by Rick Piñon Delgado & Breanna Belken
Liz Sanchez is a queer activist who fights against oppression
Based on Sanchez’s preferences, Tusk magazine will use they/them/their pronouns in all references.
Many are familiar with the outspoken faces of conservative provocateurs like Milo Yiannopoulos, but few are aware of those who lead the resistance against them.
Meet Liz Sanchez, a 33-year-old graduate sociology student who identifies under the pronoun “they” and the transgender umbrella term, genderqueer. They are a multiethnic biracial American of Mexican descent.
Genderqueer, sometimes referred to as non-binary, applies to individuals who don’t conform to exclusive masculine or feminine gender identities; whereas cisgender is a term describing people whose gender corresponds to the sex they were assigned at birth.
From Sanchez’s perspective, American culture does not cater to non-white ethnicities or the LGBTQ community. As a Latinx and member of the LGBTQ community, they are living in an overlap between two marginalized worlds.
“Because of my lived experiences, I can relate to others’ experiences of oppression,” Sanchez said. “It inspires me to fight for equity, equality and maintain our civil rights.”
Working to improve not just their own future but others’ as well, Sanchez challenges the culturally reinforced systematic oppression of those who don’t don’t identify as straight or cisgender.
Sanchez is a part of Students for Quality Education (SQE) at Cal State Fullerton, a local chapter part of a statewide organization comprised of students fighting for equal rights.
SQE has protested both on and off CSUF campus against the Muslim ban, President Donald Trump’s stance on immigration and the removal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, along with a number of other issues that affect minority students.
“They’re doing this to help others and unite the community,” said SQE member Dania Salgado. “Really what they do is for others, and to help in any way they can.”
While passionate about political activism, Sanchez is sometimes overshadowed by all the hard work and dedication required of activists.
“Most of the time I am just seen as this angry political figure. I get loud and I get angry, but it’s only to get the message out there,” they said.
Biracial, Chicanx, Queer, and Activist
Sanchez’s viewpoints have been influenced by a difficult childhood and the challenges they overcame.
At an early age, Sanchez’s parent were absent from their life leaving them without the opportunity to bond.
Raised by their grandparents in Los Angeles County, Liz often felt alienated from their culture due to their grandfather’s experience with colorism. After leaving Mexico for the U.S. and living through Jim Crow laws in Texas as a young adult, he started to develop resentment for the community he grew up in.
“He was a product of racism,” Sanchez said.
Once Liz became educated and began to question their ethnic background, they found their family was disconnected from their heritage. Sanchez’s grandfather encouraged them to speak English and assimilate to American culture, leaving them with very few clues about their family’s past.
Being biracial and light-skinned, Sanchez struggled to reclaim their roots.
“I was part of the community; I was part of the culture but then not really,” Sanchez said.
After a few years, Liz’s parents returned to their life and abruptly asked them to leave their life with their grandparents. Their grandfather stepped in to protect Liz, but ultimately they felt a responsibility to leave with their mother.
Following this decision, Sanchez lived through hard years suffering at the hands of their mother and their abuser.
After dealing with sexual abuse, Sanchez was confused about their identity, sexuality and overall self. The hatred for their abuser evolved into an anger that weighed on them and resulted in dropping out of high school and leaving home.
At the age of 18, Sanchez set out on their own path, not knowing where they belonged, whom they belonged with or where they stood as a person.
Riot Grrrl Politics
Feminist lyrics and radical authors began to influence Sanchez and spark their involvement with punk rock culture.
They joined two bands — Riot This and Fallacy of Humane — playing music that reflected their anger and passion.
Sex, drugs, anarchy and liberation drew Sanchez in. Finally empowered by their queerness, they were screaming and singing about it on stage. They were in control of their own narrative, living in chaos and loving every second of it.
After years of living in the scene, they were forced to leave because of the lack of stability. The unreliable source of income was more than Sanchez could handle.
“I got to a point where I realized that punk rock wasn’t going to pay the bills,” Sanchez said .
Sanchez took something vital with them before leaving — riot politics.
Inspired by the empowerment and determination of bands like Bikini Kill and L7, they applied the same rigor to the next step in life.
College unleashed Sanchez’s anger and passion and they learned how to organize politically, finding their voice and using it at protests.
While Sanchez’s strength and determination may be off-putting, those close to them are able to see past Sanchez’s activist persona and admire their character and resilience.
“Before meeting them I didn’t have a grasp of my abilities,” Salgado said. “They showed me the leader I can be and how to be unapologetic about it.”
Sanchez will always stand against discrimination and speak for those who need to be heard. They assure everyone that if something isn’t right and needs to be fixed, they are accountable in correcting those problems.
“I’ve had to decolonize my mind from the violent experiences I’ve lived,” they said. “Now I want to help others find their own self-defined truth and learn to be free on their own terms.”