Jorge: Undocumented And Unafraid, Queer And Unashamed
I am Jorge Gutierrez – Queer and Undocumented. My mother has always been my source of strength and hope, even in those moments when she didn’t understand what having a gay son meant. But, her love for me is bigger than any confusion or fear. I am grateful that I have her unconditional support – even how she buys my friends and I wigs and accessories for our drag show fundraisers. She’s fabulous.
I was five or six years old when I realized that I was Queer. Of course, I didn’t understand what that meant at that age. My father was oppressive. He always shouted at me to not walk, talk, scream or play like “that.” But, my mother always stepped in to defend me and encouraged me to continue to express myself.
Since my mother sought out better opportunities for her children, she alone moved the five of us from Mexico to California when I was ten years old. I was excited! I truly enjoyed school, quickly learned English and adapted to the new culture. I also established a special bond with my fifth grade teacher – and actually came OUT to her the summer before entering high school. While we were eating ice cream, the words just slipped nervously off my tongue, “Miss Spiak, I am gay.” She smiled and responded “I knew it.” We both hugged and continued on with our ice cream.
By high school, I fully acknowledged that I was gay. I wanted to share that with my mother, but I was afraid of losing her…like my father.
However, one day I felt the urge to tell her. We were in the car and she turned off the music. Like a scene in a novela, my mother gave me a heartfelt, serious look. She innocently asked me if I liked boys or girls. For a second, I considered lying and telling her I liked girls. Instead, I looked down and told her I liked boys. SILENCE! She pulled into the nearest parking lot and told me to get out the car. She then got out of the car, gave me the most memorable hug and whispered in my ear, “no se mucho del tema pero te amo y te apoyo.”
That’s what I needed to fully start exploring my Queer identity. One closet door down, one more to go.
BEING GAY AND UNDOCUMENTED
Some of us come out of the closet twice. And, it was the undocumented closet door that was the most challenging to break down. When I was applying to college with solid grades and a great resume, everything blurred when I came to the portion that screamed at me for my social security number. I knew I didn’t have one, but I hoped that some magical incident could change this and I would be provided with one when I got home. There was no magic anywhere, just reality. I was broken and disillusioned.
My first three years of undergrad were tough and painful. I was working two jobs to pay for my tuition and one semester before graduation day, I almost gave up. Then everything changed. I met a friend who took me to an Orange County Dream Team. For the first time, I listened to folks sharing their undocumented student stories. I was inspired. It was that space and the members that gave me the courage to come out as undocumented.
From that point on, it has been a journey of self-empowerment, growth and reclaiming. I realized that I need to be vocal and intentional about my identity as Queer and undocumented, especially in the youth-led movement. Many times I made painful negations before entering a meeting or joining a rally and telling myself “today I am wearing my undocumented hat only.” That is changing, and now there is a push to “Queerify” the movement.
I am currently working with other Queer undocumented folks from across the country through United We Dream and the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP). This national program seeks to develop Queer undocumented youth, while bridging the immigrant rights and LGBTQ movements to build alliances and increase our political power. For some us, it doesn’t just “get better.” But, we are doing the crucial groundwork in order to establish spaces and support systems for our Queer undocumented brothers and sisters. Through our stories, we will heal and bring change to our families and communities.
Viva la Joteria!!!
(Photo courtesy of Julio Salgado)