The Los Angeles May Day Queer Contingent and the Politics of Inclusion

“I love a queer immigrant!” The words, amidst colorful rainbow flags, were part of the 2012 May Day immigration march in downtown Los Angeles, and emphasize the intersection of immigrant and Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) organized groups, communities and their issues. The LGBTQ community, still entrenched in a civil rights struggle that began well before Proposition 8 won at the ballot box, is also demanding legalization for all immigrants.
In 2008, the “May Day Queer Contingent” was organized to provide a space for LGBTQ immigrants to stake their claims in the larger May Day march for immigrant rights. Although the first efforts began in 2007 and 2008, the largest turnout came in 2010 on the eve of the passage of SB1070 in Arizona, when over 500 LGBTQ community members demonstrated and ultimately became ‘out and proud’ immigrants. Red shirts, rainbow pride flags, and bilingual chants caught the attention of the larger immigration movement and the mainstream LGBTQ movement alike. This year, as the May Day immigrant workers’ mobilization took to the streets, 32 LGBTQ immigrant organizations again united as the “May Day Queer Contingent,” and demanded attention for the intersectionality of the issues they face.
LGBTQ immigrants are conceivably the most invisible and ignored group within what has become an extremely heteronormative immigration movement; given the state of the LGBTQ community within the larger civil rights movement, this is no surprise. Transgender immigrants are vulnerable in detention centers and often face peril if deported to their country of origin. The United States isn’t the Mecca of safety LGBTQ immigrants expected when they came. However, they are a little safer here than back home. LGBTQ immigrants marching with the Queer Contingent challenge mainstream LGBTQ organizations to engage in the fight for rights of their LGBTQ members who are also members of the immigrant population. The strength of the LGBTQ immigrants’ demands lie in their visibility.
Immigration reform is not a priority for the Obama administration; increasing deportations, long term detentions without trial, and the sharing of information between local law enforcement, federal agencies and immigration customs agencies are now commonplace.
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