Harnessing Love’s Power
to Stop Oppression


Day 20: In Jail in Drag

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Today is Day 20 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to investigate what the immigration detention system looks like in your area. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.

In November 2011, I was driving home after an HIV benefit, when I was pulled over for not having a license plate light. I was dressed in drag, wearing jeans, high heels, a wig, and a cute shirt. The police officer gave me a sobriety test, which I passed, with heels on and everything. But I had been drinking a little that night, although he was going to let me go, a second officer pulled up, and they decided to take me in.

I was thrown into the jail, in drag. The people who were detained were playful, whistled, and even friendly, but the harshest looks I got were from the police officers. Early the next morning, around 4:00 AM, I was taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center. My mother was trying to help me, and had sent money to a friend for my bond, but they told her I had an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold. This meant that they had identified me as undocumented, and they would not let me out. I spent the next 120 days in jail.

In detention, there is little privacy. I was paid only $1 for an 8 hour work day and some of the guards were racist and homophobic. Despite all of this, the hardest thing was not being able to see my family.

Although I will never forget how hard it was to be in detention, I am happy that I was able to be out as a queer person. I feel like it gave courage to other people who were also LGBTQ. We would get together, and would talk back to those who were harassing us. It taught me to stand up for my dignity, and to support fellow LGBTQ people in detention.

Thinking about the stories that I heard in detention always make me cry, which is why I try not to talk about it, or think about it. I remember the pain, the isolation, the separation from my family. I continue to organize because I remember all the people that were in there, how much my family suffered, how badly we got treated, and because I have lost so many friends. This is a fight for all of us. The strength that my family showed me and the stories of those still in the detention center are what gives me the will to face my fears.

For today’s action, investigate what the detention system looks like in your area. To get started, check out this map of detention centers and learn more about detention visitation programs.

In solidarity,

Angel Alvarez

Angel Alvarez is 23 years old, a self-identified undocu-queer, and currently lives in Phoenix, AZ. He has been in the United States since he was one year old. He has been involved in his community and in the migrant justice movement for many years.

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Day 19: Love Has No Borders–Immigration Reform Must Keep Families Together

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Today is Day 19 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to write to your members of Congress and tell them that we need compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.

My name is Ravi Ragbir, and I am a longtime resident of the United States, as well as a community activist, father, and husband. Despite being heavily involved in my community, I live with the constant threat of permanent exile casting a shadow over my life.

My immigration story began when I came to the U.S. from Trinidad in 1991 on a visitor’s visa. In 1994, I became a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) and my daughter, Deborah, was born the next year. Based on a single conviction for fraud, I was detained and ordered deported in 2006 by an immigration judge—without a hearing on my family ties and contributions to this country. I was subject to mandatory, indefinite detention for years in New Jersey and Alabama, far from my community and young daughter.

Through my own struggle to remain here, I became active in supporting other immigrants who were facing similar challenges, and I later met, fell in love with, and eventually married my wife Amy Gottlieb, a U.S. citizen and fellow immigrant rights activist. Though I am eligible to become a permanent resident based on my marriage, the Board of Immigration Appeals recently denied my request. I am currently appealing this decision so that I can remain with my wife and daughter in the United States, the place I have called home for over twenty years.

Immigration reform must keep families together. Click here to tell your representatives that you support compassionate immigration reform.

My detention and ongoing deportation case have deprived my daughter of a breadwinner and parent, and left my entire family feeling helpless and hopeless. My daughter has suffered the most through my detention. Despite my release from immigration detention, Deborah still does not feel secure because she knows that I can be deported if I lose my appeal. Deborah once confided in me, “Somewhere lurking in my mind, a voice tells me: well, don’t be happy — your dad could be leaving tomorrow so get ready to say goodbye.”

After I was released from immigration custody, I joined Families for Freedom, a network of immigrants facing and fighting deportation. I have also trained other advocates, allies, community organizers, and elected officials about immigration issues and how to reform the deportation system. I meet regularly with policymakers to discuss detention and deportation policy, and I know how important it is for our elected officials to hear from people like you to ensure that immigration reform is compassionate and respects the worth and dignity of all human beings.

