My big fat gay immigration conversations

or trying not to drown in my own privilege.

I had two conversations recently that sparked me wanting to write this.  First, I was asked why I was so adamant that gay folks should be more involved in immigrant rights.  And second, I was in a conversation with an individual who blamed the current economic crisis – including the bank and credit freeze and the housing slump – on undocumented immigrants.

So why do I think LGBT folks ought to be more involved in the current local and national discourse on immigration?  My first response and admittedly the easy answer is that LGBT people come from all over the world and that some are immigrants to the US thus they are not separate issues but complex overlapping issues deserving of LGBT individual and organizational support.  Further, immigration laws are clearly heterosexist.  The lesbian who falls in love with a German student on an F-1 VISA can tell you how impossible it is for them to remain together legally after graduation. The heterosexual couple in the same position can utilize the institution of marriage to manage to stay together.  There are also LGBT immigrants in the US who fear for their safety should they have to return to their native countries.  LGBT individuals have been granted asylum in the past, but the process is lengthy and expensive.  For some, staying in the United States, even illegally, is far better than the treatment of LGBT folks in their home country. 

This is all true.  There are LGBT Immigrants.  Some documented.  Some not.  But this is an incomplete response.  And a total cop out on an issue where I hold privilege.  The person who asked me the question isn’t even in the state and will certainly not be reading this column.  However, I have a little bit more to say on the topic that I failed to fully address. 

LGBT folks ought to be more involved in the current local and national discourse on immigration because we know what its like to be scapegoated.  Because we know what its like to exist in the margins.  Because we know what it’s like to be stereotyped.  Because oppression is interconnected.  Because the power of love is more important than the love of power (Thank you Jimi Hendrix).  And mainly, because, except for the younger generation of queer folks just coming out, LGBT folks in the United States know what it means to be illegal.


The most resistance I hear in the immigration conversation is that it is illegal for immigrants to be here in the United States while undocumented.  And somehow this translates to some people as: therefore, the most vulnerable of us do not deserve protection.  Somehow this translates to: therefore, undocumented immigrants are bad people.   Therefore, we must protect our children from “those people”.  This sounds all too familiar for me as a queer person to really buy into the scapegoating. Sodomy laws were used historically to justify discrimination against queer folks not so long ago.  There are parallels here that I think deserve attention. 



Each of us should be able to look at the bigger picture.  At the laws themselves.  At the economic system that supports – indeed depends – on undocumented immigrants. At the companies who benefit from the labor of these immigrants.  At the history of unpaid and underpaid work in this country.  At who benefits from the work, from the fear, from the marginalization of immigrants in a country that was founded by immigrants.  



Pause and reflect on this.


Our most intimate moments with our sexual partners were – not so long ago – illegal. 


I was once an “illegal queer.”  I committed misdemeanors and even felonies in multiple states.  I didn’t steal, didn’t do drugs, didn’t even go over the speed limit while driving, but I was a self-proclaimed lesbian.  An unrepentant homosexual.  A law-breaker.   Just as sodomy laws dehumanized LGBT people and therefore justified society in general for discriminating against us so do anti-immigration laws target and dehumanize immigrants.  Legally I was once a sexual criminal just as a child molester is a sexual criminal.  Sodomy laws are now a thing of the past and since the decriminalization of homosexuality, LGBT folks have made other huge gains in civil rights.  Now we have brothers and sisters, criminalized and dehumanized because of their immigration status and so many of us are sitting on the sidelines.  Where are the allies?


And as for the second conversation I had lately.  Let’s all be honest.  The current crisis was not spurred by illegal immigration but rampant unchecked greed and capitalism facilitated by the (so called) best and brightest on Wall Street.  I have no doubt I could have run one of these international corporations as poorly as some of these grossly overpaid executives and I would have done it on a fraction of the cost. 



Put the blame where it belongs and leave immigrants out of it.   


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5 Responses to “My big fat gay immigration conversations”

  1. TGD Says:

    LOVE this post…

  2. Kelly Says:

    Here here!!

    p.s… i would have loved to have seen you type this bad boy out… i can only imagine the indents on your keyboard…

  3. Jen Says:

    This post is totally beautiful – mind if I link to it?

  4. qweirdutah Says:

    link away – I’d love more folks to read this…

  5. lgbtculture Says:

    Nice write up… I agree with many of your points. I hope you don’t mind but I have a project I’m working on that I hope will give LGBT Immigrants more visibility.

    LGBT Immigration -Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Immigration Stories – A Collective Wisdom

    Do you have a story to tell about your experience as a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT) immigrant? Are you interested in sharing it with people learning about LGBT immigration? If so, this is your chance to participate in a collective wisdom study.

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