Carmen Carrera hasn’t gotten too involved in political debates over this year’s presidential election, but the model-reality TV star is chiming in now. As a trans Latina woman who’s the child of an immigrant, several of her identities have turned into hot-button 2016 election issues: from immigration to bathroom laws.
As such, Carrera knows she has a lot at stake come November, when the country elects candidates Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump its 45th president.
Ahead, the Peruvian-Puerto Rican mujer opens up about the changes she hopes the next commander in chief can make for trans rights, which candidate she thinks is most capable of accomplishing them and the need for Latinxs to see themselves as equals and hold our political leaders accountable.
Why do you think trans rights, particularly around bathroom laws, has become an important issue this presidential election?
I think we got really lucky this Election Year. We’ve been progressing and moving to a place where people are sticking up for us. There are a lot of straight and cis allies working with activists who have been doing this work for years, and we are finally at a point where I feel we are all in this together. The response to North Carolina’s bathroom bill showed how many people have a powerful voice for a positive change. I’m happy we are using our voices to make sure these are topics the next commander in chief discusses. I feel it’s a great discussion, and we need to look at how we handle the situation as a county. It’s a great time.
Are there any trans rights and justice issues you wish the candidates were giving more attention to?
I feel the candidates are doing what they do. They’re politicians. They’re showing their support but also being careful not to receive backlash because they’re running for president. They have to embrace everyone’s opinion but also stand up for what’s right. Trump plays it safe. He’s a business guy. From what I’ve read, I feel Clinton has done the most work in endorsing our community’s issues. When she was secretary of state, she helped make it possible for trans people to get passports with gender markers matching their gender identity. That was big, but it’s not something she promotes very much. I understand why. She might receive backlash because there are still so many people against trans rights. As long as something is being done, that’s what I care about. People’s perceptions will change little by little. I can’t wait till we get to a time where this country actually follows the beliefs and views it was built on.
Talking about change, what sorts of changes do you hope the 45th president of the United States can make in terms of trans rights?
I’d like to live in a country where I feel safe. Being in the entertainment industry, I do have some privileges, but when I’m off sets and in the real world, I’m a trans individual whose rights and safety have been taken away. I feel concerned. I don’t feel protected. There’s nothing on paper that’s protecting me from something bad. There aren’t laws to hold people accountable for any negative action taken toward trans individuals for being trans, from not getting a job to hate crimes to not being accepted into schools. Most Americans need to be told discrimination against trans people is against the law. Instead of looking at us as people, they look at us as not people. If there’s a law that states this treatment is not allowed, I’d feel safer to function more confidently in society because I’d know I’m protected by the law in the country I pay taxes in. I understand that some candidates can’t be as open as they’d like to be. As long as the changes happen, you don’t have to broadcast them. Just make it happen – that’s good enough for me.
Do you think any of those changes can be made under a Clinton or Trump presidency?
I think that anything is possible. I hope and pray that this presidential election will spark the most change for equality. I like to think of myself as an active American in our politics, but I get lost sometimes watching everything. I try to make things simple: There should be no reason why groups of Americans feel like they have less rights than others. That should not happen, period.
How can we, Latinxs, make sure politicians are listening to us and keep them accountable?
We have to stop feeling like we are inferior, like we are less than. We have to feel like we are equal to. Coming from immigrant parents, we fear, are we going to make it? Will I survive? There’s pressure growing up as a first-generation American. We feel like we need to play it safe so that we can just get by, survive and not go back. We have to stop carrying those old fears and beliefs from our parents and stand up and say we are equal. We have a voice and are powerful people. We have to start believing we are worth it.
Why should young Latinxs go out to the polls this November?
There’s strength in numbers. We are stronger together and the more people participate, the more influence we’ll have on our politicians. They know we exist, but they need to know the powerful hand we have in this election. The more present we are, I think they’ll start paying more attention to us. Let’s make our presence known.