5 Big Takeaways From Creating Change

Daniel Villarreal was in Atlanta for Creating Change and brings back five things you should know.



Not everyone had a chance to hit up Atlanta this weekend and attend Creating Change, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's 25th National Conference on LGBT Equality. That's why we've collected five of the best sessions from the conference.

They include a plenary session on LGBT immigration reform, a fascinating drunken conversation about the future of LGBT activism and a delightful presentation on gender-bending children's books from the author of Heather Has Two Mommies.

Best of all, our takeaways show just how much the LGBT rights movement has changed since Stonewall. It's no longer just about the freedom to love — it's about the freedom to live in a radically expressive and humane way.


1) Why Immigration Rights Are LGBT Rights
This Tuesday, President Obama will discuss his plans for immigration reform for the approximately 11 million undocumented citizens living in the U.S.  But up to now, he's been a bit of two minds on the issue.
On one side, he has deported record levels of undocumented immigrants at an average of 32,886 per month. (That's 12,000 more than under George W. Bush.) But on the other, he has championed ways for young immigrants to avoid deportation through DACA and even supported their becoming full-fledged U.S. citizens through the prospective Dream Act.
In the Saturday plenary session on undocumented immigrants, Matt Foreman — the Director of Gay and Immigrant Rights Programs at the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund — said that undocumented immigrants face the constant threat of discovery by police and government employees; being fired or having their company legally penalized for not reporting them; facing indefinite imprisonment in abusive and trans-phobic immigrant detention facilities; being torn apart from their lifelong community of friends and chosen family and getting deported to a country that they no longer recognize.
The Dream Act would allow young undocumented Americans the chance to become citizens if they attend college (expensive) or join the military (which is potentially dangerous, especially if the country goes to war or if an undocumented recruit gets sexually assaulted). But it has not been passed.
It will not provide political asylum for LGBT immigrants fleeing persecution abroad, nor will it stop the foreign-born partner in a legally married same-sex couple from getting deported. Only a repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act could stop that. So moving forward, participants at the conference were told it's important to keep a few things in mind:
First, undocumented immigrants are people of every age, social class and nationality, not just Mexican laborers, like popular culture might have you believe.
Second — to dispel another stereotype — many undocumented immigrants would like to legally marry (and not just for a green card) and would also like to pay taxes to give back to American society.
Third, immigration reform often provides cover to racist ideologies, whether it's hardcore Republican laws like in Arizona and Alabama that seek to make life so unmanageable in America that undocumented immigrants decide to self-deport, or those who speak about offering immigrants "legalization" over full-fledged "citizenship" (ie. those who want the economic benefit of exploiting foreign workers on American shores without having to extend any benefits to them or allowing them to influence elections).
Lastly, the Catholic Church denies grants for any immigration organization that also stands up for LGBT rights. As such, LGBT people and undocumented immigrants have common foes, and are much more able to fight against prejudiced police departments, legislators and other government officers if they band together rather than fight separately.
To learn more about how immigration equality intersects with LGBT issues of all sorts, you can visit The National Immigrant Youth Alliance, the Audre Lourde Project, Unid@s, Southerners on New Ground and Queers for Economic Justice.
Tags: Politics