the world, sometimes just popping open my email and seeing the “Oh my god, you have no idea how this made me feel!” And you know, it’s got 18 typos because they were so excited they couldn’t even see the keyboard properly. 

My personal favorites are always every once in a while I’ll get a parent. And you know, you get the subject line, you get the preview of the email and you always see “my child got their binder from you” and I always cringe a little bit. And then almost every time I open one it’s like “I can’t believe how different they are. You know, I can’t believe how happy they are now.” And, you know, as someone whose family was not always supportive of my transition, knowing that there are supportive parents out there is just…makes my day every time.

Imara Jones: Next up is one of my favorite segments from The News. One thing that fascinates me is the religious rights. I don’t know, call me a masochist, because they’re so obsessed with trans people. And they’re a powerful voting bloc that Republicans have locked and loaded. That’s why we have to understand what drives them when it comes to trans people, to take us into that mindset and explore the possibility of finding common ground with the Evangelical community. We invited someone on our show who–drumroll–used to be a part of it. I learned so much from this interview with Debi Jackson. She lived in Alabama and was a conservative Southern Baptist. That is, until her daughter Avery came out as trans at the age of four, and her beliefs and thoughts started to change thereafter. 

She is now a nationally known advocate for trans youth, and is a founding member of the Human Rights Campaign’s Parents for Transgender Equality National Council, which by the way, has great resources for parents of trans children. Debi has lent her expertise to pivotal community groups like PFLAG and The Trevor Project, through her consulting firm, Gender Inc. I interviewed Debi shortly before the election, and I was blown away by what she had to say. I hope you find this conversation as fascinating and insightful as I did. Debi, thank you so much for joining me, I really, really appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.

Debi Jackson: Well, thank you for having me on your wonderful, amazing new podcast. I’m very, very happy to be here.

Imara Jones: On this podcast, we’re not going to talk a lot about Avery, your daughter, because she is now a young adults who deserves her privacy. But I just wanted to recognize that she was on the cover of National Geographic with her famous pink hair at the time, which is one of the ways in which you were thrust into public consciousness. So I just wanted to note that at the top of our conversation here, but I’m actually more interested today in Avery’s mother, you, Debi, I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about your upbringing, and where you grew up, how you grew up, and what were some of the fundamental beliefs that animated your consciousness? 

Debi Jackson: Sure, this is such a timely topic for me, because I’ve really been thinking a lot about this this summer, for some reason, just trying to go back to childhood and remember what everything was that influenced my way of thinking and some of the things that I still struggle with around gender. And I come from a southern traditional conservative Baptist military family, always straight ticket Republican, you really couldn’t talk about the democratic party without it being, “Oh, the touchy feely people we just need, you know, to put a little bit of intellect into the conversation and everything they believe in doesn’t make sense.” In my childhood, I went to church at least three times a week, you had your Sunday school, Sunday mornings, and then Sunday evening services. And then Wednesdays were the classes to learn about missionary organizations and how to go proselytize and talk to others about your beliefs. And very, very strict gender rules like, I don’t swear, and I don’t swear to this day, because I was taught that it was incredibly inappropriate for girls to sound vulgar like that. 

Girls had to be very modest, they had to be very quiet and demure. You had certain roles that you could perform and couldn’t perform in leadership and with the church, men were definitely in charge. And I remember how this even got into family life, every single day at about 5:30 I would see my mom stop what she was doing if she was cooking dinner, if she was, you know, folding laundry, whatever. And she would go to the bathroom and touch up her hair and put on some lipstick. And at one point I actually asked her about that. And she was like, “Well, my job is to look good for, you know, my husband.” 

So that’s what stuck in my head that women have this role of pleasing the men in their lives. But at the same time, when I became a teenager and I wanted to start playing with makeup and clothing choices, it was all about modesty and I put on a little tiny bit of blush for the first time like I could hardly even see that I had it there. And my mom said, “You look like a hussy, you look like a streetwalker, you can’t do that.” So there are these mixed messages, you’re supposed to be super feminine to please the men in your life and make sure that you are performing femininity in the way that they want you to, but at the same time, a little bit too much of it or at the wrong time, and you’re suddenly called out as being inappropriate. And it’s this fine balance that you’re supposed to play and somehow magically figure out.

