The former director of the Southern Equality Fund Chloe Stuber interviewed Suzy Geronimo, Founder and Executive Director of FUM (Fuerza y Unión Múltiple), and member of the Trans Leadership Initiative (TLI).
Suzy Geronimo is from Cherán, Michoacán in México and has been a resident of Henderson, NC for more than 20 years. She is the Founder and ED of FUM (Fuerza Unión Múltiple), located in Henderson, NC, which works across race, nationality and gender to cultivate a united community where everyone has equal rights and a better quality of life through education, activism and resources. She is also a member of the Trans Leadership Initiative (TLI), which provides funding, training and support to trans leaders across the South to support them in their leadership development and to strengthen their work in their communities.
How did you first become involved in activism within the LGBTQ community and to participate in the Trans Leadership Initiative?
I have been an activist since 2009. I started to become involved in activism because I felt that all people should show up for something and why not me do my part as well. To do my part, I began to show up at protests and meetings, and became interested in doing workshops to raise awareness to make change for a better future.
As time went on, being at this and that workshop, people began to recognize me as an activist, but aside from being just an activist they saw that I was a transgender woman. So from that time on, invitations…started to come because of that part of me. That was how it started, without realizing it, I ended up being involved in the LGBTQ movement and later with the focus of transgender women, advocating for better lives and better futures for those who will come in future generations.
Can you share more about the issues you want to address in your community?
As a Latina woman, we come to this country, and pretty much we’re seen as different…for being Latina, for being foreigners…and they see us as less. It’s not bad that they see us as less, but that they make us less, so pretty much those are two things about which someone has to speak up! So as an activist, I felt like that was my work: to put myself in front of the person who has a direct opinion about me, about my people, and make them understand that yes we’re immigrants, yes we’re latinos, but that we aren’t less valuable than others.
How did you end up in Henderson, NC?
For me, the United States, to begin, I never wanted to move here. It was never in my plans. But there was a person…that…pretty much tricked me. Once I was here…it was when the man let me know his real reasons for having brought me to this country. I felt really awful because I felt used, tricked, humiliated. I didn’t know what else to think, there were so many things going through my head.
Well my brothers…came for me and picked me up and took me with them to Pineola, NC, near Grandfather Mountain, where they lived. When I arrived there, I didn’t know them very well because I’d left home when I was really young…and I knew they were my brothers but I’d never lived much with them. I dressed very feminine, for them it was a risk, and pretty much for them they thought they’d have to defend me from everything and everyone. I couldn’t stay with them. I had to leave from there and so I went from Pineola on the way to Pennsylvania…from there, to Oxford, NC and ending up in Henderson, NC.
Henderson isn’t big. Neither is it tiny. To tell the truth, I don’t like it. There is nothing in Henderson that’s mine. I don’t find here the things that I enjoy doing, but…I felt like it wasn’t that I wanted to stay here but that I had to stay here simply because it was the only way that I could do something for myself, for my life, and for my future. From my point of view now, I believe it was the best decision that I’ve made, to stay here.
For the people that aren’t familiar with FUM, what would you like them to know about FUM?
We are an organization that works with all that we have to do everything that we can, as much as we can, and as a transgender woman, specifically focusing on the LGBTQ community. And from there you can ask me what you want and what your needs are and we’re here, that FUM is here for that.
What do you think is the future of FUM in Henderson?
That it will get stronger, and more well-known, and maybe provide access that I don’t see in any other organizations that currently work with the Latino and immigrant community. In all of the organizations [focused on the Latino and immigrant community] that I know, they’re not specifically focused on LGBTQ issues and pretty much it’s a minimum part of all the time and money they have, that they give to the LGBTQ community. I feel like they mention the LGBTQ community a lot, but they don’t give enough to the LGBTQ community. They should give more to LGBTQ.
For FUM and for me, always I’ve said and will keep saying, just because I’m transgender and I work for LGBTQ issues doesn’t mean I will ignore other needs. No. Those too I will give time and resources as well.
I don’t know where FUM will end up, but that’s my vision. That everything I receive, will go to support FUM, to work on LGBTQ issues, and possibly I’ll be able to get funds to ignite other leaders. Yes, but my priority will be LGBTQ and transgender women, especially Latinas.
Is there anything you’d like to communicate to other Latina women who are transgender, in Henderson, in the South, in Mexico?
I think that my perspective isn’t only mine, for Henderson, for transgender women in general. I think that it’s global.
You don’t have to hide yourself. You don’t have to feel different.
And the little I can say is, I’m a transgender woman, but that I should be accepted as a woman, not as a transgender woman. Because since the beginning, it’s was I aspired to, it’s what I did, it’s what I do, and it’s what I’m achieving. And the less they call me and the less that mention that I’m a transgender woman, that would be my goal, that I succeed in being a woman to society in general. Because I’m not trying to be a transgender woman. I’m aspiring to be a woman just like any other, and that they take me as that without the need to verify.
Is there anything else you want to share?
Only that to be transgender you’ve got to really value yourself, because if transgender women can’t value themselves, nobody is going to value them in the way that we want, that we deserve.
This post is also available in: Spanish