Drop the I-Word Friday Friend:
The National Center for Transgender Equality


Vincent Paolo Vilano is the Communications Manager for the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), an organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment. He recently wrote an article titled "What's in a Name?" for the Huffington Post, in which he addresses an incident in which, following a huge victory for the organization, a supposed supporter of NCTE questioned Vincent's citizenship status. She wrote in an email:
Given the name of the communications manager, I would like to confirm the citizenship status of Vincent Paolo Vilano. I hope NCTE would not knowingly hire an illegal or the offspring of illegals. I also hope that NCTE validates the cityizenship status of all their employees. If not, to either case, I then will be reconsidering my support and membership.
Vincent writes: "I was stunned, dismayed that this person, a transgender woman, would spoil a victory because it may have been won with the help of an undocumented immigrant." While Vincent does identity as an immigrant from the Philippines, he does not state whether or not he is undocumented--nor should he feel he must in response to such a racist accusation.

Although the organization does not work primarily on immigrant issues, the organization's Executive Director, Mara Keisling, responded to this anti-immigrant comment commendably by saying:
People who have names that do not sound like European immigrant names, often face disrespect just as trans people find ourselves facing down ignorance from people who doubt our authenticity. When you or I are asked to show ID to prove we are women, it is caused by this same type of ignorance...[If]f we live in a country where it is acceptable to disrespect any of us. If we want to live in a country where people aren't disrespecting trans people this way, so we need to live in a country where we aren't disrespecting people of color or anyone this way.
Mara and Vincent point out how anti-immigrant language such as this is racist and how it is replicated and reinforced in the targeting of transgender people. This type of response shows how NCTE recognizes that it is important to work at the intersections of oppression to gain liberation not for some, but for all.

In response to this incident, Mara has donated $100 to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) in the woman's name. Kudos to NCTE and its staff for standing for the equality of all people.