Aside from the radical illegal immigrant activist movement appropriating the gay culture act of ‘coming out’ as a tactic, there are, of course, some people who are both illegal immigrants and gay. Identity politics being what they are on the left, it was perhaps inevitable that the two politically-charged movements would come together in the movement known as UndocuQueer.
The UndocuQueer movement was deemed significant enough to warrant a full-blown panel discussion at this year’s Netroots Nation, the progressive confab put on by DailyKos. As the panel description for UndocuQueer: The Intersectionality of the Undocumented and LGBTIQ Struggles says, organizers believe the movement has broad appeal because it connects with the very large demographic of people who are illegal aliens or queer or both or neither:
Immigration and LGBTIQ issues are controversial topics that have gained prominence in political and social circles throughout the nation and at the ballot boxes. These are not parallel movements, but intersecting ones in the fight for social justice. This is true for those who are undocumented and identify as queer, but also for those who are in one or the other (or neither) because of the interconnectedness of all those fighting for human rights. This panel will focus on the intersection of the two movements and how we can create safe spaces in both communities for those marginalized.
For those not up on the latest acronyms, LGBTIQ stands for Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Intersexed/Questioning.
One of the leading lights of the UndocuQueer movement is Lulu Martinez. As noted on lesbian news site Autostraddle:
The Dream 9, named for the Dream Act, are all young people who were brought to the US at a young age and have been living, working, studying, and contributing to their communities as undocumented immigrants. Many of the 9, like Lulú Martinez, have been engaging in radical activism for years. Along with Marco Saavedra (also a member of the Dream 9) and Mohammad Abdollahi (who helped organize the Dream 9 protest from outside), Martinez has been infiltrating detention centers to agitate and educate their detainees about their rights since 2011. The Dream 9 took the protest to the next level by self-deporting — leaving the US and then attempting to cross the border to return, knowing that they would be stopped.
Autostraddle also did a profile on Lulu Martinez that gives some insight into her history and the merging of two movements.
This action stands proudly on the shoulders of almost 15 years of grassroots organizing by affected immigrants in the United States. With Martinez, it also weaves threads of queer visibility, inclusion and liberation into the narrative fabric that continues to be constructed around migrant rights. On March 10, 2010 in Chicago, she was one of many to come out as undocumented during the immigrant rights’ movement’s first National Coming Out Day. Borrowing notes from the playbook of Harvey Milk and others in the LGBT movement, the importance to give ourselves visibility, to reject the shame and taboo of living without papers and to bring ourselves out of the shadows, even without the protective blanket of legislation, was recognized. The rallying cry of this movement, Undocumented and Unafraid, was born.
The UndocuQueer movement claims to reject concepts like borders and citizenship as such, which allows for a diversity of tactics in demanding what they see as their right to do what ever they want. One tactic that the Dream 9, including Ms. Martinez, used was claiming asylum by saying they felt a “credible threat”; a tactic recently picked up by others at the border. As Autostraddle describes it:
A phrase that often arises in this movement is “ni de aqui, ni de alla,” (neither from here nor there), and it speaks to the ability we seek as queer immigrants to define home as we choose, whether in a geographic sense, within our communities, or a gendered sense, within our bodies. Transnational actions such as this point to how we, as affected people, can continue to queer the narrative around migration, by rejecting the constructs of borders and citizenship and by affirming our right to simultaneously inhabit multiple homes.
As Congress and the American people debate Comprehensive Immigration Reform, expect more radical tactics from UndocuQueer and their allies on the left.
Photo credit: Huffington Post