- Terelle Jerricks
By Zamna Avila, Assistant Editor
On Aug. 4, The Center Long Beach is hosting Undocuqueer, an informational session exploring the challenges of undocumented gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youths in their dual roles, including a double coming out process and their fight to attain higher education.
The event’s mission is to raise awareness about the intersection of both identities and create unity among the LGBT community.
“A lot of the times immigration is only seen as a single sided issue,” said Miguel Montalva, one of the event’s organizers. “It’s to really see the intersectionalities of, not just see immigration as a Latino issue or as an Asian issue, but it’s also an LGBT issue. So it’s creating that dialogue and that space.”
As a gay man and undocumented, Montalva understands the importance of initiating that dialogue.
“It’s essentially this almost double coming out process,” Montalva, 28, said. “The best way I can explain it is: usually when you come into facing your undocumented status is usually around the time where you have to apply to college or you have these milestones as getting a drivers license, which is usually your late teens or early 20s. So, at the same, that is really when most of your identity comes into play and you kind of grow into your own skin.”
Montalva, an intern with the Long Beach Immigrants Coalition’s Queer Dream Summer National Internship, is these days, working on his philosophy doctorate. Most of the cost of attaining a higher education has been a result of his individual hard work because, as an undocumented student, he has been unable to get scholarships or grants, and must pay out of state fees.
But many people do not understand the hardships of being undocumented and queer. People unfamiliar with immigration often assume the process of becoming a documented resident in the United States is as easy as filling out an application. Yet, that’s not the case, especially for youths who came to this country through no choice of their own. Being a member of the LGBT community adds other challenges, such as acceptance within the students’ family structure, which is why events such as UndocuQueer are so important, he said.
The event will include a panel of mostly Long Beach students and activists, including QUIP, the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, whose representative will be the master of ceremonies at the event. QUIP has been pushing this education and empowerment movement around the country, having workshops and getting the word out to different organizations. The event also will include a documentary film featuring Long Beach residents who find themselves in this intersection of identities.
Another component of UndocuQueer will be a historical presentation of how the LGBT community seems to have been left out of immigration processes overall.
“Immigration policy has really been neglectful, when it comes to LGBT and queer identity,” he said. “It wasn’t until the 1990s that immigration stopped barring gay people from being admitted into the U.S. So, it’s fairly recent stuff, considering.”
The group will discuss the misconceptions of the Dream Act and the challenges of marriage equality, among other issues unique to people who are both and queer.
UndocuQueer will take place, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 3, at The Center Long Beach.
Details: (562) 434-4455
Venue: The Center Long Beach
Location: 2017 E. 4th St., Long Beach