Two major debates in the US today are immigration reform and marriage equality. Cisneros, Somerville and Lubheid have all discussed the role of sexuality and ‘family’ in shaping immigrant discourse and Lubheid discusses the implication for same-sex couples specifically.
As we saw in class today, immigrant and lgbt rights are not separate issues- queer undocumented activists like those involved in UndocuQueer, for example, propose intersectional apporaches.
In a blog piece called DOMA and the DREAM Act: How the LGBT and immigration reform movements intersect, Carlos Gomar writes:
For many undocumented youth, “coming out” is a familiar process. Similar to how LGBT people reveal their sexuality or gender identity to their friends and family members, undocumented youth across the country are using “coming out” as a tactic to find self-empowerment, change public opinion and alleviate fear within themselves and their communities.
What are some of the pros and cons of this strategy? For example, what are queer critiques of coming out narratives?
Prerna Lal highlights similarities between the two movements in Gays and Undocumented Immigrants – Nativists and Homophobes Two Sides of the Same Coin. According to her, both nativists and homophobes:
1. withhold a construct with power from an Other
In the case of immigrants, that would be ‘citizen.’ For the LGBTQ community right now, that would be ‘marriage’ –
2. insist on stubborn binaries
Insistence that the lines cannot be crossed.
“You can have your civil unions” (directly implying that marriage is off-limits)
“Illegal is illegal” (falsely implying that citizenship is an immutable concept)
3. engage in twisted, corny logic
“You have the same right to get married as I do – marry the person of an opposite sex”
“If you want to become a citizen, get in the line” without realizing there is no line for most undocumented immigrants.
4. use similar distancing tactics
“I don’t have a problem with immigrants, just the ones who come here illegally.”
“I don’t have a problem with gay people as long as they don’t do IT in public” or “I don’t have a problem with equal rights for gay people, but marriage should not be redefined”
5. repeat the rule of law mantra
Keep up the shadowy pretense that ‘mob rule’ and the tyranny of the majority is somehow part of the founding principles of this country and there is no such concept as civic rights.
“Prop 8 restores the rule of law as dictated by the people, not by activist judges.”
6. distort numbers
Both groups also swarm articles and online discussions and litter their trashy hateful discourse to appear as the ‘moral majority.’ Offline though, neither nativists nor homophobescan usually draw more than a few dozen to their rallies for hate.
7. tout baseless chain effects
“When you reward someone for doing something, you encourage others to engage in similar behavior. That’s why amnesty programs are the wrong way to address illegal immigration.”
“Gays are recruiting young children into becoming gay.”
Because when we hang out with tall people, we get taller.
8. invoke an alien status
“Why don’t you gays just get your own planet; and leave the rest of us alone?” (If there was life on another planet, I would seriously consider it)
“Illegal aliens are just that: ILLEGAL ALIENS. Go back to Mexico.” And this is said even for immigrant youth who have been here since they were toddlers, speak perfect English, and as American as apple pie.
9. employ discourse of hate
ILLEGAL ALIEN / FAGGOT …
Notice the capitalization? Notice the dehumanizing words? Nativists and homophobes usually do not have warrants for any claims they make, hence reduce themselves down to adhoms and slurs.
Lal points out that both lgbt and undocument folks can describe their positions interchangeably.
“We are here. We work alongside you, raise our kids alongside your kids, walk the same path, shop at the same stores, drive on the same highways, breath from the same air supply and drink from the same water source. The only difference is that we are treated as second-class in our own country, because we are __________ (gay/without papers).”
What are the benefits and drawbacks of this strategy? How can this be successful in pursuing change? How is it problematic?
A note on images: The images above are by Julio Salgado, an artist and activist. Check out more of his work below and on his tumblr page.
For an interview with Salgado, see: