Day 18: Let Freedom Ring
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.