Colman Domingo
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We 55
respectfully disagree

We 55
            respectfully disagree

An Open Letter to
the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community:

We are a group of
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people
of color who work in the LGBT movement. We are writing to
you in response to Jasmyne Cannick’s article
“Gays First, Then Illegals,” in which she, a
black lesbian, argues that she cannot support the current
battle for immigrant rights because LGBT people have
not yet won the right to marry. We are writing to
express our profound disagreement with her and to offer
alternative LGBT perspectives to the current immigration
battles happening across the country.

To begin with,
Cannick fails to realize an obvious fact that the LGBT
community and the immigrant community are not mutually
exclusive. There are thousands of LGBT immigrants in
this country. There are thousands of black immigrants.
And there are thousands of black LGBT immigrants. To
put forward an argument that says “we should get ours
first” makes us question who exactly is the
“we” in that analysis. In addition, we
recognize the historically interconnected nature of the
immigrant and LGBT struggles--such as the ban on
“homosexual immigrants” that extended
into the 1990s and the present HIV ban, which
disproportionately impacts LGBT people--and we believe
that only by understanding these connections and
building coalitions can we ensure real social change for

And we ask those
who share the destructive views of this article to
remember the immortal words of Audre Lorde when she said
that “there is no hierarchy of
oppression.” We reject any attempts to pit the
struggle of multiple communities against each other
and firmly believe that rights are not in limited
supply. We condemn the “scarcity of rights”
perspective espoused by Cannick and other members of the
LGBT movement and are surprised to see members of our
community trafficking in such ugliness. But then one
reason why it has always been so hard to shift power
in this country is because the ruling class has successfully
made us believe that there are only a few deserving
groups to whom rights can be given. This strategy has
always been used to divide oppressed groups from
coming together to work in coalition.

We are painfully
aware that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender
communities still lack many basic protections under the law
in this country, including the right to care for and
support all of our families in the various ways in
which we construct family and kinship. Nevertheless,
supporting immigrant rights, while we continue to work for
LGBT liberation, does nothing to hurt our cause. In fact, we
believe the opposite to be true and want to work
towards building powerful coalitions between immigrant
and LGBT movements to work together for social justice.

We are also aware
that many immigrant rights advocates have
(intentionally or not) used antiblack rhetoric to move their
agenda forward. Arguments such as “Don’t
treat us like criminal” or “We are doing
work that other Americans won’t do” have the
effect of positioning immigrant narratives as subtly
juxtaposed with American stereotypes of nonimmigrant
black communities. They leave native-born black Americans as
among the only people who do not have access to the
immigrant narrative and so are in a permanent position
of subordination, as the state consistently negotiates
and redefines citizenship and “American-ness”
for almost everyone but blacks.

Nevertheless, the
solution to this problem is not to abandon support for
the struggle of immigrant communities. Rather, we call on
immigrant movements and (nonimmigrant) black
organizations to work together for real racial and
economic justice in this country. Together these
movements can work to end the exploitation and targeting of
both communities and to ensure that black folks and
immigrants do not end up having to choose between
competing for low-paying jobs, or being targeted for
detainment or imprisonment.

As lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender people of color, we support
the current immigrant rights marches and rallies happening
across the country this month, and we march too.

We march because
immigrants are among the most politically vulnerable,
underpaid, and exploited communities in the country and are
asking for basic human rights, including the right to
live free from torture and exploitation, and the right
to work.

We march because
we recognize the connections between the state attacks
on immigrant and LGBT communities, and that LGBT immigrants
in particular are disproportionately affected by much
anti-immigrant legislation.

We march because
we oppose the heightened policing and criminalization of
immigrant communities, including the increased
militarization of the border, as mandated by HR 4437
and Senate bills.

We march because
we oppose indefinite and mandatory detention of
noncitizens--as well as the mass incarceration of
people-of-color communities in the U.S. more
broadly--and envision a society that ensures the
safety and self-determination of all people, regardless of
national origin, race, class, gender, or sexuality.

We march because
we oppose the guest worker proposals, which would
continue the exploitation of many low-wage workers. We march
because we demand the repeal of the HIV ban.

We march because
our sexualities have been historically criminalized by
this country, and we understand that law and justice are not
the same thing.

It is our
understanding that Jasmyne Cannick was writing as an
individual and not as a representative of either the
National Black Justice Coalition (on whose board of
directors she serves) or the Stonewall Democrats (for
whose Black Caucus she serves as cochair). As LGBT people
of color, we call upon both of those organizations to
publicly clarify their own positions in this ongoing
civil rights discussion.

We also call upon
our community to imagine how much more progress we
could make if we all stopped thinking of social justice as a
zero-sum game.