Imara Jones: That is a lot. And that is potentially, I would think crazy-making when it comes to negotiating gender, not only for yourself, but for the world in terms of how strict that was, and all the rules. So when you had all of that and brought all of that with you through your life, you got married, had children, worked, I believe, at Major League Naseball and other sort of all-American institution. What was it like to have your beliefs changed and then challenged when Avery started to share her gender with you?

Debi Jackson: Well, at first I thought I was being a really cool progressive parent. And also, I don’t think I ever really performed my gender in the way that my family and the church wanted me to. I was always a tomboy. I remember my mom getting really angry with me because I was so opinionated. And I was always willing to talk back and to fight and to make sure that I was heard. And she would get really, really upset with me that I was not appropriate, and that sometimes she wishes she could be more like me, but it was just not acceptable. And I needed to learn my place. So then it was really difficult, like you said, working in Major League Baseball, in professional sports, almost all of the front office staff are former athletes, or, you know, men who wish they had been those athletes. 

So it’s hard, because I’m also really petite and barely–not quite, I’m not quite five feet tall. And I know I look like a young child and kind of sound young. So trying to hold my own in meetings and things, I had to be as aggressive as possible, or at least kind of figure out how to play the game of who to talk to, when to talk to, so that my ideas were heard. When I had what I thought were two sons, I was really happy, because I didn’t really relate to girlhood in the way that I was supposed to. And I was afraid I would have a really feminine girl that I couldn’t relate to. And I also knew that my “sons” were going to have a much easier time navigating the world than I did. So I don’t know that I struggled with Avery wanting to transition. But I know that I really had no problems at all, when she was breaking the gender rules when we thought she was a boy, because I was like, “Yeah, I broke a lot of rules too, these are really dumb rules.” And I’m glad that, you know, she has a chance to be herself.

Imara Jones: So I guess my question is, was there ever a moment where you did struggle with their transition in regards to the beliefs that you were brought up? And it sounds like the answer to that is no. But I just want to want to ask.

Debi Jackson: I don’t think I struggled personally because I already had so many doubts and issues about the way I was taught to believe. A lot of times parents will talk about going through a mourning process when their child transitions. I didn’t mourn in the way that some people talk about like “I had these ideas for my child,” what I was actually kind of mourning is that she, my daughter, was going to end up feeling the same way that I had felt that there are limitations and restrictions, that things aren’t fair and you’re going to be objectified and you’re going to be sexually harassed and faced so much of the inappropriate things in your work environment. You don’t know how to deal with that. That was where I really struggled. I didn’t want my child to have to experience being a girl or a woman in our society.

Imara Jones: Wow. Given the tremendous terrain that these beliefs created for you in terms of things that you were trying to be and then things that you unraveled and realized that you weren’t, you have a really good understanding of all of the nooks and crannies of the Christian right in this country. I am wondering if you can help us to unpack why the Evangelical community is so obsessed with gender and gender identity. It seems to be very beyond doctrinal, and conflict with this idea of Christian love and acceptance.

Debi Jackson: I think it comes down to power. It’s a church that was created based on the power structures of men controlling their women, their property. The Southern Baptist Church was all based on racism. And there’s definitely a power issue there. When I look at all of the rules that end up being imposed on women in the church, it’s men in charge, telling women how they are supposed to behave. It’s men in charge, who want to have their daughters have a promise ring to them that they will be chaste until marriage, there’s definitely a sense of ownership. And I think that anything that challenges that, you know, has the potential to topple their authority and their power. So they have to continue to impose these very strict gender rules and norms as a way to maintain the power that they’ve held kind of naturally, for hundreds and 1000s of years. 

And it’s, it’s fear, it’s fear of losing power. And unfortunately, the women in Evangelical churches don’t know any other way of existing, you’re taught from the time that you can walk and talk. And even things like sex ed, I know, so many Evangelical women who don’t understand contraception, they don’t understand how children are actually made, they’re just told you have to submit to your husband’s authority. They certainly would never feel like they’re allowed to, you know, make their own decisions on who to vote for.

