Deconstructing the Dreamer Status

Angy’s post over at DreamActivist on D-Identity made me feel really proud today. It’s heartening to know that the spaces you have established and fueled are constantly refueled with critical thought and an honest accountability that is missing from most other movements. Here’s a small snippet:

During the battle for the federal DREAM Act last year many of our youth felt excluded and isolated themselves from the fight. The definition of dreamer became a 4.0 GPA valedictorian student who was part of every club/team, received every award and every scholarship. Senators presented these students during their floor speeches and those were the stories shown in the media, excluding all of our other youth. Where were the stories of the LGBTQ undocumented youth? The day laborers that qualify for the DREAM Act? When did they mention the mommy and daddy youth? What about the high school and college drop outs who can still apply? Did I miss the stories of the G.E.D holders?

There’s a clear tension between immigration reform advocacy and the movement for immigrant rights. Angy represents one of the few places where the circles intersect.

I remember when U.S. News and World Report came to my house back in 2007 to take some snapshots of my life for an accompanying article on the DREAM Act. The photo of an “ego wall” with plaques, degrees and medals is now infamous. But the photos that depicted my cultural background and tastes were discarded, and lost out to a constructed “Dreamer” identity, an identity that leaves out the parts of me that make me a complete human being.

A photo from US News and World Report photoshoot, not used for publication

A photo from US News and World Report photoshoot, not used for publication

Over time, I saw how parts of me were similarly discarded and truncated to fit a certain non-profit industrial complex (NPIC)-driven narrative. Editors would take out any mention of my love for Fiji (my place of origin) in my own story. Reporters would push me to narrate a linear “rags to riches” story. Most recently, I was told to produce a photo of myself that looked like a victim since it would help my deportation case. I’m constantly made out to be someone I am not. It’s racist, sexist, and homophobic. And it stops here.

I love Pakistani music. I’m utterly in love with the music, melodrama and attention to beauty that is prevalent in most commercial Bollywood movies. Hindi beats English as a language every second of every day–after all, we have twice as many alphabets and sounds. I am only three generations removed from Indian indentured servants in Fiji who were often treated worse than slaves. I was a city person raised in a farming village with lots of animals, a pious Hindu kid before my teenage years and I usually reduce it all to mean no red meat in my diet but poultry is great. When I was 13, an astrologer told my mom that according to my Hindu birth chart, I am half-man, half-woman. I struggled to understand whether I was transgender and straight or a plain old cisgender gay for a really long time. I’ve stopped trying to figure it out and constantly annoyed by those that ask me to pick a box.

I hold a cricket bat in my left hand, a tennis racket with my right and score on the soccer field with both feet. I have written 40 chapters of an epic love saga. My first job was at Taco Bell when I was 15 and my second one was as a janitor that continued till I was 24. I studied political economy and post-colonialism in graduate school and maintain membership with the American Association of Geographers and the Union of Radical Political Economists. If Michel Foucault and Karl Marx could conceive a brown lovechild, it would be me. I was raised by a married woman, who is a single mother and the sole-provider in my life. And I’m fighting to live in a country that I loathe because my parents brought me here for a better life, and I am now married to a wonderful American woman, and her entire family lives here. We cannot leave even if we want to leave. These facts are far more important to any narrative about me than my undergraduate G.P.A. or law school credentials.

Love is the only thing that drives and inspires me to do grand things. I helped form DreamActivist not because I care for some grand legalization project but because I made some awesome friends who I wanted to help. I wanted to be a computer engineer but I never took a single computer class. I taught myself how to create successful online communities because I harbored a huge crush on this Indian TV star back before the DREAM Act was a topic of household discussion. I aspire to be an island beach bum. But more than that, I just want love in my life.

Not everyone has the same linear trajectory of immigrant success packaged as the “American dream.” Some of us don’t even want any part or parcel in the nationalist project. Most of our lives don’t follow those trajectories. Every story is unique. Every story is important. The journey is more important than the destination.