[signed as individuals; titles and affiliations provided for
identification purposes only]

Acey Executive Director, Astraea Lesbian Action

Faisal Alam
Founder & Former Director, Al-Fatiha Foundation for
LGBTIQ Muslims

Bashir Board member, National Black Justice
Coalition Communications Director, Freedom to
Marry Board member, Fire & Ink

Calonje Immigration Project Director, National
Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)

Noran J.
Camp Office Administrator, Freedom to Marry

Chris Chen
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, immigrant from Taiwan
in 1997

Cristy Chung and
Lancy Woo Lead plaintiffs in the Woo v. Lockyer
marriage rights case

Alain Dang
Policy Analyst, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Dasgupta Board of Directors, Queer Immigrant
Rights Project

Carlos Ulises
Decena, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Rutgers, the
State University of New Jersey

Joseph N.
DeFilippis Executive Director, Queers for
Economic Justice

Donayre Cofounder, Love Sees No Borders

Andres Duque
Coordinator, Mano A Mano

France Educational Training Manager, Gay,
Lesbian, Straight Education Network Board of
Directors, Queers for Economic Justice

Glen Francis
Associate Executive Director, GRIOT Circle

Gutierrez Representative for Christine Chavez,
granddaughter of labor and civil rights leader Cesar

Priscilla A.
Hale, LMSW Executive Director, ALLGO

Haynes Creating Change Associate, National Gay
and Lesbian Task Force

Lorenzo Herrera y
Lozano Director of Arts and Community Building,

Kemi Ilesanmi

Kang Director of Programs, Astraea Lesbian
Foundation for Justice Former Executive Director,
Audre Lorde Project

Surina Khan
Interim Vice President of Programs, The Women’s
Foundation of California Former Executive
Director, International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights

Jane Kim
President, San Francisco People’s Organization

Leung HIV Program Director, Asian & Pacific
Islander American Health Forum

Lee Che
Leong Director of Teen Health Initiative, New
York Civil Liberties Union

Vicente Lewis Board member, National Gay and
Lesbian Task Force Latino and transgender social
justice activist, first-generation U.S. Citizen

Lorde-Rollins Assistant Professor of Obstetrics
and Gynecology, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics,
Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center Board of
Directors, Queers for Economic Justice

Magpantay Steering committee member, Gay Asian
& Pacific Islander Men of New York

Mananzala Campaign Coordinator, FIERCE!

Andy Marra
President of the Board, National Center for Transgender

Gloria Nieto
National Latino Justice Coalition

Doyin Ola
Welfare Organizer, Queers for Economic Justice

Ortega-Weffe Director of Community Organizing,

Emiko Otsubo
Former board member, Queers for Economic Justice

Patton Executive Director, NYC Gay and Lesbian
Anti-Violence Project

Donna Payne
Senior Diversity Organizer, Human Rights Campaign

Earl L.
Plante Development Director, National Minority
AIDS Council President-Elect, Board of Directors,
National Black Justice Coalition

Powell Betty Powell Associates

Ramirez Public Policy Committee, Queers for
Economic Justice

Meléndez Rivera Convener, the National
Latino Coalition for Justice

Ignacio Gilberto
Rivera Founder, Poly Patao Productions
Board of Directors, Queers for Economic Justice

Elias Rojas
e-Philanthropy and Community Campaigns Manager, National Gay
and Lesbian Task Force

Russell D.
Roybal Director of Movement Building, National
Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Sawyer Chair for Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender,
Queer & Questioning Issues, National Asian Pacific
American Women’s Forum, DC-Chapter

Shay Sellars
Major Gifts and Events Administrator, National Gay and
Lesbian Task Force

Pedro Julio
Serrano Communications Associate, Freedom to
Marry President, Puerto Rico Para Tod@s

Shavers Executive Director, GRIOT Circle

Nicholas Shigeru
Sakurai Program Coordinator, GLBTA Resource
Center at American University

Sarah Sohn
New Voices Legal Fellow, Immigration Equality
Board of Directors, Queers for Economic Justice

Taher Directora de Medios de
Comunicación, Alianza Gay y Lésbica Contra la
Difamación (GLAAD)

Thomas-Adeyemo Cocoordinator, National People of
Color Organizing Institute, National Gay and Lesbian
Task Force Director of Counseling, San Francisco
Women Against Rape

Vazquez Deputy Executive Director, Empire State
Pride Agenda

Vazquez-Pacheco Former Program Manager, Funders
for Gay and Lesbian Issues

Weiner-Mahfuz Capacity Building Project Director,
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Andy Shie Kee
Wong Coalition Manager, Asian Equality

Miriam Yeung
Director of Public Policy and Government Relations, the LGBT
Community Center

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