Imara Jones: We’ll come to the impact on voting in a minute, because I think it’s important, but on this issue, is there any hope for progress in the Evangelical community on trans issues? Or do you think that we just have to essentially, understand that we’ll be in a constant state of confrontation with them as a community?

Debi Jackson: I can definitely see continued confrontation with men in the evangelical community, but I have become part of some groups online called Exvangelicals that are people who are escaping, and you really do you feel like you’re escaping a cult, almost, once you’re able to get away from that influence and start thinking for yourself. I know a lot of women in marriages right now who are like, “I’ll tell my husband how I’m going to vote, but I’m going to vote this way in secret, I just can’t say it to him.” I also know a lot of people who are finally getting to the point where they are just leaving the church and making decisions for themselves for the first time ever. And I think sharing the commonality of body autonomy. 

Imara Jones: Hmm. 

Debi Jackson: You know, women in the church sometimes–and I know it can be said disparagingly from outside the church, but people inside the church too can feel like you’re just a breeder. And you are meant to have all the children, as many children as you can, in order to please your husband and please God, but women are tired, and it’s exhausting. And maybe you didn’t want to have six children that you then have to feed and take care of every day. And what I have found as a message that resonates is don’t try to police my own child’s body and tell her what isn’t isn’t correct for her when you have been forced to do things with your body, your entire life, and police what you wear and police how you behave and police how you sit. Don’t extend that to my daughter or other people in the trans community. This is all about us, as individuals having a chance for self-determination, and to not have to bend to the will of someone else who’s trying to control us.

Imara Jones: Wow. You mentioned that many women in the church feel compelled to vote like their husbands. It seems as if Evangelicals have had a disproportionate impact on our politics, particularly in this moment. There’s so many things that you’re describing, where when I think about Trump, he makes sense in so many ways. The muscular patriarchy, the silence of Melania, the proliferation of children, the idea of submission, and even the idea of cults all kind of accrue to him in this moment. And as we move into the election, I’m wondering what your reflections are about this movement and Trump, and the way that it intersects with gender and what kind of impact that’s having on our politics and national life. 

Debi Jackson: Mmhmm. I am – I’m hoping that this is going to be a year when Evangelical women finally stand up for themselves. I know a lot who voted as their husbands wanted them to vote in the previous elections. But at that point, we didn’t know the width and depth and breadth of the depravity that we would see. So it didn’t seem like it was such a scary thing to vote for this “strong, intelligent, successful man,” the way that he was presented to a lot of people. But again, women can see all the things that are wrong, the way children have been targeted the way women’s rights have been targeted. And I think that people are ready to take back some of that power and say, “Wow, we’ve been living under this structure in our own homes, we really don’t like it when it extends to every possible moment of our lives outside of our homes, either.” And that’s what he represents. I think when you see it within a church, or you see it within your house, it seems small. But when you see the repercussions on the much more grand scale, it’s frightening. And I hope that this is the year that people are going to stand up against that, finally.

Imara Jones: Wow. What you’re describing is that there’s a possibility that seeing his impact on a large society is kind of that feedback loop of, as you say, Evangelical women standing up for themselves and beginning to separate from this ideology, like when you take it to its logical extent, it will be society-wide, and that seems to have been a trigger for people to begin to separate from that. And included of that, of course, as you say, are the attacks on trans people and just the attacks on everyone, I mean. 

On this issue, I wanted to just end where we began, which is around this really powerful insight that you gave around your daughter and fearing that she would have to experience essentially, misogyny and patriarchy. And that is the thing that you’re worried about. And I’m wondering that now as Avery moves into teenagedom, and then further on young womanhood, are those fears, the ones that you still have?

Debi Jackson: Yes and no. She is very much a headstrong, independent thinker. 

Imara Jones: That’s not a surprise. 

Debi Jackson: She has always been one to pave her own ways, even now she breaks gender rules. And she’s like, “I don’t have to wear something just because they say I’m a girl. And I’m supposed to pick from the girl’s clothes.” So she loves the fact that she can be trans and still come back and break the gender rules. But also, I see as she’s getting into the teens and there are first crushes, and there’s trying to impress new people in her life, that she’s definitely struggling a little bit with what it means to have the world see her as a teenage girl, and how much she needs to conform to what is expected of teenage girls. 

