Agony and The Real Hobson’s Choice


Not all violence is physical.

Yesterday evening, I willed myself to watch the Senate Judiciary Committee throw certain immigrant families under the bus, including, but not limited to, same sex bi-national couples, and relatives of certain U.S. citizens.

I knew it was coming, and a lot has happened to prepare me for it, but I still don’t have words to express how I feel as the dominoes fell in succession due to fear and cowardice.

I am a writer, but I’ve have never cared for words. Deeds matter, words ring hollow. When people speak beautiful words as a way to redress your grievances and deprive you of constitutionally protected rights, you’ve to pay attention to what is not said. And last night, Senators clearly told thousands of immigrant families that we were not equal to other families, not worth fighting for, and that our right to be together jeopardized 11 million more dreams. Then, they took the coward’s route by punting the question of equal immigration rights for married same-sex bi-national couples to the Supreme Court, while deriding the idea of bringing siblings to the U.S. in cases of extreme hardship as “chain migration.”

Discrimination makes me angry. Mindless prosecution makes me angry. Deportation of people away from their loved ones makes me angry. When a group of straight, white U.S. citizens sit around in a room whining about how hard it is for them to vote on rights for our families, even while most of them are directly responsible for the situation we find ourselves in, the hypocrisy makes me angry. They don’t apologize. They don’t take responsibility for it. Instead, they ask certain families to be responsible and swallow the pill. Wait for our freedom as it is coming. And the entire room erupts into cheers of “Yes We Can.”

Anger is a normal reaction to these things. Anger is necessary for change. No one should tell you otherwise. It’s the agony that is unbearable and unnecessary.

Agony is what happens when I have to listen to people pick and choose over what parts of my being are worthy of equality and what parts are not, what parts are worth fighting for, and what parts must be sacrificed on a pyre. Agony is when I’m presented with the false dichotomy and choice between 11 million dreams or 36,000 families. Agony is when people pretend that your rights, which do not impact them in any way, are a Hobson’s choice for them, even while you are the one rendered without any choice.

Lets not start on the media coverage. I’m not at a crossroad. I’m not conflicted or confused over any part of my identity. Intersectionality doesn’t even begin to define my experiences. And whether or not anyone else understands any of this is not part of my life ambition.

These agonizing experiences, along with many others, with the Gay Inc. and the non-profit immigration reform complex, have transformed me into someone who simply does not give a damn about winning freedom through passing legislation. I’m convinced that we can’t ever legislate freedom. And since we can’t legislate freedom, the fate of a legislation doesn’t have any power over me.

To be clear, I’m certain that many same-sex bi-national couples will win immigration relief at the Supreme Court with the repeal of DOMA, without needing to care for the fate of immigration reform. In the best case scenario, any two persons who get married in a place that recognizes that marriage would be eligible for immigration benefits. And, in fact, the fate of my green card is at the Supreme Court this month, as they mull over whether to grant or deny certioriari in Mayorkas v. de Osorio, an entirely different matter. I’m thoroughly convinced that I will win, and the enemy will lose, and I’ll have my get out of jail card soon. I tell myself that ten years from now, on a tropical island beach, none of this will matter.

Yet, none of these comfortable possibilities makes it the least bit acceptable to discriminate, force people into making false choices, and throw families under the bus. This goes for same-sex bi-national couples as much as Hirono’s amendment 10, which would have allowed for family unity in cases of extreme hardship for U.S. citizens. It is hateful, discriminatory and simply unacceptable without the need for platitudes. Even without physical violence, the violence that we’ve been subjected to over years of watching people make decisions about how we get to arrange our lives and where we get to live comes with deep psychological ramifications, scars unseen to the naked eye, and damage that may be irreversible.

Immigration reform continues to move forward and appears inevitable. In the meanwhile, thousands continue to choose between their love for their country and the love for their families. And thousands continue to face detention and deportation. That will not change with any piece of legislation, as the undocumented that come after us will continue to be treated with hostility, subjected to second-class treatment and forced to live in more containment.

It would be tragic if only it did not happen every day. Maybe the only winning move is not to play.

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