Undocumented transgender activist Jennicet Gutiérrez interrupted President Obama during the White House pride celebration yesterday, shouting “President Obama, release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention and stop all deportations.”
This did not go down well with Obama who shut her down almost instantaneously. “Listen, you’re in my house,” said the president. “You’re not gonna get a good response from interrupting me like this.”
The audience was clearly not impressed with the heckler and began to cheer Obama, who became increasingly irate as Gutiérrez continued to interrupt and shout at him. “Shame on you,” said Obama, who then had her removed by White House staff.
It may well be the case that transgender detainees are being assaulted and abused in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at this very moment, but heckling the President – who incidentally is the most pro LGBT President in the history of America – is not on. Firstly, it was completely counterproductive given no one in the room wanted to hear Gutiérrez’s message. The guests were there to celebrate LGBT pride, not talk about transgender immigration issues. There are many, many important issues today and transgender immigration issues do not take precedent over anyone else’s.
Secondly, if Gutiérrez wanted to bring serious attention to the issue it generally isn’t a good idea to make it about her. The media is now focused on the heckling and Obama’s response to it rather than transgender immigration issues. This seems to have escaped many activists who use the Code Pink model of creating a ludicrous spectacle and drawing all the attention on themselves rather than the issue at hand. Righteous indignation might feel good, but it is almost never effective no matter who is in power.
Thirdly, President Obama has been on the receiving end of a ridiculous amount of name calling and obnoxious heckling, even during the State of the Union speech to congress. By following in the footsteps of conservatives, Gutiérrez unwittingly put herself in the company of racist obstructionists, which is not a good look for her legitimate cause.
There are many ways to raise awareness of important issues facing the country, but heckling the President is rarely one of them – a fact Jennicet Gutiérrez has now discovered.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.