Immigration Reform Needs a Comprehensive Approach from the LGBT Community: Boston Asian Americans Weigh In
by Maxwell Ng, Debasri Roy, and Ben de Guzman
Former Representative Barney Frank’s response to Senator Leahy’s decision to withdraw the amendments that would support LGBT binational couples to S744: The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, during the bill’s markup, recognizes the challenging divide before the Senator. By dropping these amendments, he would potentially alienate the LGBT constituency; but on the other hand, the threats of a breakdown of the entire bill on this one issue was real for the Senator. Representative Frank is certainly no stranger to tough decisions about legislation. In 2007, his work on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) created controversy and dialogue within the LGBT community, whose ripple effects can still be felt. Because this is a broader bill and begins to provide some much needed relief for LGBT immigrants, what is needed is not narrowly defined identity politics about which provision serves which community, but both a nuanced analysis of how LGBT communities (immigrant and citizen alike) are affected by this legislation, and a commitment to do better.
We represent the Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance (QAPA) and Massachusetts Area South Asian Lambda Association (MASALA), local organizations based in Boston, as well as the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA). As Asian Americans/ Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) who also identify as LGBT, we understand the potential impact of these compromises. As Massachusetts locals, we are thankful for Barney Frank’s service as a leader in LGBT politics, however we emphasize that his voice is not a current representation of the diverse demographics of the LGBT population. We join a growing chorus of voices that recognize the multiple ways in which our intersecting communities have a stake in the current immigration proposal.
We consider any attempt to pit the LGBT community against immigrant rights advocates as a false choice. The current broken immigration system affects the LGBT community in a variety of ways, not just those of us who are in binational couple relationships. There are a number of areas in immigration that need reform that affect many of us who are LGBT. At a recent Boston LGBT Immigration Forum we hosted, an LGBT identifying young person shared her story about the emotional impact of her father’s deportation due to antiquated immigration laws. Her experience reflects the often unseen but just as real consequences of an immigration system that no longer addresses the needs of those who wish to live the American dream.
Additionally, the removal of family immigration categories emphasizes the merit based hierarchy of criteria such as education, employment, and country of origin. These were previously taken into consideration but were not the basis for admission. Many of us share rich personal stories about how our immigrant ancestors came to this country. These stories would not exist if family categories were removed. Today, there are approximately 4 million people trapped in the backlog of family petitions, almost half of which are waiting to reunite with Asian American families, many of which include LGBT members. As S744 moves to the Senate floor, we know that there will be additional opportunities to fight for an inclusive immigration reform.
We are committed to compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform, and we will continue to fight for legislation that achieves this. It is an overdue and necessary step forward for a strong and diverse modern America.
Maxwell Ng, Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance (QAPA)
Debasri Roy, Massachusetts Area South Asian Lambda Association (MASALA)
Ben de Guzman, National Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)
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In light of recent events, we just want to emphasize how important community and support systems are. We had the honor of having Marsha Aizumi come speak at Makeshift earlier this month and prior we had a group discussion about coming out (part of our QAPA Speaks Out series). The Boston Marathon bombings showed us that we can unite together to heal. When we are reminded of our mortality, we feel the universal vulnerability that deeply connects us.
When we are struggling with our sexual orientation, coming out, or grief, we turn to those that we love and trust most. Marsha Aizumi showed us the power of a family’s love and acceptance. Our Coming Out discussion revealed that many of us relied on close friends to give us courage and confidence. The Boston Strong spirit that runs through our area now shows that even strangers can instinctively rush to rescue in times of our need. The point is – you never nor should you have to go through any of these life changing moments alone.
We are so thankful for those that have come to our events, and even those who haven’t just yet. QAPA is nothing without the care and consistent support we have received. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if there is something we can help with. We are more reliant on each other than we ever realise, and we hope to see you soon.
Special thanks to Marsha Aizumi for graciously sharing her new book and personal journey with her trans* son. If you would like to read her heartwarming story, please check out her book, “Two Spirits, One Heart.” Special thanks to MakeShift for generously helping us provide the space for the intimate event.
Often we find that we have to separate our parts to feel like we belong somewhere. We go to queer groups and then even those groups can be further subdivded. Our discussion last week with theologian Patrick S. Cheng was insightful because it encouraged us to embrace the intersection of our identities.
We don’t have to separate our need for a spiritual fulfillment from our queer identity. Religious extremists make it easy for us to forget that religion is not exclusive with the social conservatism that ostracizes us. We may long for that social unity that happens so infrequently in our communities; often these communities may be centralized in a religious setting. For example, I grew up in a sparsely Asian-populated area so church or temple were the few times the community would unite to socialize and keep our cultures – our roots alive. For us to deny those cultural or religious roots can be painful or cause “spirtual abuse.”
