Sorry I’ve been out of action for so long! For me, blogging can be very tough and exhausting at times. So after full days of work, I often find it hard to motivate myself to work and write more. We’ve been quite busy round here so I’ve been out of the blogosphere.
Last week, we Tucson/Douglas/Agua Prieta YAVs had our Lenten Sojourn Retreat. For this we went out to Cascabel, a beautiful area near Benson AZ. We were there to camp, enjoy each other’s company, and the wonderful nature out there.
For the first day and night at least.
For the next two nights and one day after that, we would be out on ‘solos’. This meant that each of us would be taken to individual sites away from each other to spend our time meditating, reflecting, getting away from the busyness of our lives, and hopefully hear a little bit of God’s whisperings to us. While I was stoked to go camping, I was a nervous to be alone for 36ish hours.
I would like to say that while I was out there I spent countless hours meditating and listening to God. That I prayed ceaselessly and saw visions of my future. But I didn’t. I got bored. I pace around. Yes I did pray at times. I read my Bible. But I also stared at the grass. I looked at this one saguaro cactus for way too long (it had like 12 arms which meant it was outrageously old, but other than that it wasn’t too fascinating). And I actually learned some things. I learned that being alone doesn’t bother me at all. However, having nothing to do kind of destroys my soul. I learned that man could in fact live on PB&J alone. I was reinforced in some of the callings I feel in life and got completely turned around in others. I also learned that God could speak to us in boredom and in prayer. Two things I learned really stuck out to me though.
One was about what our coordinator Alison wisely called ‘the Tyranny of the Should’. I don’t know about y’all, but I often find myself telling myself that I SHOULD do things. I should do this or that, or I should study more of this or read more of that. So many shoulds! It can be overwhelming. But then our friendly neighborhood pastor Bart flipped that on it’s head for me. We were sitting around after lunch, waiting to be taken to our sites. I was telling about something I felt like I SHOULD be doing better. And he very calmly said ‘Ya know, maybe you don’t. That might just not be how you operate.’ It was so simple yet struck me. I felt like I constantly made myself do things that I didn’t really want to do but felt like I should do. That simple sentence of Bart’s made me feel more secure in myself and helped me realize that should can be really destructive.
I also learned that things don’t always meet our expectations, and that’s totally okay. I went into this desert sojourn thinking my world would be rocked and I would learn so many things about my life. That God would tell me everything I needed to know and show me visions of my future. But I didn’t. Those things didn’t happen and it was okay. Oftentimes we put unreal expectations on things and are crushed when they don’t happy. At first, I was upset that it didn’t meet my expectations. However, once I thought about it, I realized that it was totally okay that it didn’t meet all my expectations. Things can still be beneficial and help us learn even when they aren’t what we expected. And I am very thankful for that.
I am 24 years-old and I come fleeing from Guatemala. The reason why is because gang members in my neighborhood tried forcing me to deliver drugs for them. I refused. Within a few days, I found out that they killed a transgender friend of mine for refusing as well. So I decided to leave my country so that I wouldn't end up the same way. Now I'm in the Florence Detention Center (FDC) and I need your help to get out and meet my goals and dreams to continue studying here in the US."
- Estrella, transgender person currently in detention
"According to a November 2013 report from the Center for American Progress, LGBT detainees are 15 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than heterosexual and cisgender detainees."
Read more here: http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2014/10/14/op-ed-why-you-should-help-me-get-lgbt-people-out-detention
Detention is a horrible place for most detainees, but it can be an especially hostile place for LGBTQ individuals. Transgender or gender queer people like Estrella often face verbal and sexual harassment from guards and other detainees. Detention centers or prisons for undocumented people are divided by sex, leaving little room for people who identity outside of strict gender and sex binaries. Homophobia is rampant in these environments which creates a physically and emotionally unsafe place for LGBTQ people.
In addition many individuals like Estrella have experienced rejection, prejudice, and violent threats in their home country. When I visited Estrella at the all-male Florence Detention Center, she told me part of her story.
Estrella grew up in a large family in rural Guatemala. Accustomed to traditional gender roles, his family did not react well when he started to experiment with his gender expression and cut ties with him. Estrella moved to the city to find more economic and social opportunities. Unfortunately, Guatemala City was not a tolerant or accepting place. Powerful cartel members asked her to transport drugs for them. When she refused, they threatened her life. She fled Guatemala and migrated to the United States in search of safety and acceptance. After crossing the border, he was apprehended for Border Patrol and sent to detention. Estrella has been in detention since May 2014, seeking asylum.
Even though Estrella has faced unprecedented tribulations he remains positive and actively engaged in his community. He takes great pride in his work as a kitchen aid at the detention center, volunteering to work extra hours. As her name indicates, she truly has a powerful glow that surrounds her. Somehow, she has managed to maintain a sense of humor and generosity throughout this time. When I met with Estrella, we laughed about silly things, as he read my palm and predicted how many children is have. We daydreamed about delicious foods that are not available in detention. We cried about the abuses he has experienced. After talking for about two hours, we ended our experience by both praying for one another.
As I drove home from the detention center, part of me stayed back with Estrella. I imagined her walking back to her cell, escorted by a guard who probably inspires more fear than security. I imagined her serving food to the very detainees who had abused her earlier that week. I did not want to imagine her spending Christmas alone in a cold cell. More importantly I did not want to imagine him going back to Guatemala, where his life is endangered.
Please help us raised funds to pay the bond to get Estrella out of detention before Christmas. Give her the opportunity to fight her asylum case from a safe and loving place.
I will match every donation up to $100. Please let me know if you have questions or are interested in getting involved.
*Estrella uses masculine and feminine pronouns interchangeably.