Most people know I am a lesbian, but not as many know I am an immigrant. This is not because I hide that identity. It is because most people look at my skin color or hear me speak and assume I am a native-born American.
I, like many current first-generation immigrants, was brought to the United States as a child. Left behind in Canada were my family (except my Mom and siblings), the house I grew up in, my school, my friends; basically everything that was familiar to me. However, I was able to assimilate more easily than many of my fellow immigrants because of my skin color and language privileges. Moreover, because my Mom married a U.S. citizen, my pathway to citizenship was a relatively easy one. These privileges allowed me advantages and opportunities in the U.S. that many of my fellow immigrants are not afforded. These privileges make it a moral imperative for me to stand in solidarity with my fellow immigrants and to #FightForFamilies. Along with hundreds of others, I will engage in civil disobedience and be arrested.
The organization I am honored to work for, Equality Maryland, has supported LGBT immigrants and issues that impact their lives for several years. In 2012, Equality Maryland endorsed Maryland’s Dream Act and worked hard to educate LGBT voters on why voting for Question 4 (upholding the DREAM Act) was the right thing to do. At the same time, CASA de Maryland endorsed marriage equality and worked with Latino communities to increase support for Question 6 (upholding marriage equality). We did this by highlighting the multiple identities of people in our communities. We were fortunate to have Latino same-sex couples and LGBT DREAMers who shared their lives and stories. I am confident that LGBT voters helped lead to victory on Question 4 and Latino voters helped us win on Question 6. Equality Maryland’s partnership with CASA de Maryland has continued, and we are proud to co-sponsor #FightForFamilies.
Far too many people believe that because we have won marriage equality and passed a trans anti-discrimination law, our work for LGBT equality is done in Maryland. Unfortunately, there remains so much left to do, and much of this work is centered on the intersections of our LGBT lives; the “ands” of our lives. Thus, we will work on issues regarding being both LGBT and immigrant, LGBT and disabled, LGBT and African American, LGBT and living in a rural area, and so on. We are the sum of all our identities, and Equality Maryland will concentrate on these “ands.” We will continue to work diligently at ensuring equality regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, but we will also work diligently to ensure equality regardless of race, immigration status, age, geography, and the like.
On Thursday, Aug. 28, #FightforFamilies will take place in Washington, D.C. This effort seeks to pressure President Obama to provide aggressive relief to immigrants. Organizers hope that this will be the largest act of civil disobedience in the history of the immigrant rights movement, with hundreds of arrestees. Equality Maryland staff will join this effort to show support. I urge all LGBT people to embrace the whole of our identities and communities and to join us on this important day.
Carrie Evans is executive director of Equality Maryland, the state’s LGBT civil rights organization. She became a naturalized citizen in 1997.