As Undocumented Queer & Trans* Youth of Color we noticed a repetitive theme in The National Conference on LGBTQ Equality. The conference created an environment where our experiences as youth of color are being told by people who don't necessarily face our situations/struggles. The workshops titled and framed to address the issues of people of color merely give the illusion of inclusivity and in many occasions they force us into unsafe and emotionally violent spaces.
In the Queering Immigration workshop, for example, the fishbowl activity was used to force undocumented immigrants to participate in dialogue about traumas with complete disregard to their comfort level and safety in public settings. This was perpetrated by people who strayed away from disclosing their position of privilege as legal residents or citizens who continued to speak on traumas of undocumented people instead of leaving the fishbowl. In addition to that, at the "Our parents were the original DREAMers" workshop, the conversation about UndocuQueer was partly mediated by a CIS-gender straight male. Almost every workshop we attended, as youth of color, we had to take up an educator role for people who have access to privilege and power through white supremacy and patriarchy. The workshops in many cases were guided and were based on a white male lens which placed us in the position where we had to raise our voices and struggle to be validated then forced to defend our work in dismantling the system that we all say we work to change. We need to be acknowledged without feeling the need to be validated through affiliation to the mainstream groups that often exclude the fierce grassroots efforts with direct action that don't get funded.
The conference organizers and budget did not take into account the access and equity that it takes to be present in these, some times unhealthy, environments. We were not given the options of accessing our daily nutritional routines as we did not have a microwave, a refrigerator or the option of cooking for ourselves; a $10 meal three times a day is a financial hardship we don't have privilege to have. Our decision to be present at this year's conference was intentional. We acknowledge those whose picket line we crossed: the hotel workers at Sheratons and Weston on strike over a wage dispute. Our purpose was to do our work but we were not met halfway by the organizers and participants of Creating Change. Creating Change does not respect the risks we take in order to be present at this conference. Financial hardships to travel, room and board; the risks of being detained and being held for immigration investigation; being racially profiled by the local police; being discriminated or fetishized by other conference participants; being studied and exploited as if we were topics of discussion and not actual participants; and other several life-threatening concerns for queer and transgender undocumented immigrants. As working class youth who did have the possibility to be present at this year's conference, we must acknowledge those in our frontline communities who, due to financial hardships, were excluded from this space.
The same conversations are happening year after year, if these conversations do not change, we will not encourage undocumented people of color to attend this conference when it does not cater to us. Therefore, creating change needs to give Undocumented, Womyn, Transgender, Young People of Color and other frontline communities access and decision making power in how the conference is organized and who is being invited and making an effort to have meaningful participation from those groups of people.
We understand that our statement will be challenged by privileged people who are in decision making power.
We do not need you to agree or validate our statement, we just need you to listen and take action!
Undocumented Queer, & Trans Youth of Color
The Immigrant Youth Coalition
#Not1MoreYear #CC15 #TheIYC #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs #IYC_UQT