Life / News & Politics / Sex & relationships

The Double Closet

This week we are featuring a guest post from Adanjesus Marin, the President of Equality Pennsylvania.  He gives some background about his own experience and thoughts on immigration reform and why Equality Pennsylvania has added their voice to so many other LGBT groups that are joining the broad movement in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.  As a lesbian and the daughter of an immigrant, it has been very heartening to see more and more LGBT organizations talking about, advocating for, and marching if support of common sense immigration reform.  For too long we’ve let the opposition divide us by defining our families and communities as wedge issues.  I’m inspired to see the progressive movement coming back to the realization that we are all in the same fight, and our issues (LGBT issues, immigration, women’s rights, economic justice, and racial inequality – to touch on a few) are broader than any one identity. ~Sandra

A little over 14 years ago, I met and fell in love with Roco. He was handsome, kind, caring, and hardworking. He was a pastry chef, and every day he would bring me one of the pastries he had made that morning.

It didn’t take long for us to fall in love, and soon we moved in together. Our relationship seemed like a fairytale, perfect in every way — except that Roco was undocumented.

Because Roco was undocumented, he lived in two closets — hiding both his sexual orientation and his immigration status. I loved him so much that I joined him in the closet, and together, we kept our love a secret from everyone.

For years, we had to keep our window shades always drawn, ever vigilant that no one discover our relationship. If the secret got out, we faced more than the all-too-common threats of homophobia. Being discovered could have meant deportation for Roco, should someone decide to report him as undocumented.

If Roco and I had been a straight couple, the solution would have been relatively simple. We were madly in love and would have gladly married — announcing our love to the world and securing documentation that would have allowed Roco to stay in the US no matter what. But this option wasn’t possible for us as the laws of our state and country didn’t recognize our commitment.

I wish that the old saying, “love conquers all,” was always true, but our reality was different. After three years, living in secret became more than our love could handle. We ended our relationship, and I became determined to do whatever I could to prevent anyone else from suffering like we had.

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Today, more than 14 years later, little has changed. Immigration reform has been debated many times over those years, but binational same-sex couples continue to struggle. Of the 11 million immigrants living in this country, millions are living in a double closet like Roco — hiding their sexual orientation and documentation status.

That’s why Equality Pennsylvania, the commonwealth’s leading LGBT advocacy organization, voted unanimously to add our voices to the broad movement seeking comprehensive immigration reform in accord with the principles adopted by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement.

Since our decision, we’ve often been asked why we decided to get involved in immigration. Our reason is simple: it’s the right thing to do. As we seek justice and fairness for LGBT Pennsylvanians, we cannot leave behind LGBT immigrants.

It is impossible to address issues like non-discrimination, access to healthcare, or marriage equality without also addressing our country’s current unjust immigration system.

The simple truth is: until we win comprehensive immigration reform, many of our victories will remain only partially realized. Even in the states where marriage has been extended to same-sex couples, binational couples are being torn apart because the federal government doesn’t recognize these marriages for immigration purposes. Transgender immigrants are denied health care and legal recognition of their identities because they must be documented in order to obtain insurance or legally change their name and gender. Undocumented people living with HIV/AIDS are unlikely to receive a diagnosis and even more unlikely to receive the medicines necessary for quality of life and survival.

We cannot achieve full equality for LGBT people while millions of us who have lived, worked, and loved in this country for years have no fair and swift path to citizenship. Likewise, unless immigration reform includes protections for undocumented LGBT people, it will not be comprehensive or acceptable.

Equality Pennsylvania is proud to add our voices to the millions across this country in demanding comprehensive immigration reform. Those of us in both the immigrant and LGBT communities have waited far too long for justice; it’s time to guarantee that our unjust immigration laws are never again able to tear apart.

 

Adanjesus Marin is the President of Equality Pennsylvania 501c4 and the membership director of the Lavendar Caucus of the Service Employees International Union.  

[PHOTO: XTOPHER1974]

 

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