Transgender Latinx immigrant rights activist Bamby Salcedo visited Bowdoin on Monday for a film screening of “TransVisible: The Bamby Salcedo Story,” accompanied by a Q&A and luncheon the following day. As a part of the McKeen Center for the Common Good’s series of “What Matters” campus conversations, Salcedo discussed the intersectionality of pressing transgender, immigrant and Latinx issues within the context of her work as the founder of Los Angeles-based TransLatin@ Coalition.

Salcedo shared her experiences growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico, her subsequent immigration to the United States and her struggles with drug abuse, gang activity, prostitution and deportation once settling in L.A.

“We’re running away from our countries to find a better way of life, but then we get to this country and find ourselves in the same predicament,” Salcedo said. “We want to live our lives authentically, but a lot of times other people, and a lot of times our families, don’t even understand the process. A lot of it has to do with what societal structures have imposed onto what we believe.”

Salcedo, whose life changed direction after she sought help and a health education job at Bienestar Human Services, soon embraced her identity as an activist for translatinx rights, eventually founding the TransLatin@ Coalition and directing Angels of Change, a fundraiser to support health education, access and HIV prevention for trans youth. 

Despite the scarcity of transgender, gender-nonconforming and even immigrant students at Bowdoin, Salcedo’s visit still proved very relevant, as her audience found new ways to discuss both unfamiliar and deeply personal aspects of identity.

“There is that critique at Bowdoin about the real world versus the bubble,” said Karla Padron, a CFD postdoctoral fellow in gender, sexuality and women’s studies. “This is the type of event that creates a bridge and disrupts that bubble. It’s not just that they learn these terms, but students see what it looks like and how it’s experienced.”

Padron added that although many Bowdoin students are familiar with the issues of marginalized groups and the theoretical framework through which they’re often viewed, Salcedo’s visit was instrumental in bringing them to the forefront.

“Bowdoin students are very bright and when we talk about intersectionality, people understand that at an intellectual level,” Padron said. “But in terms of diversity of experience, because of age and socioeconomic status, it is difficult to see what it looks like. We need to create more visibility. We need more people like Bamby Salcedo to come to campus, and we need more conversations about how these theoretical terms apply in the real world and how the real world informs our theoretical world.”

The screening and Q&A in Kresge Auditorium was well-attended. However, many students noted a lack of white representation in the audience.

“I noticed that the audience was mostly students of color and students who have immigration as part of their family history,” Miguel Aviles ’16 said. “If this place is about all these experiences and learning about them and the world, then I feel like we should incorporate as many people as possible.”

Salcedo spoke to this idea. “I think to change the structures at this school, the first thing we need to do is open our minds and open our hearts,” Salcedo said. “For people who may be feeling isolated and excluded and not part of the whole, if I could just give them a piece of hope that their bodies, presence alone and existence mean everything. As long as they know that their presence is valuable, they will definitely create a better place for them and the others who come after them.”

The event was hosted by the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, the McKeen Center for the Common Good, the Women’s Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, the Student Center for Multicultural Life, Student Activities, the Student Activities Funding Committee, the Kurtz Funds, Latin American Student Organization, Residential Life, Quinby House and Howell House.