Don’t count my diplomas. You’ll lose count. Listen to my heart-beats per second. It tells you all you would need to know.

Morons of the Week: Homophobic Religious Leaders in India

On the heels of the Section 377 repeal in India, some faith-based leaders cannot hold in their hatred and discontent. The Times of India reports:

Leaders of faith across the spectrum are appalled — albeit to varying degrees — by the judgment. While Reverend Dominic Emmanuel, spokesperson of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, said the Catholic church has nothing against gays per se, he stressed, ‘‘We strongly believe that sex between same sex partners is immoral, unnatural and unethical.’’

His counterpart in Mumbai, Rev. Tony Charanghat, agreed, saying, ‘‘While homosexuals have to be treated with respect, homosexuality
can’t be equated with heterosexuality. The nature of sex should be complementary to life, which is God’s design.’’

In fact, Mumbai’s Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) circulated mass SMSs last week appealing to Catholics to protest against the move to legalize homosexuality. Now, with the verdict in favour of gays, CSF will appeal against the judgment. ‘‘We protest on both, health and religious grounds,’’ says Joseph Dias, CSF general secretary.

‘‘We have statistics to prove that a large number of HIV cases are gay, and this verdict may lead to an AIDS epidemic of sorts,’’ Dias added.

Yoga teacher Swami Ramdev minced no words. ‘‘Do the people behind this verdict consider homosexuality natural? Is it something they will themselves do? If our parents had been gays, would we have been born? Freedom doesn’t mean licence. Our family system is the only ideal we can show to the world. Sadly, this judgment will end up corrupting it. I will be part of every protest against the judgment.’’

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My Coming Out Story – Growing Up Gay in Fiji

This is really not for use in an immigration court proceeding or as part of your research paper. If you do decide you want to use bits and pieces of it, please have the courtesy to inform me.

I am always asking everyone to share their stories because narratives are powerful, persuasive, and so that our stories don’t get lost to history.
I am guilty of never sharing my own story. And it has taken me a lot to get to this point but I don’t want this to be lost to history.

So I was asked to talk about what it was like to grow up queer in Fiji, and I can’t talk about it without sharing my ‘coming out’ story.

There’s two typical things in my story
1. I always knew I liked women
2. I fell in love with my best friend

And may I add this happened in an All-girls Catholic High School. (No, you don’t already know what happened).

The year was 1998, I was around 13. I wouldn’t call it love at first sight but she was certainly the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She entered the classroom, late, and sat down beside me.

After the initial awkwardness, we became friends. Best friends.

After a month, I confessed that I was in love with her. She was confused and started crying. And that’s how news of my sexual orientation spread like wildfire. But she returned the feelings.

Our friends found out, so did our teachers, the principals, our parents, their colleagues and other schools in the area. Everyone knew about the two lesbian lovers at ______________________.

No one was supportive.
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Drawing Lines in the Immigration Debate

There comes a point in the U.S. immigration debate when I really question what ‘camp’ can I really fit under. It happens when advocates of undocumented students scoff at the lives and dreams of legal immigrants to the United States and support restrictions rather than critical reforms to the H-1 B program.

Senator Durbin–a great advocate of the necessary DREAM Act for undocumented kids–is nonetheless also the chief sponsor of a bill to curb H-1 B visas. I can’t stand behind Durbin when he sponsors one group of immigrants over another.

The H-1 B system is badly in need of reform–the tethering of the Green Card immigrant to her/his employer oftentimes becomes a decade-long exploitation with no guarantee of permanent residency down the road. And with cutbacks in education spending in the United States,  including little incentive to pursue careers in technology, where do employers go to find workers? It is no wonder that big business supports the DREAM Act, which would give employers a small pool of productive immigrants to hire. Without the act, we are left with businesses outsourcing jobs to countries like India. We are certainly better off with a system that allows for greater skilled labor migration to this country because immigration is no zero sum game. The presence of skilled immigrants has greatly benefited this country and enriched the lives of American-born citizens.

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