05 March 2012 ~ 6 Comments

Of Border Gays and Trans Migrants: Where Next?

Jose Antonio Vargas is perhaps the best known border gay.

But there is much larger community of border gays and trans* migrants who don’t necessarily bask in the mainstream limelight.

Queer immigrants have been around for quite a while and involved in every civil rights struggle. The undocumented youth movement is just the latest reincarnation. From the earliest days of the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC) to Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER) to the LGBT Caucus at DreamActivist and the March 10 Coming Out Day marked by Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL), we’ve long been active and at the forefront of securing more rights for immigrant communities while not leaving our queer allegiances behind. If and when the DREAM Act is passed, it would be in large part due to the unrelenting efforts of queer youth and women.

But it has not been easy to navigate the complex world of immigration politics. Different forces have always tried to divide us. We’ve been told to leave spaces because we are queer. We’ve been left out of conversations because we speak our minds. We’ve been told to suppress or hide one part of ourselves in favor of another. We’ve been cast in the binary of good gays and bad queers by white professional anti-racists. We’ve been told to speak out against each other to protect certain heterosexual privileging. We’ve been told that our lives and truths need to be filtered and watered down for the comfort of our more privileged allies. Our gender-queer and trans* compadres have not been treated with the same love and respect. Over and over again.

More often than not and in somewhat mainstream LGBT circles, I’m told that immigration is simply not an LGBT issue. “The DREAM Act only tangentially affects gays.” That may be a fair criticism but I’d like to point out that marriage also tangentially affects gays. It certainly does nothing for those of us who are young, single and ready to mingle, who do not believe in the institution and who have no interest in coupledom. And since marriage is a hetero-normative institution, gay marriage is not even a queer issue. Yet I’ve seen millions getting poured into the movement for marriage equality and to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which serves to mainly benefit those who assimilate to white, heterosexual normative assumptions of the family.

Personally, as a queer immigrant youth, marriage is a major turn-off because it is precisely what most of our own immigrant families want us to do from the moment we turn 18. They start telling us to “find a good American boy” or “find a good American girl” and the coercion continues for years till we can somehow leave our home or persuade them otherwise or succumb to their desires while hiding our own or kill ourselves. No thanks, I’d much rather pursue higher education as a way to get us out of poverty.

If we are concerned about fighting for issues that affect the largest number of queers, why isn’t the LGBT movement all about securing universal healthcare for everyone and making sure that both reproductive rights and gender re-assignment surgery is part of the package? And in case you forgot, we can still get fired for being queer and trans* because the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) remains a non-priority. It’s just not an issue that is on the radar of the gay white boys club and hence, not important. Gay is not the new black; it is the old white.

But I digress. The purpose of this post is not to come down hard on marriage equality proponents. It’s to talk about how to serve the interests of queer immigrant youth in an increasingly hostile environment. And I’ve come up with a small laundry list.

We need to support Nico Gonzalez as he walks across the continental United States for his dream.

We need to help our queer compadres in New York pass the New York Dream Act, to provide financial assistance for long-time New York residents.

We need to pour massive amounts of time and energy into defending the Maryland DREAM Act, which grants instate tuition for everyone who attended high school in Maryland for three or more years.

We need to win on the Child Status Protection Act. After all, it is queer immigrant youth who disproportionately need to keep their original priority date to immigrate through their parents.

We need to join IYJL in celebrating the Third Annual National Coming Out Day and making the effort truly national in character.

We need to fight against the increasing archipelago of detention that disproportionately impacts our queer and trans* compadres, ranging from immigrant detention facilities to police surveillance.

We need to connect the dots between anti-immigrant fervor and good old racism whenever possible and stop people from hiding behind the word “illegal.”

That’s just a few things we need to do immediately. And we don’t have the luxury of waiting for the right time.

  • I liked what you wrote, it gives me more understanding of how our  gender-queer and trans* compadres y comadres think. It is very important to also think that in this flow of immigrants we are very diverse, and even though I support all the movements of undocumented students (because I am an organizer for a Coalition in Tennessee, and I believe in it); sometimes I can easily feel excluded of that gender-queer movement because I am not undocumented, neither in my teens, 20’s or 30’s. I totally understand your point of view about the mainline on marriage equality that in reality will only benefit the white gay agenda. Even though I do not know if I will marry again, I believe we all need to have the right to chose for the option to marry and have the rights that all that implies, or just have a  partner, and that is something other countries or cities have won, like Mexico City. I also understand that we need to support the queer immigrant youth and their pursuit of their dream. What I would like to see is a more unified movement, of course may be I am just an idealist, or way too weird to think that way, but how can we break the walls that divide all the generational, classes, status, races, and positions to have a stronger alliance?…anyway I am not an expert of the gender-queer compadrazgo, or even about the LGTBQ movement at all, I came out of the closet 3 years ago when I was 39 years old, so I still feel like a teenager to discuss about all these issues, but I am very open to the dialogue, and see what I can learn from everybody. Muchas Gracias again for your post, you can be assured that I will follow it, and promote it, as I will promote mine: 
    http://uncomplicatedspirituality.wordpress.com/

  • I liked what you wrote, it gives me more understanding of how our  gender-queer and trans* compadres y comadres think. It is very important to also think that in this flow of immigrants we are very diverse, and even though I support all the movements of undocumented students (because I am an organizer for a Coalition in Tennessee, and I believe in it); sometimes I can easily feel excluded of that gender-queer movement because I am not undocumented, neither in my teens, 20’s or 30’s. I totally understand your point of view about the mainline on marriage equality that in reality will only benefit the white gay agenda. Even though I do not know if I will marry again, I believe we all need to have the right to chose for the option to marry and have the rights that all that implies, or just have a  partner, and that is something other countries or cities have won, like Mexico City. I also understand that we need to support the queer immigrant youth and their pursuit of their dream. What I would like to see is a more unified movement, of course may be I am just an idealist, or way too weird to think that way, but how can we break the walls that divide all the generational, classes, status, races, and positions to have a stronger alliance?…anyway I am not an expert of the gender-queer compadrazgo, or even about the LGTBQ movement at all, I came out of the closet 3 years ago when I was 39 years old, so I still feel like a teenager to discuss about all these issues, but I am very open to the dialogue, and see what I can learn from everybody. Muchas Gracias again for your post, you can be assured that I will follow it, and promote it, as I will promote mine: 
    http://uncomplicatedspirituality.wordpress.com/

  • Prerna! A fantastic writing! I love the shot out to Nico and Campaign for an American DREAM!

  • Prerna! A fantastic writing! I love the shot out to Nico and Campaign for an American DREAM!

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