It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that, though I didn’t think about this at the time, I probably started a blog because I need somewhere to vent my boundless rage that is not random people’s Facebook walls. I mean, one thing among the many thousands of things that are guaranteed to raise my blood pressure is when folks get all “the internet isn’t real, and it’s not a viable platform for communication,” but also like, Facebook fights are dumb, I’m supposed to be an adult now.
So here’s the thing that got me all het up this week: gay marriage.
Specifically, these goddamn things:
Jan. 31, 2013 marks the one-year anniversary of the first “Undocumented Mental Health Day” and the beginning of “Undocuhealth,” which is a support network for undocumented people facing any health issues with a focus on mental health.
So what does this have to do with me, a citizen with a crazy amount of privilege and access to any kind of health care I need? Thanks to Marco Saavedra, who took the lead on the Yanelli Hernandez deportation case that led to the creation of Undocuhealth, I have been a part of Undocuhealth for a year now.
Under the incredible leadership of Angelica Velazquillo and the support of other Undocuhealth folks like Marco, Luis Nolasco, Viridiana Martinez, and Rosario Lopez, I have been able to share in the amazing work that is being done.
I am fortunate to be involved with a lot of groups/projects in the immigration movement (DreamActivist Ohio, National Immigrant Youth Alliance, and UndocuQueer Book Project) that I love, but Undocuhealth has a special place in my life. Since I was young, I have battled incredible anxiety and come from families with a history of profound mental health issues and numerous suicides and suicide attempts. All with a “shit-ton” (thank you Viridiana for adding THAT to my vocabulary lol) of privilege.
I have no idea what it is like to be undocumented. I have no idea what it is like to not have access to mental health care. All I can do is take what I know me and other family members have gone through and multiply it by some extraordinary number. That is my drive to help in any way I can, to support those who are doing amazing things with Undocuhealth.
I am honored to be a part of it. I think of Yanelli often though we never met. I think of Joaquin Luna, an undocumented young man who took his own life, often though we never met.
A nation that dehumanizes immigrants, while using them at the same time, must provide the mental health resources for all. Undocuhealth raises the conversation to critical levels and is only beginning to do the great things it will do for anyone who is (or has been) undocumented and struggled with depression and other mental health issues that result from living in a society that says their lives are of lesser value.
Saturday marked not only the first time I have ever marched in a Pride event, but the first one I have attended at all.
It was a beautiful morning in Cleveland as I met PFLAG Cleveland for its annual brunch and then marched with them.
It is hard to explain everything going through my mind as I looked around at all the people marching in the parade, the signs, the flags, and most of all the smiles. I was taken aback by the joy of the participants and by the parents who were preparing to walk with their LGBTIQ child and what a process that was for many of them to reach this point.
The call to begin the march came and their was palpable energy that went through all of us who were marching. Taking those first steps was a culmination of the last two years of my life in which I went from absolutely no involvement in LGBTIQ issues to being involved in more areas than I can count, particularly with queer undocumented immigrants. Two years ago, I had no gay male friends (only a couple who had “struggled”) and now the running joke is that almost all my friends are gay men.
My involvement in this march had no significance beyond myself, but I was thankful to be a part of it. It was encouraging to walk by people cheering as they saw the PFLAG banners. I started my journey into learning more about the experiences and challenges of local LGBTIQ people at PFLAG in July 2010 and so it was only natural to be walking side-by-side with others from this incredible organization.
Being a person of faith, I was inspired by all the denominations marching in the parade, and equally discouraged by the stereotypical gay-bashing “church” folks on the side preaching intolerance, hate, and judgment. I wanted to flip them off, but was struck by how the people walking simply cheered louder and flashed the peace sign to those in opposition to the core of who they and/or who their child is. Although I am not sure how many people in PFLAG that day are people of faith, they were sure living it out better than I was (not an uncommon practice in my life).
The thing that struck me the most was after the march, just watching all the people in the park for the celebration. It was amazing to see the comfort level of same-sex couples holding hands and putting their arms around one another. It all seemed so natural and loving to me.
That is when I got my privilege check. I had to realize that the simple act of holding hands would not be a safe or accepted thing for these same-sex couples to do in so many places in this country. There are so many places that are unsafe for these couples. That is a condemnation of the ignorance in this nation.
For me, until this moment, I had not fully grasped this: At no point in the 13 years I have been with my wife was there any place we have been where it would not be safe to hold hands, put my arms around her, or kiss her.
Being in immigration, I am reminded regularly (usually by myself and sometimes by those in the movement) of my privilege and I am well aware of it. Straight white male citizen? It doesn’t get more privileged or easy than that unless I was in the 1%. Pride 2012 was another demonstration and realization of that privilege. I am constantly learning and becoming more aware of how little I know of what it is like to be discriminated against simply for being who I am.
I hope to attend many Pride events in the future, but certainly will never forget the first one.
Daddy I love you