It doesn’t have to be this way! There are many religious communities that opened their doors to the queer community. Whether you can wander into a church, temple, synagoue, or mosque, you can also look for other resources to help reconcile your spirirtual and queer identity. There are plenty of online groups and forums (For starters: LGBT Religious Archives: http://www.lgbtran.org/). Patrick S. Cheng is also releasing a book soon called Rainbow Theology: Bridging Race, Sexuality, and Spirit. More info on his book here: http://www.patrickcheng.net/rainbow-theology.html.
We want to thank Patrick S. Cheng for his resources and outreach in our discussion, and of course many thanks to our attendees!
EDIT: Patrick S. Cheng will be speaking at Trinity Church on May 5, 2013 about his newly released Rainbow Theology book! More details at:http://trinitychurchboston.org/calendar/event/10/2h0k5e4moos5a1828snacn8qq0
QAPA is excited to partner with NQAPIA, MAP for Health, PRYSM, MASALA and GLAD to address the policies that substantially impact LGBT Asian lives.
Please join us for an evening focused on Comprehensive Immigration Reform and how it impacts LGBT Asian Americans. Share your/your family’s story or come to listen. Refreshments and refreshing conversation will be provided. You bring the networking and community. We’ll bring the latest information locally and nationally about the national debate around immigrants’ rights and how YOU can get involved!
Thursday, March 21st, 6:30pm
Held at MAP for Health, 324 Tremont Street, Boston, MA
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 35,000 same sex bi-national couples where one partner is a US citizen or legal permanent resident and the other is a foreign national. There are over 400,000 Asian Americans, South Asians, Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, over 60% of them are immigrants.
With President Obama passing the Dream Act, the time is NOW for comprehensive immigration reform.
We had great time at Chau Chow City on February 2, 2013 to celebrate the Year of the Snake! We shared food family style, and were able to even do a bit of fundraising through the generosity of our members. There were new and old members alike.
After dinner, we didn’t want to part ways just yet and we went to have some bubble tea and continued conversations. QAPA wishes everyone an incredible year, and if you’re not done celebrating yet. There is the Quincy Lunar New Year Festival this Sunday, March 10th (postponed from February 24 due to weather). We will be tabling this year starting noon time. Come by and say hi and enjoy the festivities! You can RSVP on our meetup page for more details.
The Lunar New Year is a special time for families to gather and reflect. We have a year to hope for better things to come not only for our real family, but for the “families” that we have discovered through our communities. QAPA is very lucky to have this family and we cannot wait to contribute more for 2013.
A few weeks ago, our friends John and Belinda at API Famnily Pride poised the question, “How Do We Make The Transgender Community Part Of Our Conversation?
It’s kind of a funny question to ask, since Trans* people are and have been the backbone of the Queer Civil Rights movement.
During Barack Obama’s speech during his inauguration, he passionately linked three locations together: Seneca Falls, the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement, Selma, the birthplace of the black civil rights movement, and Stonewall, the bar that is often cited as the birthplace of the LGBT civil rights movement.
Note that I said the birthplace of L-G-B-T civil rights. I did not say gay civil rights.
NPR, has since graciously offered a quick history lesson to any who didn’t understand the President’s three references. But in all the synopses of the Stonewall Riots, the “historic” voice was so narrowly presented that anyone reading/listening can easily deny the richness that sparked the next 40 years of civil rights activism. The people who rioted for FIVE DAYS were transvestites and bull daggers and drag queens and cross dressers and nancy boys and fags and faeries and butches and femmes and people like you and people like me. Some of them were on the fringes of society, and yes, it can be argued that some of them were on the fringes of queer society. But they were there and they were the reason why City Hall plaza flies a rainbow flag, and why Pride is celebrated in June.
People often like to separate out the T from the LGB community. I understand. I am a self identified transman, and I can tell you that my own personal journey of identity has been focused around gender and NOT sexuality; a key distinctive difference. However gender expression is such a crucial and HISTORIC piece of the queer rights movement, and safeguarding gender identity is not just protection for Trans* people. It’s protection for everyone who does not fit the image of Suzy Homemaker of John Q. Public. It protects butch lesbians and effeminate men and everyone who isn’t David or Victoria Beckham.
So as we go forward and divide up among our respective Ls, Gs, Bs and Ts, let’s try to remember that it was once “us” verse “them”. And as I sit here wrapped in the comfortable blanket that those brave souls fought to provide for me, I ask you to remember the cataclysmic movement where we defined our spirit of unity and defiance TOGETHER in the face of opposition.
Having a snake in your house is a good omen, because it means you’ll never starve.
Come celebrate with QAPA at Chow Chau City at our annual Lunar New Year Dinner! We’ll eat, drink, and be merry together.
For the first time, QAPA will have a presence at the Quincy Lunar New Year festival on Sunday, Feb 24th. We would love some volunteers to help us table, give out information and be out!
Both of these events are listed on QAPA’s Meetup, your source for all events, good times and Gaysians in New England.
Our hearts and condolensces to his family.
Senator Inouye was the highest ranking Asian American member of the US Government.