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Students get the migration and queer intersection. Why doesn't Pride?

Intolerance rooted in forgetting a shared history is a bad look, sashay away

AZ legislature opening protest Trans Queer Pueblo

Members of Trans Queer Pueblo march at the opening of the Arizona Legislative Session for 2017 on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017.

For many queer university students, the idea that migration and queer identities are one and the same is obvious. This intersection got lost during Pride last Sunday.

Going to college has presented a unique opportunity for many of us to distance ourselves from our families and find our identities outside of their values. For many LGBT Americans growing up in conservative households, moving away to a college town across the state or nation represented a time that was safe to come out.

That was the impetus for the creation of "gayborhoods" in cities like San Francisco and New York. San Francisco’s thriving gay culture is a product of the fact that soldiers discharged for being gay could not face their families and settled far away, while David France chronicles in How to Survive a Plague how New York represented a safe space away from conservative family members for many gays escaping the Midwest in the 1980s.

For some in the globalized LGBT community, however, it goes beyond this.

Large portions of the LGBT community globally are forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in other nations, whether for increased freedom in a different culture or for their very safety.

In discussing her experience with the global queer community since coming out, ASU alumna Karen Hewell described her experience while working in Vietnam, where coming out publicly is simply not as possible.

“I had friends in Vietnam that were gay around their friends but never around their families or other people. They had dreams there of moving to the U.S. When I asked why, they explained it was because they could get papers there that would recognize their identity. They were living the identity that they felt they were, but they couldn’t change out their legal documentation or anything like that," Hewell said.

"That’s when I realized how it was important, how much people are going through in other places. All the negative experiences I had in coming out were nothing compared to what they experience in Vietnam."

Some LGBT migrants seek legal avenues such as asylum petitions — others recognize that while persons like conversion therapy-supporting Vice President Mike Pence are in office, governments will also not protect them.

In a community that has actively fought against artificial borders placed between themselves and loved ones, artificial borders placed between them and other nations appear to be of a different sort.

And forgetting that the government that set up those borders is the same government that allowed for the criminalization of gay sex until 2002 and forbade equal marriage until 2015 and is still trying, circuit by circuit, to even begin to provide equality in work and housing protections is absurdist.

The U.S. government does not, has not, and will never — particularly under the purview of Donald Trump and Mike Pence — have LGBT interests at heart. Respecting their demands that every single person in this nation have a piece of paper granted to them by an unjust system flies in the face of queer struggles against a regime that has always excluded LGBT Americans.

Accepting corporate sponsors looking to cash in on upper middle class stereotypes of gay life gives Pride attendees great swag. It also deports and endangers those within the community who are seeking safety in America by supporting the banks financing organizations like CoreCivic, GEO Group and others who profit from the U.S.’s bipartisan deportation machine.

When Trans Queer Pueblo stopped the parade last Sunday to force a conversation about this simple matter, revelers were furious. Slurs were hurled because activists called on a Pride parade — a tradition founded as activism for visibility and acceptance — to make trans, undocumented lives visible and accepted.

Queer students understand the value in picking up, moving and escaping. I’m at a loss as to how this simple idea of the necessity of migration intersecting with queer life got lost at Pride last Sunday.

To those who shouted slurs at Trans Queer Pueblo at Pride on Sunday, there’s a simple message. Read your history, remember whose shoulders you stand on, and if you haven’t learned your lesson, kindly stop calling yourself proud to be part of this community.

To the rest of the community, take a cue from the arts: go Lysistrata on them and permanently swipe left. Why not plaster every single face from the videos on the door of Charlie’s, Nu Towne, Karamba and BS West as personae non gratae?

This kind of ignorance of shared history, territoriality and culture does not belong in queer spaces. The fight for equality is not over and it must be fought alongside and for activists like Trans Queer Pueblo.

Sin Justicia No Hay Orgullo / No Justice No Pride from Stephanie Figgins on Vimeo.

Reach the columnist at or follow @blsteele17 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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