Transphobia is experienced in different ways and different intensities, depending on the identities we hold. Trans people of colour, for instance, deal with transphobia that’s amplified by racism – and racism that’s amplified by transphobia. Creating a more socially just world demands an approach that tackles these intersecting oppressions. It’s this kind of intersectional approach that Alex Mah strives for in his activism for migrant justice.
Alex was born in Smithers, BC on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. His father is of Chinese descent and his mother is white. He is the descendant of four great-grandparents who each paid head taxes ranging between $50 and $500, having arrived in Canada in 1895 and 1921. He joined No One Is Illegal in 2005 after hearing about the organization through his social justice work with SFU’s Public Interest Research Group. Alex’s favourite part of his decade long work with them, he says, is being able to provide some support to displaced individuals trying to settle in this country.
Trans refugees and immigrants may face discrimination and violence in their countries of origin, as well as discrimination and violence for being ‘illegal’ and trans in their new home. The federal government’s cuts to refugee programs and services have made the lives of trans people trying to settle here that much harsher. Poverty and homelessness, language barriers, and barriers to proper health care are only some of the obstacles they face.
Alex sees potential for trans rights and refugee and immigrants’ rights organizations to work together more often. He hopes trans rights movements will continue to work towards more inclusion of people from diverse backgrounds. To those wanting to be allies to trans refugees and immigrants, Alex suggests getting involved with groups like No One Is Illegal. But even more importantly, he offers two words: “Speak Up!”