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Felipe Matos

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I Am Family

Posted: 01/29/2013 3:35 pm

While I was on the Trail of DREAMs in 2010, walking with three others from Miami to our nation's capital to advocate for immigration reform, I learned about an expression used by LGBTQ people in the South. There, because of the fear of being "out," LGBTQ folks called each other "family." I remember the first time I came out to someone and he said, "Oh, you are family!" Since then, a special rush of good energy comes to my soul every time I hear that expression.

The fact that I'm undocumented and came out about my immigration status back in 2008 has meant that many people feel compelled to yell slurs at me regularly, calling me "illegal" and telling me to "go back to Mexico" (even though I'm actually from Brazil). But when I decided to come out as queer, too, the slurs expanded to include "faggot." When I heard that in the South, one of the most oppressive places in this country, I could just be "family," I felt relief.

The LGBTQ folks in the South understood that somehow my experiences weren't so different from theirs; they knew that I was part of their community. Like many other LGBTQ people in this country, every time I hold my husband's hand while walking down the streets of Florida, I fear being the target of hate crimes, and I endure the hateful stares of many people in our community. I also have to live with another reality that is just as painful to me as my LGBTQ experience: I don't have immigration papers.

This means that, for years, I had to drive without a driver's license simply to be able to build a life for myself, and I had to face the constant fear that my entire life could be ruined by deportation simply because of a routine traffic stop. I also had to give up my dream of becoming a high school teacher; though I had the grades, I didn't have a Social Security number. I was afraid of coming out as queer to my family, because I didn't have an ID or a way to work legally, so I had no idea what I would do if they kicked me out of my home. These two aspects of my identity shaped me, and both are integral parts of my experience as a living and breathing human being walking on this planet.

Now we have an opportunity to work together as a family one more time. Today President Obama gave a major speech about immigration reform and included provisions for binational families and a direct pathway to citizenship in his framework. You see, I don't live in a vacuum; I have family members who are undocumented, and there are many other people in our LGBTQ family who are among the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. I'm a son, I'm a brother, I'm an activist, and I'm lucky to be the husband of the most beautiful man in the world, Juan.

I live at the intersection of inequalities faced by undocumented immigrants and LGBTQ people in this country. But I'm not afraid of what's to come, because I know that the LGBTQ movement will rise to the occasion, and we will not sit this one out. We understand that in order to have an inclusive immigration reform bill (one that includes our binational families, the end of harsh law enforcement, and a direct pathway to citizenship), all of us must join the fight. The inequalities that immigrants face in this country are connected to our plight as LGBTQ people. At GetEQUAL we have always been clear that the LGBTQ movement includes the struggle for justice for women, people of color and all other marginalized people in this country. We know that our fates are interconnected. So when the day begins tomorrow, I ask you to join our fight for immigrant rights and stand with me -- your brother -- like family should.

Add your name to the fight by clicking here.

 

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