But we have a lot of open, frank talks, we always have. And we are able to point out the hypocrisy between the way that teen boys and girls are allowed to dress and look and act and present themselves on social media and the pressures that everyone’s trying to live up to right now. So I do have fears that again, just because of our society, and because she has been affirmed for so long that people do absolutely 100% see her as a girl and treat her as a girl, that she’s going to suffer all the same things that every other teenage girl suffers from. But I hope that she has learned to be strong willed and resilient, and to speak up for herself. So that if she ever does encounter any of those problems, she can handle it or she knows to immediately come to us and that we are here to help walk her through.

Imara Jones: Well, here’s to Avery’s example of finding freedom through the breaking of gender roles. Here’s to you being a parent that modeled that and encouraged that. And I think just in so many ways, I want to thank you for coming on and for your leadership and your insights. I think that we need to hear your perspective, because regardless of what happens in the election, the institutions of the Evangelical community and just Southern Baptists in general will still be there and we’re gonna have to find a way to navigate that and to create space for us. And I just want to thank you for your leadership, and your love and your bravery overall. Thank you so much for coming on.

Debi Jackson: Again. Thank you for having me. Of course.

Imara Jones: That was Debi Jackson, who is a trans youth advocate and former Southern Baptist conservative.

Before we get to our next big interview, I want to take a moment to once again, honor an incredible luminary in our community who was taken from us too soon this year.

As I said upon the news of her passing last week, Monica Roberts was a pioneer and essential North Star for trans journalists. She demanded that Black trans women be treated with dignity and respect in both life and death through the critical conversations she started in her award winning blog, TransGriot. As a Black woman, and one of the first out trans journalists, she made space where there wasn’t any, inspiring countless trans storytellers and mentoring many. She also was a fearless advocate for our community, speaking truth to power without fear, nor favor, a quality that we need now more than ever. Let’s now take a moment to listen to some of Monica’s words, which were captured by AJ Plus, part of the Al Jazeera Media Network.

Monica Roberts: Far too often, I saw Black trans victims being misgendered. Using the words “man in women’s clothing,” the chosen name of the trans person in quotation marks. I was fed up with it, and I wanted to role model what good coverage looked like. I felt like the history of trans folks, especially Black trans folks wasn’t really told. Griots in West African culture are oral historians who are able to tell up to five centuries of their people’s history from memory. One of the missions of TransGriot is to document our history, good, bad and indifferent, and it has to be preserved for future generations to know about.

Imara Jones: Monica, we are so grateful and owe you so so much. May we take to heart the lessons you taught us and make you proud as we carry on your legacy. Rest in power, and peacefully.

And now we will end our program as we always do with Transform. Transform is the part of our show where we elevate changemakers in our community who are innovating and creating the future for all of us. Transform takes us into their world, where we’re sharing an illuminating interview with Isa Noyola, a visionary trans Latina activist and cultural organizer dedicated to abolishing systems which oppress trans immigrant communities of color. Isa is the Deputy Director of Mijente, an organization centering Latinx people in the movements for racial, climate, economic and gender justice. 

Before Mijente, so was at the Transgender Law Center, where she served as Deputy Director. She is now on the board of the Women’s March. Isa and Mijente played an important role in turning Arizona blue this year. And it’s just another reason why we should listen to her more than once and maybe sent her some champagne. I had such an important conversation with Isa about the critical need for liberation from oppressive systems. Before I share it, I want to give everyone listening heads up that this discussion does contain descriptions of graphic violence. 

Sis, I’m so thrilled to have you on today.

Isa Noyola: Thank you for having me. It’s still good to hear you again.

Imara Jones: I know! The last time that we saw each other, we were eating tacos and drinking beer. That’s not possible right now sadly,

Isa Noyola: I know, so much changed like right after you left.

Imara Jones: So much change. And then the time before that. I saw you after your talk at the National Education Association. We were also eating and drinking beer.

