Jordan Garcia, Immigrant Ally Organizing Director with AFSC in Colorado, recently talked about his life and work with Jon Krieg of AFSC’s Central Regional Office. Below is an excerpt. See further below for the link to the full interview.
Jon Krieg: You mentioned earlier your work on behalf of transgendered people. Can you speak about your own experience and how that might impact your perspective and thoughts on working as an ally for immigrants?
Jordan Garcia: I’ll say a couple things, which we’ve also talked about in our workshops around the intersection between LGBTQ liberation and immigration. My identity as a Queer person, or a person of color, or a transgendered person really gives me a perspective that’s a little bit about coming out. The similarities between coming out as Queer or transgendered are vast when compared to the experiences of people coming out as undocumented or as immigrants. That’s been a really interesting experience for me seeing that played out.
Jon: Similarities such as?
Jordan: The threat of violence. There’s a fear of judgment, of being seen differently. There are similarities in that transgendered people and undocumented immigrants do not have rights, they’re not protected by the law. It’s easy to get fired, it’s difficult to find work, for Queer folks and for immigrants. Your morals are questioned if you’re transgendered or Queer. Because of the stigma of legality, you’re also questioned if you’re undocumented.
There are certainly lots of differences, too. Transgendered folks, unless they’re also immigrants, don’t have the threat of deportation, although similarly there is a fear of arrest and detainment. Your immigrant status can change, you can sometimes adjust your status. No matter how many things you try to adjust when you’re transgendered, you’re still who you are.
I do think that for myself, being in a position of “allyship” is huge. There are a lot of things for allies to do. It’s difficult for people, sometimes, because they don’t actually want to claim their power. There are things immigrants can do to be allies to the transgendered community, and there are things the Queer community and transgendered folks can do to be allies of the immigrant community. Sometimes they just need a little bit of pushing to get them to the place where they can do that.
Then, of course, there are transgendered immigrants out there who can see all sorts of things. One thing I said in a workshop was that, in a lot of ways, when you’re transgendered, you’ve given up on the idea of simple answers and binaries. It makes it so that you can really look at the nuances and complexities of things without hesitation.