Undocu Queer Reaction to Az. Sheriff Paul Babeu
Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu reminds us how important it is to advocate for queer rights. Sheriff Babeu is a well-known ultraconservative who gained popularity because of his anti-immigrant stance. He was forced out of the closet as a queer when his involvement with a male immigrant went public. I am sure the media is going to sensationalize this story, but as a society and as human beings we should ask ourselves why we continue to oppress others. As queers we break societal laws in order to be ourselves and to be happy. As undocumented people we try tobe productive members in the only community we know. As queer and undocumented people we make the point that we have hopes, emotions, and aspiration just like anyone else. I hope others like Sheriff Babeu will be able to recognize the humane side of the undocumented issue.
As a queer-undocumented person, I remember the pain, guilt, and struggle of being in the closet and living separate lives; an acceptable one and an unacceptable one. Growing up, I did not personally know of anyone who was queer. If my friends or family members happened to come across a queer person, they would make fun of them and talk about them negatively. Sadly, I even mocked my queer brothers and sisters and as a result, was pushed further into the closet. I hated myself for a very long time because I was someone who my family and friends didn’t accept. As a so-called “straight man,” I was afraid of being too feminine and was constantly conscious of how I communicated both verbally and non-verbally. I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for Sheriff Babeu living in a very conservative society, having a conservative career, and expressing such conservative views while secretly being a queer man. As a gay man, he must have hated himself in order to oppose gay marriage and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
I was in the closet for 23 years and every day was a mission to make sure no one found out about my queer identity. I first came out to my close friends and finally decided to come out to my family a month ago. Being undocumented has its own unique set of challenges from a societal standpoint, but being queer forces us to fight within our own homes and families for our happiness.
I am writing this piece anonymously because I do not want to add fuel to the fire the turbulent time in my family situation right now. Being the only openly queer person in my family, I have to respect that it will take a while for them to understand and accept my sexual orientation. I needed to make sure that this conversation was had within my family and I want to continue to make sure these types of discussions are taking place so that people like Sheriff Babeu do not wait so long to embrace who they are.
I see the need to talk about our experiences as queer, undocumented people. However, I recently started to feel as if that’s all I do now. In the queer spaces, I talk about being undocumented. In the undocumented spaces, I talk about being queer. In my graduate seminar classes, I find ways to link discussions to queer undocumented people. I mentioned to an amazing organizer and friend, Jorge Gutierrez, that I am getting tired of talking about being queer and undocumented, hat maybe people are getting tired of it. He told me, “We must and should continue to talk about our queer and undocumented identities in our communities and organizing spaces until all of us are publicly protected.”
He reminded me that I cannot get tired of sharing my story because there are people like Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu who are afraid to empower and celebrate their identity. Many men, myself included, tried to fit into the stereotypical cliché of what it means to be a man. From personal experience, I can say that the fear of being oppressed and unaccepted cause us to fight for a sense of control and have a negative point of view. Not that being in the closet justifies hate against a group of people; being in the closet because social norms oppress one of the most natural feelings, can have some harmful effects. I hope Sheriff Babeu’s harsh stance on immigration was just his sad attempt at deflecting his true feelings towards undocumented people because the alternative- that he used undocumented people as a scape goat to show and portray a conservative persona- is much scarier.