For today’s action, contact your elected representatives, and demand that we stand on the side of love with immigrant families! Click here to take action.

In faith,

Ravi Ragbir

In 2010, Ravi became a fulltime organizer for the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, one of the largest coalitions in the city focused on immigrant rights, with over 20 faith-based and supporting organizations, representing over 3,000 New Yorkers. Ravi is also part of the larger Trinidadian and Indian diaspora and he volunteers his time to visit churches on Sundays to speak at services about the impact of immigration policies on the community.

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Day 18: Let Freedom Ring

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Today is Day 18 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to ask your members of Congress to include the Uniting American Families Act in comprehensive immigration reform and help keep binational LGBTQ families together. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.

Ten years ago, I participated in the 2003 Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, journeying from San Francisco to Washington, D.C with the goal of gaining legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants. The Riders included citizens, asylees, legal permanent residents, and undocumented immigrants. Inspired by the Freedom Rides of the 1960s, we too wanted freedom to ring for our families. During this third week of the Thirty Days of Love, when we “Move Beyond Borders,” I am reminded about this journey that, for me, meant crossing borders of attitude, identity, and geography.

I participated specifically to express my hope for a comprehensive immigration reform solution that included same-sex partners. Though I was not the only LGBT Rider, I was the only one vocally advocating for the plight of binational couples. I brought my own bias and stereotypes with me: I saw many other Riders as raised on farms far away from any modernity, and therefore narrow-minded. I was terrified that I would be rejected by them or, even worse, physically attacked. I was dominated by fear, and my fear made me into that which we were trying to eliminate.

Halfway across the country, homophobia came out in full force when a fellow Rider expressed displeasure with my messages of LGBT inclusion. This propelled the Ride leaders to organize an LGBT training, and I was asked to participate to translate between English and Spanish. During the Q&A portion, the older man who had complained about me came to the front of the bus to speak, and I found myself in the awkward situation of having to translate for him as he chastised my purpose for being on the trip.

The other Riders rose to my defense. I was particularly touched by one woman. Earlier in the trip, I insisted we celebrate her husband’s birthday. It was quite a party, but her husband was very quiet the whole time. Later his wife told me that he had never ever had a birthday party. He was so moved that at a distance he looked catatonic. It was this woman who spoke the most eloquently in my defense. Her words touched me so much that I sank into my seat and began to cry. I stopped and dried my tears as quickly as I could; after all, I was helping to lead a workshop. When I slowly arose and looked at the crowd, I was once again taken aback; their eyes were full of tears as well. I realized that my fellow Freedom Riders didn’t just tolerate or accept me. They loved me! And I realized that I also loved them. It was then that I realized the promise of those around me, and clearly felt freedom ring.

Ten years later, we are still seeking not just a solution to our broken immigration system, but also one that includes same-sex couples like my spouse and me. As we now appear closer than ever, please join me in sending a message of true inclusion to your members of Congress, urging them to make sure LGBTQ people are not left behind. As we break down borders of geography, let’s tear down all the barriers to keeping families together. Click here to send your message today.

In solidarity,

Marta Donayre

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Day 17: Beyond the Gender Binary–A Day without Pronouns

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Today is Day 17 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to explore the gender binary by not using gendered pronouns for one day. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.

This past Christmas Eve, I took my 7-year-old to a local Christmas pageant, where our neighbor was playing Joseph. After the service was over, there were cookies and cider and small talk. At one point, I realized “Joseph” had come back from the bathroom, but my child hadn’t. Feeling a bit of the adrenaline that comes from the fear that your child might be lost, I jogged towards the bathroom where my child had last been seen.

In that slightly charged moment of just wanting to be sure of my kid, from behind me, I heard a voice yell, “LADIES ROOM… LADIES ROOM!!”

This was an example of what some of us call an encounter with the “gender police.” Well-meaning people make assumptions about my gender, particularly near the entrances of gender-segregated areas, like bathrooms and locker rooms. In this case, a complete stranger felt themselves better qualified than I myself am to know my gender—even through my winter coat in a dark hallway.

Some of us just don’t fit your stereotypes of what “male” or “female” look like. For many transgender and gender non-conforming people, these situations add stress, sap energy, and force the development of strategies to navigate every day needs like using the bathroom or moving through airport security.

