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Laverne Cox: 'Immigration Is an LGBTQ Issue'

Laverne Cox

As WorldPride brings millions of queer folks and their allies to New York City in the ongoing fight for equality, LGBTQ activists are calling for more support for asylum-seekers. 

This week, Marriott International made a landmark donation of $100,000 to Immigration Equality to support its critical work on behalf of LGBTQ and HIV-positive asylum-seekers fleeing persecution in their countries of origin. The donation is the largest corporate gift the organization has ever received. 

Each year, Immigration Equality provides advice and legal services to thousands of LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrants seeking refuge, fair treatment, and freedom in the United States. For trans activists like Laverne Cox, who partnered with Marriott for its #LoveTravels campaign, highlighting the importance of inclusion and human rights across the world, it’s a discussion that’s overdue. 

“It’s such an emotional issue right now for the entire country because of what’s happening at the border,” Cox tells The Advocate at Marriott’s Beyond Barriers event in New York, which celebrated Immigration Equality and VideoOut, a video project that travels the country to amplify voices of LGBTQ people. 

“Immigration is [also] an LGBTQ issue." Cox continues. “We are having a conversation about immigration now, but that is not divorced from LGBTQ rights. That’s a global conversation. These conversations are all intersecting. It’s all connected.” 

Cox says that while trans visibility has grown tremendously in the last few years — with her groundbreaking role in Orange Is the New Black as well as shows like Transparent and Pose — we must also remember that trans women of color are being murdered at an alarming rate. As the Supreme Court is preparing to hear arguments about whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against discrimination based on gender identity, activists like Cox are making sure that Americans pay attention. 

“It’s probably a reaction to [trans] visibility,” she says of anti-trans rhetoric and policies. “It’s a reaction to the world changing because trans people have always been here — but we’re no longer in the margins. We are no longer relegated to exist just at nighttime and in the shadows. We have come into the light, and the world is trying to figure out how to reconcile us coming into the light, and wanting and needing a job.”

Karamo Brown Laverne Coxx750

Visibility is the key to instilling empathy, adds activist and Queer Eye star Karamo Brown (pictured above), who also partnered up with Marriott for its #LoveTravels campaign. 

“I spend a lot of time on the Hill, and yes, I’m there because I’m lobbying for certain policies but it’s also just to say, ‘Meet me. I’m a Black man. I’m a gay man. I’m a father. Understand what my experience is like,’” Brown tells The Advocate.

Brown continues, "When you think about immigration you don’t think about the intersection of LGBTQIA people. People think of heterosexual families — mama and father and children. But within those families are LGBTQIA people, and not only are they fearing for there lives because they’re asylum-seekers, but there's this added level of When I do find safety, am I still going to be safe if I live my truth? Having campaigns like #LoveTravels helps that conversation because it helps you realize it’s not just families [seeking asylum]. It’s people who are traveling this world who need love and we need to give it to them." 

Corporate responsibility plays a major role as well. “What corporate America can do is have policies, to continue to reach out to various communities and let the world know that discrimination is not OK in their organizations,” Cox explains. “We have philanthropy and we have the incredible work organizations like Marriott do year-round … but we need policies in place.” 

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