Asking why immigrant rights should matter to the LGBT community or vice versa seems to be entirely the wrong question for me. The question itself is structured within a frame of an "us" and "them" when the story of my life had both of those groups entirely encompassed into "I".
I don't expect the LGBT community to care at all about my experience as an immigrant. I'm not entirely sure that many of them would understand the majority of it. What I do find important is for both of these communities to learn recognize that my crossroads at both of these identities equally gives me a right to be respected as an individual. In the same way that immigrants don't want their humanity separated from their cultural roots, and the LGBT community doesn't want its humanity separated from their affirmation of self-expression and identity, I TOO do not wish for my immigrant experience to be dissected from my life and journey as a queer man. As any individual with the conviction not to be disjointed or fragmented, I engage in and contribute to both communities with the totality of who I am as a queer immigrant, trying to support a movement where all of us recollect the scattered pieces torn away from us and labeled until we can once again feel WHOLE.
I speak specifically in this about my own struggles as a man. I don't feel I have any right to speak for the experiences of women in these situations, so I base this entirely on what I know of myself and of the changes/transformations I have witnessed inside me.
SOME things... you might relate to. I have found brief instances and exchanges with the men in my life -some immigrants, some not, some queer, some not. They were pieces that helped to bring us collectively closer to a sense liberation.
IT MATTERS to talk about these differences and these connections because I saw, over time, how the men that slowly learned to accept and respect things about my identity, found the space within themselves to accept those similar aspects deep within themselves. I found, in listening and learning from them, that I too had an incredible capacity to be so much more than I ever imagined I could be, and astoundingly more than what I , "as a man", had been taught I should be.
It matters because we claim to be in a movement for social justice, which fundamentally requires that each of us play our part in effecting transformative social change. It isn't enough to only address a circumstance or condition of the problem. Our ultimate goal should be to completely CHANGE PEOPLE: the way we see each other, communicate with one another, exchange and coexist.
As a queer immigrant, it has brought me the challenge of confronting my friends in high school that told me, "the fundamental purpose of the life of a man is to procreate. To be gay is to go entirely against your evolutionary function. Besides, if marriage is the only way you'll ever get your papers, then you're really not helping yourself in the slightest by engaging in relationships that are barely ever acknowledged legitimately in society, nor sanctioned by the legal system."
We learned a lot about the injustices against immigrants then, through these discussions, and simultaneously saw the conflicts relating to the experiences of queer men. The courage to engage in that dialogue openly and honestly is what strengthened our ability to collaborate within a social justice organization and create the necessary changes in our society to balance out the extremes of social inequality we all experienced.
It was tiring for me to see how my identity as a queer man throughout my life kept being recognized as "inefficient" or "unstrategic". I remember the early phases of the Trail of Dreams walk across the east coast of the country and how the assertion of being queer confronted statements like:
"won't you face enough danger, hatred, and exclusion as it is, WITHOUT being gay?"
"you have to remember that you'll be on this journey collaborating as part of a team. The collective well-being needs to be a priority and you shouldn't subject your team to greater danger by the mere whims of your personal self-actualization"
"there will be many religious groups that will never accept you, so you have to learn to either accept that they are who they are within their ignorance and hatred and go with it, or accept that you caused for your team to not have a place to eat or sleep."
What we all want is to create a movement where our actions and successes are able to help us in securing some SAFE SPACE. We educate ourselves so that the safe spaces that we create can slowly be cleansed of every form of violence. We talk about and struggle through our movements at these crossroads and intersections so that everyone can learn that the SAFE SPACES we all want will NEVER be safe until the individuals inside are safe from the attacks against their gender, orientation, race, ability, and status. Safe... not merely from the world where we face the systems that keep us traumatized, restrained, and in terror, but also from the way we channel that same violence on one another within the very communities that we share.
My greatest pride has been in working to alter the daily practices and language of the organizations I participate in, not only so that all people can respect and honor the legacy of their families and ancestors as evolutionary migrants, but to also respect and honor the spectrum of human expression that their gender and orientation is part of. My aim and purpose, in addressing these things is so we may all reach a state in our organizations and communities where immigrants don't feel they have to question how "socially acceptable" their emotional connections to others in their life are... and where queer people don't have to question or feel threatened by where each of us have come from in our lives or where we aspire to go.
As an immigrant, I have worked tirelessly so that I won't be labeled and marginalized as an "other".
As a queer man, I have struggled to not be seen or treated as a threat to mankind.
As a human being working for social justice, I have fought for long-term transformative change so that ALL components to those two halves I carry with me (and that take part in the people I interact with) can eventually find peace, acceptance, and the freedom to live without fear of others, or worse: myself.
Posted on June 14 2011 by juan | Post a Comment
The other day I was walking the streets of Little Havana with my partner and we heard repeated soft honks in the street. I turned to him and asked if they were in favor of us or against us and he replied by giving me an elaborate explanation of how to decipher whether the honks are supportive or not. Well, he told me that they supported us. That’s when I realized that even the smallest gesture of love and affection between the two of us is actually a political statement.
Posted on June 11 2011 by felipe | Post a Comment
Pr Brant S. Copeland
First Presbyterian Church
Posted on May 16 2011 by None | Post a Comment