I ignored the voice, which is how I typically handle such incidents, and continued with the task at hand. Long story short, my kid had found a friend from school and was chatting with them in the other room. All was well.

Or was it? Did I feel welcome in that church and inclined to return? Did I feel like people there would likely understand my story? Did I feel loved? No. It cast a memorable shadow over my evening.

So, what does it mean to show “love” to those of us who live at the boundaries of gender?

Yee Won Chong, an asylee from Malaysia, gives some straight-forward advice in the TEDx talk “Beyond the Gender Binary” (11 minutes):

1. Assume that everyone knows what bathrooms they are in.

2. Do not assume everyone goes by “he” or “she.”

3. Ask yourself “Would I want someone to ask me that?”

4. Do not tolerate anti-transgender remarks or humor.

5. Be open to thinking in new ways. Start thinking outside the gender binary.

There are many more suggestions in “Transfaith Tips for Allies” if you want to dig deeper. You can also find out more about gender neutral pronouns.

Today, I invite you to explore the boundary that determines the gender binary. Can you go 24 hours without using gender-specific pronouns like “he” and “she”? What would it feel like to try not to make assumptions about the gender of people you meet? How would it make life harder? Or easier? Challenge yourself to avoid pronouns for the day and share your experience on the Transfaith Facebook page!

In faith,

Chris Paige

Chris Paige is executive director of Transfaith/Interfaith Working Group, a national non-profit led by transgender people and focused on issues of faith and spirituality. Transfaith works closely with many allied organizations, both secular and religious, transgender-led and otherwise, to equip and cultivate diverse expressions of gender-affirming spiritual vitality.

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Day 16: Being Your Authentic Self

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Today is Day 16 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to to think about borders in your life, and how to be your authentic self both online and off. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.

I remember the moment clearly: palms sweating, stomach in knots, anxiety swirling through my head. Reading and re-reading the status, I hesitated as long as possible until, in a rush of resolve, I finally pushed the button.

There was no turning back; I was “out” on Facebook.

This moment was a long time coming. I spent two years meticulously hiding evidence of my “gay lifestyle” online. Like any good millennial, I feared the power of the internet, the unstoppable flow of information, and the permanency of the digital world. There might as well be a weekly column chronicling the young, usually female, persons paying the price for past indiscretions and bad behavior online.

At the same time, we’re taught the power of storytelling. The internet holds an amazing power to connect folks from different places, different cultures, and different traditions. How can we have it both ways?

I come from a small town in the Bible belt, and was surrounded by gays and lesbians and queers who have been so deeply hurt by the church. Who still feel the pain of rejection and want nothing to do with faith. In these crowds, admitting I’m a Christian feels like coming out. In many ways, it felt like I was living multiple lives.

Eventually, the walls I built in my digital world began to crumble. The support and encouragement I received from my “friends” on Facebook became as superficial as my posts. The very people I wanted to stay in touch with no longer knew who I was.

There’s a community there that I was refusing—a communion I feared taking. Imagine if we approached our “real life” communities with the fear and trepidation we carry into the online world? Imagine how much we’d miss if we were too afraid to participate in conversations with our families or our faith communities?

We know how walls can tumble and hearts can melt with one powerful narrative. As the newest staff member at Believe Out Loud, I spend my days encouraging folks around the country to share their testimony of how they came to support LGBTQ equality. How can I ask for their transparency when I’m too afraid to share myself?

Yes, living openly and courageously online has certain risks, but the rewards of community are great if we choose to participate in this space. My only hope is that, by example, we can all encourage the kind of authenticity that builds community, online and in our “real lives.” It is only by claiming our space that we can hope to make a difference.

For today’s action, think about the borders in your own life, and whether they are serving you, or if you can find ways to move beyond them. And if you feel inspired, share it on social media—maybe by sharing this post on Facebook, tweeting something authentic about yourself, or uploading a photo on Instagram that conveys the borders you encounter in your day-to-day life with the hashtag #30daysolove.

In faith,

Alison Amyx

Alison Amyx is the Senior Editor at Believe Out Loud, a Georgia native, and a graduate of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Follow Alison on the website South & Out and on Twitter @queerfaith.

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