Exert from Chasing Romney: Undocuqueers
I walked into a room that was filled with some unusual characters. I saw Marla, a young girl I met when we were both crashing at Caesar’s and an Arizona protest. Eric was there too, and also Danny, a familiar face from some Arizona protests. There were around twenty other people in rows of seats in a small box of a room with one purple wall. Against the purple wall was a table with five speakers and a small eraser board with every imaginable undocumented, gay and Latino slur written on it from faggot to wetback to beaner. I never did quite get the story behind that board.
We made our way into seats, and I sat next to a girl with a crew cut and very nervous, energetic disposition, sitting curled up on her seat. She rocked with pent up energy and seemed a little sensitive. Considering the accepting environment, her squirrely ways were pretty easy to overlook. In front of us was a man in partial drag, his clothing being androgynous, while her earrings were clearly feminine, as was what appeared to be a little bit of makeup. In front of me sat a couple with a deep-fried southern accent, covered head to toe in exotic Japanese tattoos, their tattoo artist being an associate of Horiyoshi III, whose tattoo museum blew me away in Yokohama.
When the guys behind the table started talking, they began with their coming out stories. Some confessed how they promised themselves every year they would come out on their birthday, but every birthday was passed in a closet. Others recalled how their religious parents didn’t accept it, saying things like God wouldn’t make a gay person, why do you choose to be gay?
It was a charged room, with many members fighting back tears the entire time as they heard stories similar to their own most traumatic experiences. They shared how, even within the DREAMer movement, a group of guys who know what it’s like to be slandered ruthlessly, they’ve experienced trouble finding acceptance. They have often had to “tone down the gay” after they noticed uncomfortable jokes and laughter around other DREAMers who came from conservative homes. Considering how a common gesture in the room was an attitude-alluding finger snap followed up immediately with a hand on a hip, this was a pretty damn gay group, and I understood how a guy not used to gay people could feel uncomfortable. It must have been refreshing for them to be able to gay it up so much in that moment.
In addition to their stories of rejection and separation from family, which undocumented immigrants are often much more dependent upon and closer to, they shared how the undocumented angle often isolated them from the gay community. Again, these guys have been screwed in a nasty PR way to get Bush into the White House. Unfortunately, like the undocumented guys not necessarily understanding gays, gays often just don’t typically understand the undocumented experience unless they’re somehow connected themselves.
The guys share about how it’s tough to go out and pay for dates with no cash or right to work. This often leads to essentially becoming an amorous bum. “And when things go well and it’s time to have fun, you have nowhere to take them to,” one offered in a quick outburst, sending the room into laughter for a few minutes. I thought about my camper trailer and how I was living in Erika’s driveway, and couldn’t help but empathize and laugh harder at that one than most.
The tone became a bit more somber when one DREAMer talked about his grandfather. He was asked what’s more of a challenge, being undocumented or gay, and he answered being undocumented all around the room. The Undocuqueer spoke of how, when his grandfather was dying, he desperately to see him. Unfortunately, with his status he couldn’t make it back across the border to his life in the U.S. if he went to the funeral without risking the desert or some other elaborate plot, to which his grandfather objected. Months later, he was again desperate and heartbreakingly denied. This time, it was the opportunity to mourn his grandfather with his family in Mexico that was blocked because of his status. He said it was hard to be gay sometimes, which everyone agreed with, but he saw more opportunities to build a good life for himself being blocked by his immigration status than by his sexuality. Again, everyone agreed.
The queer DREAMers then explained how, because they had difficulty finding acceptance in their family, they found a new family within their community. One DREAMer lit up when he talked about how they celebrated his birthday, and he talked a little about a few other family-type celebrations within the community.
At the end, they claimed that anyone could come out. Jorge was the man who pushed the gender boundaries a bit with his earrings and hints of makeup. He stood up, stated said that he was gay and a DREAMer, and, although he wasn’t trans, he was comfortable in drag and wore it often. He choked back tears as he said how it was so hard for him to be open about who he was, how supportive the group has been and how important that support has been. Everyone applauded or snapped to encourage as he said “I’m a queer, faggot, wetback, cocksucking beaner, it’s all true and it’s alright.” More than one person cried with him.