Isa Noyola: Well, hopefully next time we see each other in person, we’ll, we’ll do the same.

Imara Jones: Absolutely, absolutely. I wanted to speak to you today because of your work on the intersection between trans rights and immigration issues. These are intersectional issues that people may not necessarily put together. So I’m wondering, can you talk about this link, this intersection between trans rights and immigrant rights?

Isa Noyola: Yeah, I mean, I think, to me, it’s just been an always a natural connection and always been part of my experience in coming into my own transness and the community that I’m a part of’s experience. And the other issue that was like really at the forefront of understanding trans identity was also HIV. And at the time that I came out, that’s where you would find trans communities: at HIV prevention programs. And that’s where the organization that I founded came from, it was an HIV prevention program for trans Latinas. But in that community, there was so many issues around immigration, belonging and community and, you know, getting sort of the legal protections and legal rights as an immigrant. So it was like a mixture of these different issue areas that were really have impacted the community in a very significant way that I understood that they are all intertwined. They all complicate each other.

Imara Jones: You know, before we were drinking beer, and eating tacos, we were at the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, together filming for the future trans documentary that was produced by TransLash. And one of the things that really struck me and that we spoke about is the fact that within this system of gulags that they build across the United States to house immigrants, separating people from their families, in these rural places that are out of the way, so you don’t see them, they’ve kind of sprung up this entire network, and inside of that detention facility are trans people who are held within this terrible system. And those are stories that we don’t talk about very often. And I’m wondering if you can just take us into one of those facilities. 

Isa Noyola: First, it’s dehumanizing for everyone. You know, those detention centers are intentionally built and constructed to dehumanize people, to break people down. It’s all cement and concrete and cinder blocks and fluorescent lighting and horrible conditions and just deplorable conditions for any one’s spirit to break, just to torture and punish, basically. I’ve gone in there for a day tour and visits and meeting with folks individually and that, it takes so much out of me to do that alone. And folks have been there for weeks, months, years on end. And for trans communities, it’s even more sort of heightened the dehumanization process because of how ICE legally classifies our community. So trans women legally are classified as men. That’s how they are treated. 

And so the facilities where they sleep, the access to can get is often denied to transition related health care. And, you know, the sexual harassment and sexual abuse inside detention centers is extremely high for trans women, because there’s very little protections and because the guards often engage in that process as well or often encouraged that or ignored, turn a blind eye to that reality. So you will find trans women inside, isolated often for quote unquote, “their own protection” in solitary confinement, again, hours and hours in a room with no windows only allowed one hour for rec which is often caged outside, and then they are to return back. And so the conditions are, are extreme and harsh. I mean, there’s so many studies out of just how solitary confinement really impacts your mental health and impacts your brain. It impacts long has long term effects.

Imara Jones: Yeah, it’s It’s horrifying. One case, which I think encapsulates this in a personal narrative is the case of Roxana Hernandez that you were personally involved with, can you speak about who she was how she ended up in the United States and what happened to her?

Isa Noyola: Yeah, Roxanna was a trans Latina who migrated from Honduras. Her family loved her very much. Her family did not want her to leave. She had her sisters’ support, and she lived with her sisters and helping the family, helping to raise the children. But, you know, Roxana faced all the discrimination in her community. Again, she was an HIV positive women who could not get access to HIV medication and health care in her community and then also was discriminated against in finding employment. And so it was really hard for her and she really wanted to support her family, and also just wanted to live her life in a full way as a trans woman. And it was very difficult to do that in her local community. And so she traveled up feeling like she didn’t have many options and wanted to take a risk, and, at the time, joined a caravan that was migrating up towards the border. 

So she joined that caravan and, you know, again, faced a lot of discrimination along the way a lot of harassment and then finally arrived at the border, only to be met with a very antagonistic US government who was really making it difficult for asylum seekers at the time and continues to do so. She was in very delicate health. She was not getting the treatment that she needed. She ended up staying a couple days on the border. When she, it was her turn to present herself at the border, the, you know, they quickly placed her in these galeras, which are like, basically ice boxes, where it was like freezing temperatures, waiting for her processing, waiting hours and hours and hours until her health was deteriorating even more, then a long bus ride to the detention center where her health continued to deteriorate. They were not offered food. At some point, the bus drivers, the people who were driving this bus, which which was also freezing temperatures, stopped, I believe it was an In-n-Out or some sort of fast food place didn’t offer anyone any food, continued on the road for hours and hours and hours. So by the time that she arrived at a detention center, her health had completely gone. And so she, you know, was in really critical condition. 

