Navigating Identity in the LGBTQ Community


These remarks were given at the recent Southern New Mexico Pride panel on LGBTQ identity. Our Southern NM Field Coordinator, Myra Llerenas, provided the critical perspective of being a Queer Chican@ from an immigrant family.

I am a 24-year-old self-identified Queer Chican@, born of immigrant parents from Mexico and Guatemala, and the first to graduate from college in my family. I am a border community resident in Southern New Mexico, and a community organizer with Equality New Mexico. 

I am one of many marginalized voices in the LGBTQ community, and all of my intersected identities have informed and shaped how I navigate my Queer identity. My Queer identity isn’t a single checkbox, and I don’t live a single-issue life. This evening when I entered this room, I didn’t leave my Chican@ identity at the door – I walked in with my whole self and all of my intersected identities. 

As we talk about navigating identity in the LGBTQ community, I want to uplift the 267,000 LGBTQ Immigrants who had to flee their homes because of persecution and violence on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, and now are under threat of deportation, harassment, and discrimination. I want to talk about the courage of UndocuQueer youth and LGBTQ DREAMers who have risked their lives and deportation fighting for DACA and DAPA to keep their families together. I want to talk about same-sex binational couples in Southern New Mexico who live in fear of family separation, and have no way to get to Las Cruces for assistance because they are low income and face the challenges of navigating real physical barriers, like the six interior check points just in Southern New Mexico. I want to talk about the challenges that Trans immigrants have correcting Federal and State identity documents. I want to talk about the challenges with health care access that many in the LGBTQ community face, especially Trans individuals needing gender confirmation services. I want to talk about the students who are most at risk in our schools. 

Much of what I talk about, and much of the work of EQNM, takes the form of heady, systemic policy changes; but, none of that happens without the visibility, inclusion and centering of silenced voices – the voices of those I mentioned earlier. As an LGBTQ community, our struggles and identities are interconnected. Our liberation as a community isn’t finished until the most marginalized and oppressed in our community are liberated. 

Reflecting on the past and believing in the future, I acknowledge that Pride is a celebration of progress, like the most recent marriage equality victory in New Mexico, which started here in Doña Ana County. Pride also celebrates progress we’ve made in just being able to be ourselves, out and proud. But, I also want to reflect on the fact that Pride was born out of a necessary act of resistance, led by poor, Trans, gender non-conforming, and queer people of color. Pride was born out of a radical need to survive. And, while many of us don’t feel our lives are being threated because we are LGBTQ, there are many in our LGBTQ community who are indeed in survival mode. 

We live in a society that has declared war on Black people, women, immigrants, Trans people, and poor people; and, at the intersection, Trans Women of Color. In the first two months of 2015, a Trans woman was killed every week – the vast majority being Trans Women of Color. To date, at least 10 Trans women have been murdered in the United States (that we know about). 

The reality is that we can’t continue letting the national mainstream and commercialized LGBTQ movement dictate what the needs are for our community. As a community we must stop being so divided, and do everything we can to foster leadership and support for LGBTQ people of color and LGBTQ youth. We must create safe and accessible queer spaces so that no one in our community feels that they must leave parts of themselves at the door.  There are so many challenges for our community beyond the white-centered and led movements for legal equality that systematically exclude trans people, people of color, and young people. It’s long past time for us to leave behind the single-focus strategies, and commit ourselves to work at the many intersections of our lives. This is where we will achieve justice.

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