I Am Undocuqueer: New Strategies for Alliance Building for the LGBTQ and Immigrant Rights Movements

I am queer and undocumented -- "undocuqueer." I began organizing five years ago with the Orange County Dream Team, and I was captivated by that space, hungry to tell my undocumented story. Soon enough I was coming out as undocumented and sharing my story with friends and coworkers and in public spaces, but that process was heavy and painful, because I was leaving my queer story in the back seat. Every time I walked into a meeting, joined a rally or attended an event, I was making a painful negotiation: "Today I am only wearing my 'undocumented' hat." I couldn't do that to myself, my community or the movement. I needed to come out again, but this time as both queer and undocumented. The pain I felt no longer held me back; instead, I gained empowerment and clarity to better understand my role in the movement and take the initiative to build alliances via my undocuqueer identity.

Undocuqueers have been, and continue to be, at the forefront of the immigrant youth movement. It is no coincidence that after a decade of organizing and mobilizing, undocuqueers have transformed the immigrant youth movement. Alliance building between the LGBTQ and immigrant rights movements has been occurring for years, but this work remains challenging, frequently misguided and often considered unimportant. The immigrant youth movement has come out in support and recognition of our undocuqueer brothers and sisters. We recognize that we cannot continue to give lip service to mainstream LGBTQ and immigrant rights organizations regarding alliance building or leave our LGBTQ undocumented brothers and sisters out of any fight for our communities.

United We Dream (UWD), the largest national immigrant youth organization, has committed itself to ensuring that undocuqueers are represented at every leadership level. In 2011 UWD launched the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP) to bring the LGBTQ and immigrant rights communities to the table in an intentional and strategic manner. QUIP seeks to organize and empower undocuqueers, queer immigrant youth and allies via grassroots organizing, educational and advocacy efforts. The past presidential election showed immigrant and LGBTQ communities coming out in huge numbers to vote. What does that mean to both communities? It means that we are in a historical moment that is calling for both movements to come together to share our stories with each other, strategically build alliances and demonstrate that failing to work together is divisive and detrimental for all our communities. Recent polls show that Latinos support marriage equality and LGBTQ rights, and two of the most powerful entities in Latino politics, United We Dream and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, both support LGBTQ inclusion. That said, coming out in support of LGBTQ rights is not enough; immigrant rights organizations need to invest in and implement alliance building work in their everyday organizing and platforms. Those organizations that continue to use the outdated rhetoric that immigrants do not support LGBTQ equality, or that the LGBTQ community does not support immigrant rights, will be left behind and will soon disappear.

UWD's and CHC's stances are powerful political positions that need to be adopted by other immigrant rights organizations. Undocuqueers and the LGBTQ community are not an "extra item" that should be considered at the end of the line. We exist and lead lives at the intersections of both identities and movements. We will continue to do the work at the local and national levels to create alliances and demand to be included from beginning to end. We have allowed right-wing conservatives to attack and divide our communities for too long, and we are the only ones who can put an end to that racism, sexism and homophobia. This work must happen now, and undocuqueers have shown us how to do it. We undocuqueers must continue to play a vital role in this alliance building.

This is a call to the immigrant rights community: End the lip service on LGBTQ inclusion and invest your resources, commitment and heart in making sure that our queer brothers and sisters are intentionally represented as we work to ensure that all families in our communities are protected and remain together. We must shake up the powers that be and end the anti-LGBTQ values and sentiments in our immigrant rights movements.

This is a call to the LGBTQ rights community: Reflect and eradicate the racism that is still at the core of many mainstream efforts. We cannot continue to engage in single-issue organizing, because in doing so we will continue to leave out many in our communities. We need to understand that marriage is important, but stopping the deportations of ourselves and our families is just as important.

There is plenty of love and acceptance in our communities, so we must channel all of that into inclusive organizing and action that will ensure and protect the rights of all families and communities.