29 March 2009 ~ 0 Comments

Speaking Out – Gay and Undocumented (Part 2)

My parents brought me here without a choice and basically rejected me for being gay… I didn’t know how I was going to survive.

-Ben

With the endless bickering and politics of organizing hanging like a sword over my head, I feel quite jaded and unenthusiastic about life on most days.  And when I get emails from students like Ben, it pumps much-needed adrenaline back into my body. I need to refer us back to why I started blogging in the first place: to tell our stories, to make sure that our narratives would not be lost to history or remain unwritten, get buried in a few scenes of a screenplay as an afterthought or appear at 3am in the morning where people are fast asleep.

Several months ago, I had called out students to fill out a survey for us concerning their gay and undocumented status. I do realize here that queer theory–for the most part–is supposed to liberate us from essentialism but without a preliminary conversation about our unique lives and shared experiences, there is no way to move forward.

The movement for immigration reform–permeated in heterosexuality–has to incorporate queer voices and politics, and not just from ‘Immigration Equality‘, which mainly advocates for gay American citizens without really questioning the problems with the conception of ‘citizenship’ — a construction imbued in routine violence. It’s great to cherry-pick model minority students like Tam Tran (and I find her completely adorable so no offense) to appeal to the mainstream, but it leaves me wondering whether there really is space for students who are more marginalized, less privileged and not exactly ‘model minority.’

With that said, let me waste no time and give this space to Ben–an (ex) undocumented student of Hispanic descent studying Architecture. This is his story.

I left my house at the age of 17 before I had come out of the closet because of the fear I had started to feel from my family as they started to realize who I was. Having to live on my own at a very early age because of my sexuality and then to top that off with not being able to provide for myself due to being undocumented was immensely tough.

In later years, while employed at a different bank and with falsified documents, I was unfairly laid off but I was too afraid to report it because I was afraid they would dig further into my file and figure me out.

I’ve always wanted to go to college and I was the “bright” one in my family so everyone had always expected that I would. Out of 6 children total I was singled out as the “smart” one. That dream was far gone by the time I had left home and as I dealt with figuring out my sexuality, how I was going to make a living, living with severe depression and severe shyness. In my mid 20’s I was able to get a work authorization after much hassle with our legal representatives who mishandled my case. I was finally able to land a job legally but I still do not qualify for financial aid. I recently came into a situation in my life where I could attend school part time and continue to work full time. I pay for school with the help of my partner and without him I would only be working and not be able to afford an education.

My father was also physically abusive to my mother and I never felt comfortable calling the police to report him because of our undocumented status. He had gone as far as pulling a knife on her and I felt so helpless that I sometimes felt like I needed to take it upon myself to end his life. These thoughts ran through my mind since I was around 10 or 11.

Ben did something amazing by having the courage to send me an email–he reinforced that I was not alone and it is time that I do the same for him. At the end of the day, Ben doesn’t succumb to victimization for he has a positive message for all of us:

I am just as capable as anyone else to achieve my goals even if I have additional barriers and even if it takes me more time. If I made it through my teenage years as a gay undocumented individual then I know I’m strong enough to make it through tougher times.

This story is just one of few shared by our undocumented students who also happen to struggle with a multitude of oppressions. I hope that when Ben shared it with us, he felt liberated in some ways because in effect, this is about sharing pain and overcoming the unique stigmas associated with our identities.

It’s tough to come from immigrant families, especially undocumented families, that are caught up in a disaporic time which moves behind the nation-state. My next post will address what I mean by this.

Part 1 of the ‘Gay and Undocumented’ series is here.

Leave some messages for Ben!

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