Queer Corner



This January marked my second year of attending the Creating Change Conference, an annual event hosted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which brings together activists from around the globe to “build power, take action, and create change” through workshops, networking and plenary speeches about the state of our liberation movements. The conference attracts about 3,000 activists and is the largest national conference centered on LGBTQ issues.

This year’s conference in Atlanta was particularly special because it was the 25th Annual Creating Change and also the first time a day-long workshop focusing on Latino and Hipanic activism was provided. In fact, Latino and Hispanic issues were at the forefront of topics to be addressed throughout the five-day conference.

Immigration policy is an issue that I will admit to being a bit ignorant about, despite my awareness that it is offensive and dehumanizing to refer to individuals as “illegal” and that the Obama administration has deported a record number of undocumented immigrants (this number is projected to hit two million deportations by 2014). To get a better understanding of the details of legislation and its effects on queer-identified undocumented immigrants, I decided to take advantage of the workshops being offered and attend “DREAM Act 101 for LGBTQ Activists: Undocumented and

Unafraid, Queer and Unashamed.”

Members of the United We Dream Network of Los Angeles and the National Immigrant Youth Alliance facilitated the 90-minute workshop; the presentation by undocuqueer activists provided an overview of policies such as the DREAM Act, Unification of American Families Act and Deferred Action. The issue with these policies is they tend to include evaluations of moral character, which raised questions about what standards are being used to determine if someone is a “good” immigrant. 

Also, these measures place constraints on immigrants who are not college-bound youth or have spouses and support networks already established in the United States. Becoming a legal citizen of the United States is not as simple as “getting in line” and obtaining consent from the government. These activists spoke to the inhumane conditions of detention centers and the

resulting violence targeted toward individuals perceived as being undocumented.

These themes and discussions continued on a larger scale during plenary sessions, which were attended by the majority of Creating Change participants. The opening plenary brought an address from Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change. His keynote address dealt more directly with issues of poverty and immigration; he declared that the signature political issue of 2013 is just and humane immigration reform.

Our Saturday plenary event included an address and panel discussion about the complexity of immigrant policy issues and further personalized the experiences of undocuqueers. The keynote was delivered by Jose Vargas, who is the founder of the nonprofit organization Define American and a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has shifted the conversation about immigration reform by coming out as undocumented in 2012. He spoke about his personal experiences of living in fear and the risks that undocumented immigrants face by being open about their

identities. This plenary concluded with a panel of three other immigration activists who

addressed the need for solidarity between queer rights movements and immigration reform.

So how does an ally display solidarity with undocuqueers as a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform? Be aware of the direction in which this conversation is headed and who needs to be included in it. The issue of immigration cannot be removed from the fact that it targets those dealing with discrimination based on other marginalized identities – as people of color or lower-income households and as members of the queer community. Jose Vargas ended his address by saying, “We must advocate for each other so no one is left out of the conversation.” 

As immigration policy currently stands, there exist very few options for those requesting asylum due to persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Trans and HIV-positive immigrants also deserve proper respect and treatment from the government when placed in detention centers. 

Finally, it is important to understand that comprehensive immigration policy is not only a Latino and Hispanic issue. Bhargava pointed out how people only think of individuals and families migrating from Mexico whenever the topic arises but this understanding does not reflect the reality of immigration issues in the United States. 

Advocacy for a clear path to legal citizenship must occur as we enter the second term of Obama’s presidency. The conversation at this year’s Creating Change highlighted the impact of current immigration legislation; it becomes a task for those dedicated to LGBTQ issues to create demand and attention for policy reform.