I have some new heroes. They are the courageous LGBTQ migrants in Arizona who are organizing their communities, under attack, and pushing all the rest of us to recognize that liberation and social change struggles are deeply interconnected. The Puente Movement and two of its leaders, Vikter Medina and Amelec Jaalam Diaz, are bringing young, queer migrants together and organizing for the rights of their community to be safe and respected.
For them, this means simultaneously fighting social violence against LTBTQ people while also trying to push back draconian anti-immigrant laws that would criminalize the very existence of their community. For the undocumented LGBTQ people who have been forced to migrate because of the violence–physical and economic–that they experience in their home nations, immigration is the defining gay rights issue. For queer folks threats of being locked up by the sheriff for not having an ID card carry special dangers. For LGBTQ people whose relationships cross borders for which they may not have the right paperwork, immigration is a gay rights issue.
This week the activists realized that Lady Gaga–that revered icon who got her start in gay clubs–is on her way to Arizona. At the request of migrant communities, many progressive cities, national organizations, unions, and leading artists have declared a boycott against Arizona over SB1070. But Lady Gaga is about to break that boycott.
Vikter and Amelec are asking her to reconsider–to at least use her visit and her stardom to denounce the anti-immigrant violence and legislating. They’re asking her: how can you be FOR the gay community and yet not take action when gay immigrants are under attack?
Writes Victor to Lady Gaga:
The situation in Arizona has come to a boiling point. We would like you to see through the eyes of a transgender person, drag queen, gay man, a lesbian woman or a dedicated fan that lives in this air of hate.
I am one of your many little monsters and I embrace your celebration of what the rest of the society refers as “shameful”. There are many gay undocumented people and students who would love the rest of their community to join the movement for comprehensive reform starting with the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act).
They’ve started a petition declaring:
Both migrant and LGBTQ communities know what it is to have to fight for our full human dignity to be affirmed. You have the opportunity to play a special role in that fight in Arizona. Communities have called for a boycott of the state to make it happen. As an icon and beloved artist… turn your trip into an opportunity to meet your little monsters in the Migrant LGBTQ.munity so that you can speak out against the hateful laws and be a champion for this human rights cause.
Not long ago 20 LGBTQ organizations signed a statement of support for the boycott. I guess the question is, will the gay community turn that statement into something real? Will they hold the great Lady Gaga accountable for helping fight both the homophobia and the racism being directed at the LGBTQ migrant community in Arizona?
For the many queer people for whom inheritance rights and the ability to join the army are not the defining political issues of their lives, “gay rights” has to mean something more. In this case it has to mean fighting for the rights and respect that immigrant people deserve, in Arizona and throughout the U.S.
And in this particular case, it means that I hope the LGBTQ community tells Lady Gaga she needs to sit down with Vikter and Amelec and figure out how she can help.
Matthew Kavanagh is an AIDS and human rights activist and Director of US Advocacy at Health GAP (Global Access Project). He was previously the director of Global Justice, a national human rights organization working on AIDS, trade, and child heath, and is an active member of the AIDS activist group DC Fights Back. He has worked with a wide variety of NGOs and social-movement organizations in the US, Latin America, and Southern Africa—recently on water rights and Apartheid reparations campaigns in Johannesburg. He has written articles and curricula on issues ranging from US family law to the economic roots of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.
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