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Couple at Immigration March Shares Experience to Create Awareness

2006-05-10 Windy City Times - LINK


A local lesbian couple has come forward to share their negative experience during last week’s immigration march—not to frighten LGBT people from taking part, but as a call for unity and education.

Hundreds of thousands of Chicago’s illegal immigrants and their allies marched for immigrant rights on May 1 for the national “A Day Without Immigrants.” The LGBT community made its presence known at the massive march. LGBT immigrants and their supporters joined the fight—some passing out Pride flags.

But although many LGBTs at the event had a positive experience, that wasn’t the case for Orgullo en Acción’s co-chair Nicole Perez and her partner. In the aftermath of the march, Perez realizes that the much-needed solidarity is lacking.

The couple joined the march at noon when it was feeding out of Union Park, near Gay Liberation Network’s banner. About 20 minutes into the march, a man made homophobic remarks to Perez and her partner, who were holding hands.

“Before that, in my opinion, we were both feeling relatively uncomfortable there,” Perez said, adding that both had been to non-queer rallies and marches before without a hitch. “We were just getting a lot of looks and stares from people. They were kind of hostile and intimidating stares. We were walking hand-in-hand. We had both discussed that we’re not going to closet ourselves for any reason.”

According to Perez, the man remarked, “Ew, a bunch of fucking faggots.” He proceeded to tell the couple that “faggots” did not have the right to be at the march.

Although Perez tried to explain to him that LGBTs and immigrants are not mutually exclusive categories, he continued to make remarks.

“When I was done, he turned back around and told the both of us that we made him sick, and then continued to march,” Perez explained. “At that point, we just let it go. We both felt very defeated and very divided. It was a very negative experience, and one that we did not anticipate that we were going to have.

“We are both queer people of color. My partner and her family came from Mexico; my family from Cuba. So, we both felt very divided and split between communities. We felt very hurt and very disappointed that, even if you are a person that has such sentiments, that really the least you could do is control yourself for a couple of hours while we’re all sharing the same space.”

Perez said that that although their experience appears to be an isolated incident, it is still important to share it with the community to create awareness. Some individuals have told her they received discomforting looks, but not in-your-face hostility.

“I didn’t want to create or add on to the notion of the communities being so separate. I do not want this to produce a feeling of discomfort among queer people that they would not be welcome at such events.

“I’m very conscious of that as somebody who has that membership—for lack of a better word—in both communities. I think it’s really important that we take this for what it is and it should be a sign of how much work that we have to do,” she said.


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