Coming Out as an Undocumented Immigrant and Coming Out as a Queer Man.

by Carlos Padilla

My name is Carlos, Padilla, and I’m from Seattle, Washington. I was originally born in Guadalajara, Jadisco, Mexico, and I immigrated into the United States at the age of 2.

For me, living a life of being an undocuqueer, someone that is undocumented and queer, has been a very interesting life just because I’ve had to live the intersectionality of being queer and undocumented and every single day of my life and just understanding what does that really mean.

My mother, in 2008, had to leave back to Mexico because one of her brothers had passed away and she had to make the choice of leaving her children behind and going back to her family in Mexico. And I remember her asking me if I wanted to go with her, but at the moment I decided to choose education. And honestly, I also chose to stay behind for my queer identity because I knew that fully embracing myself in a foreign country in a country I didn’t know, would not become a reality. And I think that my, in a form of selfishness of being able to stay back in this country and continue my education was my form of wanting to expand and fully accept myself. My support system was one of my teachers and specifically this person who I still keep in contact, she has been my ally and my friend and at times a mother figure that I had to have because my mother decided to go back to Mexico, her name is Roberta Lindemann and she would always ask me to apply for certain schools, to apply for something called College Bound scholarship. And she wanted me to sign up and she had given me the forms to take home and every single time I would come back she would say, “Where are your forms, where are your forms?” And I would always have to make up excuses because I couldn’t really fill out those forms because I didn’t have a social security number. And it wasn’t until one day I just decided to tell her I couldn’t apply anymore because my immigration status prevented me from it. and her reaction was, of course she cried and she told me that all she wanted for me was that my dreams became a reality. And she said we’ll figure something out, we’ll find an opportunity for me, and a couple weeks later she came out to me with a national bill called the DREAM Act and she introduced me to it and she told me to learn and read the legislation and that’s what she gave me. She provided me hope and told me that if I work hard things can work for me. It wasn’t until I decided to come out as undocumented from that closet that allowed me to fully understand where I was with my sexual identity. The unfortunate part is I came to the realization that I was gay and I did embody myself as a queer man.

Being able to tell my mother that I was queer was one of the most difficult things in my life, not necessarily because of the way she reacted but because of the form of how I told her. She had already lived in Mexico for over four years since that time and she was once again asking me to go back to Mexico. I wanted to go back really a lot because I hadn’t seen her in over four years. At that moment is when I told her, “Mom I can’t go.” She asked me why, and I said I’m different now, I’m grown. And she told me, “I know you’re grown, I know you’re different now.” She wasn’t really understanding what I was trying to say because I hadn’t worked up the courage and it wasn’t until I said, “You know what, I’m gay. And going back to Mexico can mean many bad things for me as my gay identity can manifest and how people can see me as a gay person.” And I know that the U.S. might have certain systems of oppression but I think that the US and Mexico doesn’t have for me is that I can stand up for those civil oppressions and in Mexico I cannot. Whenever any mother hears that her son is gay she started crying. But I think the biggest concern wasn’t the fact that I was gay, she couldn’t care less if I was gay or whatever it was that I wanted to be, but her concern was the fact that she wasn’t there with me and she was afraid for me and she wanted to protect me.

Being able to have these two women in my life that have helped me come out, one of them come out as undocumented, and the other which is my mother coming out as gay and coming out to myself as gay, have been very instrumental in what I’m looking forward to fighting for in the future and that is making sure that no one else has to go through these kinds of oppressions.

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