All the people who are working for ICE did not handle her health care properly. And so in that, she died. And so she died under ICE custody. And it was not the first time that we had seen that before, of an HIV positive trans woman. In 2007, I believe, Victoria Ariano was another trans woman who was handcuffed to her bed, asking for her HIV medication and was denied. So you know, Victoria Ariano and so many other trans women who have faced death inside detention and under custody of ICE is not sort of an outlier. It is sort of a practice of dehumanization. And so unfortunately, she passed away and she died. And up until this day, ICE has not taken accountability for that. The Transgender Law Center, along with a private attorney, have won some damages. But it hasn’t been the full win that the community has, has longed for, not just for her case, but for so many other deaths that have happened inside detention and under ICE custody. 

Imara Jones: When she died in 2018, I believe that you were the person that informed her family, or you spoke to her family. 

Isa Noyola: Yeah, not long after she died. 

Imara Jones: I’m wondering what their reaction was what that experience was like.

Isa Noyola: It was one of the hardest trips. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my first time having to notify a family about a trans woman had been murdered and is dead. I’ve had to do that in non immigrant-related cases. But with this case, it was hard. You know, the family lived in a really remote area of Honduras. It was hard to get there I, you know, had to contextualize everything. And one, they had no idea that she was HIV positive. And they also didn’t want to believe it. That was heartbreaking. And then I had to explain sort of all the bruising that they had found that our independent autopsy found in her ribs, and other areas of her body. And so that was hard. And I had to show them a picture to confirm that that was their sister. 

It was, the whole, the whole event was heart wrenching and gut wrenching, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It also just was a moment of, to me it was…I told the fam I was like this was you know, this was one of the hardest things and also just like how, for me it was a special moment to to be able to share this in a way that so many trans women are not afforded to have that sort of sympathy from family. You know, I’ve engaged with families that want nothing to do with their daughter and with their sibling, because they’re trans, even if they died in a dehumanizing way. I was also just taken some back by even just that amount of love and yeah, just you could tell how much she was loved in that family, by her sisters and the nieces and nephews. And it was just an overall emotional moment for the family to really, you know, kind of understand what had happened and the the gravity of it and that she died in a very torturous way.

Imara Jones: So with these experiences that you’ve told us about, which are, as you said, gut wrenching in every single way imaginable from policy to the personal to the impact on families, and that this wasn’t the first time that you’ve had to inform families about the death of someone, I’m wondering why you do what you do. Why do you continue to fight in the way that you do? And how do you maintain the the energy, the sanity, to be able to stay in the struggle for human rights?

Isa Noyola: Along with so many other organizers and folks that have come through community organizing, you know, one of the values and principles that we function under and we we really hold to our hearts, especially in these moments is, none of us are free until all of us are free. And so that value and that principle, that guides so many organizers in this work, really sort of kicks in. You know, in those moments, I, you know, I definitely feel the ancestors backing me and giving me all the energy, especially how much those moments count to really kind of push yourself to show up for community and show up in these moments. At this point, with so many deaths that are, that surround sort of my experience of coming into the trans community and really being a part of it, death has always been it’s like, it’s something that circles us.

Imara Jones: Well, you know, you said that death sort of circles us as trans women. But I also think that one of the things that you have, which also circles us is a tremendous amount of hope. I remember standing outside of that detention facility with you. And you said that you were hopeful. And I was shocked. And that comes from a very deep and profound place inside of you. 

Isa Noyola: Yeah. 

Imara Jones: And we honor you, and thank you so much.

