There’s a belief that in many Latinx immigrant communities, our families won’t accept us as LGBTQ+. But during my coming out experience, I have never felt more connected to my immigrant community.
In 2012, I was at an immigration solidarity march where I was going to share my story about being undocumented. I remember thinking: “I’m not going to come out as queer. I don’t want them to know.”
But when I walked on stage, I knew what I had to do. I said: “I’m undocumented and unafraid, queer and unashamed.” And I said it in Spanish.
Las abuelas, las tias, los tios—all the people who were there shouted: “YES, mijo! I’m so proud of you!”
After that, I started living openly in all parts of my life as an undocumented trans woman, fighting at the juncture where my worlds overlap.
I’ve been in the United States for 25 years, since I was 2 years old. This is my life. This is my country.
Undocumented students like me cannot access financial aid, so I paid my entire tuition at the University of Washington out of pocket. I sold hotdogs outside of Neighbors Nightclub four days a week, from 10pm to 5am, to make extra money.
I got my first scholarship from Pride Foundation in 2013. It not only helped me cover tuition costs—it showed me that an entire organization was working to support students like me.
This scholarship was the beginning of a long and multi-faceted relationship with Pride Foundation.
I’m now a coordinator for the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (WAISN), a Pride Foundation grantee. We are the largest immigrant-led statewide coalition building a defense line for immigrant and refugee communities.
Alongside Pride Foundation and a network of organizations across Washington, we are supporting LGBTQ+ immigrants and refugees in detention centers, where LGBTQ+ detainees are 15 times more likely to be assaulted, and are often placed in solitary confinement.
We are building broader community support by finding sponsors to provide housing to the detainees who are released from custody— making it possible for asylees fleeing persecution to find safety and support while they continue their legal journey.
For the first time, all of my identities are part of this project. And through projects like this one, it is making it more clear that immigrant justice is LGBTQ+ justice.
In my organizing work, I often end our days with a chant from Assata Shakur to remind us why we are doing this work together:
“It is our duty to fight for freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
I’m so grateful for that moment when I came out on stage in 2012—and for the outpouring of support I’ve experienced since. I’m still proud to say that I’m undocumented and unafraid, queer and unashamed— and to get to work so other people can feel safe to say it too.
To become a sponsor for an asylum seeker or to learn more about WAISN, visit waisn.org.