Some people have described it as coming out of two closets: the LGBT+ and the undocumented people one.
Some people think that immigrant communities that come from the same country share the same values, beliefs, and customs. However, every immigrant carries within themselves a set of experiences, interests, stories, and preferences that aren’t always compatible with those of their community. There are undocumented people who don’t fit the mold of the traditional American citizen, but who can’t fully relate with their families either because they have chosen to be, express themselves, and love in a way that is different from the norm.
They find themselves facing a double identity crisis. On one hand, they are marginalized and discriminated against due to their cultural background. And since they aren’t American citizens, they don’t enjoy basic rights such as healthcare or the ability to work legally. On the other hand, they also have to deal with the fact their own community questions and rejects their sexual orientation and gender identity, and even though there are groups that support the LGBT+ community, they tend to focus on the rights of people with citizenship, which leaves out undocumented LGBT+ people.
The issue goes beyond mere labels. We’re talking about people with complex lives and identities, with dignity, principles, and the power to express themselves and demand visibility and equal rights. LGBT+ undocumented people don’t really have a script they can follow, but instead of seeing this as a disadvantage, they have turned it into an opportunity to write their own discourse.
UndocuQueer: intersecting realities
There are approximately 11 million undocumented people in the US, and it is estimated that 267,000 identify as LGBT+. Faced with a State that doesn’t want to recognize their rights and an LGBT+ community that doesn’t include them in their agenda, they have chosen unity as their formula for visibility.
UndocuQueer is a social movement that welcomes anyone whose identity is constructed at the intersection between these two realities. Based on the notion that our identity allows us to exist, UndocuQueer activists have dared to speak out against oppression and make public their struggle to demand equal rights. Most of them arrived in the US as babies or children, and they grew up and learned to love in a country that doesn’t acknowledge them.
Coming out of two closets
Being part of the UndocuQueer movement means deconstructing your identity in two aspects. For Julio Salgado, artist and activist, being UndocuQueer means coming out twice. At the personal level, many members of the community have to hide their sexuality in their homes, or they are open about it, but at the risk of their family’s possible rejection. At the social level, they “come out” again when they tell other people that they are undocumented, meaning that they aren’t legally allowed to live in the country. Some of them, despite having a college education, find themselves having to reject job offers and living constantly under the threat of deportation. Their well-being and their future depend on their identity and cultural background.
Since they never felt fully accepted by either of their two communities, they created their own, and they are convinced that the only way they’ll survive is by sticking together. Given their precarious legal situation, sexual orientation, and queer identity, their visibility makes them even more vulnerable, but they refuse to stay in the shadows.
“We’re brave, we’re queer, and we’re fabulous”
Currently, the White House, the House, and the Senate are all led by Republicans. As Jesús Cisneros from the University of Texas said, “this means that Christian values are influencing votes and decisions.” However, in our complex current political climate, the UndocuQueer community has built its own space to express themselves freely.
Their activism has led them to create the “UndocuQueer Manifesto,” where they proclaim their right to love and be loved by people who respect and defend their identity in every way. They are aware that everyone has a different mind, body, desires, experiences, and ways of seeing life, and they don’t want to have to choose between these and those rights. Instead, they want to enjoy the rights they deserve based on their dignity and humanity.