Isa Noyola: Oh, thank you. Ultimately, these systems are meant to crumble. And I think that’s why I said that in that moment. I’m remembering that moment. And you know, ICE and, and these detention systems are new formations and not necessarily as old as people would like to think they are or as, you know, kind of embedded and they’re actually meant to be destroyed and actually not exist. And we can exist without these harmful institutions and harmful structures that that harm us, like detention facilities for sure.

Imara Jones: These systems were meant to crumble. Thank you so much, Isa, I really appreciate it.

Isa Noyola: Thank you.

Imara Jones: You have just heard from Isa Noyola, who is the Deputy Director of Mijente. Thank you for joining me on this special edition of the TransLash Podcast. Again, we’re all sending you the best from our end to your end for a terrific holiday season in however you celebrate it. Now, listen all the way through to the end of this show for something extra. I’m Imara Jones. I am extra.

If you like what you heard, please go to Apple Podcasts to rate and review us. You heard the “and!” Also you can listen to TransLash on Spotify and wherever you get your podcasts. Check us out on the web at to sign up for our weekly newsletter. It’s fabulous, you can see videos of me hashtag you name it. 

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at translashmedia, like us on Facebook, and tell your friends and family when you see them or maybe not see them. So just tell them about us. Also, we’re taking a little break to relax and recharge before coming back in full force on January 21. I already told you all that but I’m telling you again. So you will remember we have a great episode lined up for you so be ready for us on January 21. TransLash podcast is produced by TransLash Media by Futuro Studios. 

The TransLash team includes Ruby Fludzinski, Oliver-Ash Kleine, Montana Thomas, and Yannick Eike Mirko. And the Futuro Studios team includes Nicole Rothwell, Jess Alvarenga, Stephanie Lebow, Julia Caruso, Leah Shaw, Elisheba Ittoop, Rosana Cabán and Gabriella Baez. Our digital strategy is handled by Daniela Capistrano with support from Agency of Joy. The music you heard was composed by Ben Draghi and also courtesy of ZZK Records. 

Alright, TransLash family, what am I looking forward to? First of all, we’re going out on vacation on December 18, like our whole team, all Futuro, all of TransLash, cuz we’re all shot. And even though we took a week off during Thanksgiving, and we’re fortunate and lucky to be able to do that, because so many people can’t do that. I think that we all realized that we actually need more rest. You know, rest is a radical act, there is a Twitter feed, I think it’s called Ministry of Naps, that talks about that, that’s a part of us being change agents, a part of us, creating revolution in society, small-r, not big-R, but small-r revolution is rooted in our ability to be able to rest and recharge. And I think it’s really important because we forget that these fights for social justice are super long. And we have to sustain ourselves over a really long time. So I’m looking forward to two more weeks of rest. I know that sounds boring. 

The other thing, though, that I realized, and I was like, thinking about all the rest that I was doing, or planning to do, rather, is all the stuff that you don’t normally get a chance to do over the year. And I was, then suddenly, I filled up my rest time with all this other type of stuff. So I was like, “Oh, my God, I gotta clean out my closet. Oh, my God, I need to make doctor’s appointments. Oh, my God, you know, let me go run this random errand,” one of my, one of my favorite handbags is broken. And that was like, “Oh, I can go, you know, get that fixed during these time off.” So suddenly, I’m doing the opposite where, because we live in a society which doesn’t make space for ourselves when we’re working all the time, if we’re fortunate to be able to work during this time, you know, we don’t have space for us to like be human beings and do the stuff that that we need to do in order to stay balanced. 

So all those things started to flood into my mind, and I am now starting to put up guardrails to not allow myself to do that, to put some of those things off till January because I want to create the space to rest because, as I told someone the other day, “If I’m no good, I’m no good.” That is to say if I’m not at my best, I can’t be effective. So that’s what I’m planning on doing. And I hope that you will do that and that you’ll have the ability to create space for yourself even as we all face varying levels of difficulty. Some people right now are facing really intense levels of difficulty. Even in that, hopefully you will be able to find a couple of minutes of rest because even that will help you be able to face whatever you’re facing with a little bit more of a level head and the ability to think more clearly about what you should be doing. So here’s to the radical move of rest during the holidays.

Thanks for listening. Thanks for your support, and we will be able to hear you, listen to you, in 2021.

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TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.



TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.


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