Marvin Matamoros, 19
Marvin Matamoros is a proud feminist, queer, Indigenous activist who came from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to the United States when he was 12 years old. Matamoros describes himself as a social justice fighter, and he promotes love, peace, and intersectionality. While he is passionate about many issues in the U.S. and around the world, his identity has inspired him to fight for the LGBTQ+ community. Currently a senior at Mission High School in San Francisco, California, Matamoros is the president of the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA). He has conducted workshops, facilitated groups, and educated classes about LGBTQ+ issues. Marvin uses he/they gender pronouns and has been involved in promoting social justice for undocumented communities and advocacy for the rights of women of color and trans womyn.
In addition to his LGBTQ+ advocacy, Matamoros was also motivated to get involved with The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in 2016. He educated his family and others about issues concerning the DAPL, and encouraged his community to support Indigenous people by boycotting corporations that financed the pipeline, such as Wells Fargo.
Matamoros believes that the world would be a better place if everyone’s voices were heard, and he shares his voice by writing about issues that really matter to him. Matamoros’s writing has been published by 826 Valencia, a San Francisco writing and tutoring organization and The Bay Times, an LGBTQ newspaper. He says he could spend days writing about how to make the world a better place for marginalized communities.
Matamoros will attend UC Berkeley starting in fall 2018, and wants to come back and help his community after graduating.
Silence = Death
by Marvin Matamoros
Writer and educator Nadezhda Mandelstam once said, “I decided it is better to scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity.”
Our society silences so many important voices. Marginalized people like the LGBTQ community, women, African Americans, undocumented folks and many others all face injustice and often find difficulty standing up to their oppression. Can you imagine living in a society where you are not allowed to speak or where you would rather maintain silence and not speak the truth? For those of us who live this reality, we know how painful each day can be. Even though many people are imprisoned by silence throughout their lives, the ability to express yourself by using your voice is the most beautiful power a human has.
Throughout my life, I have always believed in social justice. And though today, I stand before you as someone who often speaks his mind, someone who has assumed leadership positions at this school and in the school district, this was not always the case.
Growing up, I remember being the one in my family who everyone would bully and make fun of, the one people saw as something obscure. I felt angry most of the time because I wanted to speak up about the injustices I saw around me, the poverty, the corruption of the Honduran government, and the violation of human rights, but felt silenced by the adults in my family and rural hometown who had been brainwashed to believe that everything was ok.
Growing up in Honduras was hard; like a wall that divides people, my family’s religious background had to do a lot with my isolation. Trust me, I respect people’s religious identity, but my family was very close minded and at times cruel.
Living with my father was challenging and as I got older and began struggling with my sexuality and gender expression, my family teased me because of my feminine behavior. One day my dad found me playing with my sister's dolls and he told me that he was going to kill me because he didn’t want a gay son. Time went on and as my father became more aggressive, I began to fear for my life. While enduring this harsh treatment, all I wanted to do was be able to express myself but I felt that I did not have that ability when I lived with my dad.
Luckily for me, coming to the United States meant that I know longer had to live with the injustices of my father and the whole country. I came to the United States in the 7th grade and as much as I hoped to raise my voice, I still felt silenced. This time, my silence not only stemmed from an unenlightened environment, but also my own inability to communicate in English..
Throughout my 7th grade year, other students would bully me because of my sexuality and I remained silent. I didn’t speak up because I was not confident enough in my own identity as a queer student. At the time, I was not out and I was afraid of people learning about my identity because of what I had experienced with my father.
I don’t think I fully accepted myself until the tenth grade, when I got more involved with LGBTQ groups like LYRIC and Mission’s QSA. Finding these communities enabled me to truly accept myself and stop pretending I was something that I was not. As my self acceptance grew, so to did my ability to speak up. I became vocal in my classes, in the hallways, on the streets, and anywhere else I could find someone to listen. I watched myself transform from a timid stream into a powerful waterfall, that flows beyond all borders. I stopped feeling lonely and scared of who I really was, and became a confident member of a movement.
As I stand here today I want you to tell yourself that you are powerful and that your voice matters. Being silenced or being forced to be a bystander does not just hurt you, it hurts a hundred others. Stand up, fight back!