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Behind Closed Doors Breaking the Social Contract of Silence Among LGBTQ Undocumented Youth . Nestor Cerda. Growing Up.

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behind closed doors breaking the social contract of silence among lgbtq undocumented youth

Behind Closed DoorsBreaking the Social Contract of Silence Among LGBTQ Undocumented Youth

Nestor Cerda

growing up
Growing Up

As we know growing up is a difficult part of life, most all of us have to deal with struggles such as puberty, school, love, parents, among many other things. But there is a particular group of individuals who must face a great deal of hardships beyond what many of us have to bare; Undocumented immigrant youth, who are also a part of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community. As if growing up wasn’t hard enough to do, these youth must not only deal with all of the pressures of growing up as undocumented youth, but they must also deal with the societal stigma forced upon them by our hetero normative society, and sometimes even with the loss of support from parents, family, and friends.  At many times the experiences of these youth are silenced by the social and political climate surrounding their lives, making it difficult for these youth to disclose their identity.

contract of silence1
Contract of Silence

In American society there is a contract of silence which prohibits queer migrant youth from disclosing what is culturally inappropriate.  According to linguist A.C. Liang, in our society the disclosure of information that is out of the norm breaks this social contract, the disclosure of things such as immigration status and minority sexual orientation are things that imply disorientation from norm, and are therefore not tolerated.  Sharing these details about one’s life challenge the determined expectation of what American society constitutes to be “appropriate self presentation.”  As a result GLBTQ immigrant youth feel that they would be better off not sharing, therefore covering and masking their true identities, their needs, and their existence, all in order to feel some sense of acceptance and inclusion.

what s t he deal
What’s the deal?

Since society makes it hard for these individuals to be out and open as undocumented youth as well as GLBT or Q, and we know and have seen throughout our history that when a certain group of people do not demand their rights then that some how equates them not needing or wanting rights, these communities are underrepresented, and at times even ignored. This is where the government comes into play. For years the United States government has known about the influx of immigration and has done very little to effectively address the needs of the growing immigrant population. For decades it has been immigrants who have done the low wage jobs that no one wanted, they’ve helped expand countless areas of our economy, our infrastructure, and of what we know today to be American society.

To put it into historical context, think of the Irish, the Germans, and the pols, the Chinese populations that immigrated during the California gold rush and to build the railroads, or the Japanese and their experience, or the braceros and their treatment later in the 1950s, along with many other groups who’ve migrated to the U.S., until we get to today and we talk about the Latinos.

what s it like today
What’s it like today?

The current system is full of flaws and holes that keep individuals from attaining access to services and help from the established body intended to serve.

The U.S Government systematically disadvantages queer migrant youth in the multifaceted areas of global displacement, political asylum, education, healthcare, housing, and the acknowledgement of relationship status.

global displacement
Global Displacement

Physical Displacement: The up rooting of an individual from a physical place (work place, home towns, etc.), or from established networks and support systems.

Mental Displacement: The psychological and cognitive changes that occur in the understanding and development of identity, usually due to physical displacement.

Undocumented LGBTQ Youth most often face both of the above and have very little access to services that can facilitate coping with displacement.

political asylum
Political Asylum

A refuge status given by one country to a citizen of another country to protect that person from arrest or persecution.

People applying for asylum were told:

They were not gay enough to receive asylum.

They were at an age in which they could hide their expressed sexuality until it is no longer possible for them to refrain from doing so.

Growing support in their home countries allowed for their safe return home. If support is not yet at a degree in which one could be open with out fear, then they may await a time until things get better (assuming support will soon come).


Undocumented LGBTQ Youth must deal with,

No access to federal financial aid for higher education.

No alternatives such as military service or trade schools.

Private Scholarships usually reserved for the valedictorians, or those individuals with outstanding extracurricular activities.

legal acknowledgement of relationship
Legal Acknowledgement of Relationship

Undocumented LGBTQ youth also face,

No federal recognition of same sex marriage.

In California, no recognition of same sex marriage

Civil Union and domestic partnership benefits do not extend when one or both parties of the same sex relationships are undocumented.

health c are housing
Health Care & Housing

In California, health care is variant by city, some cities offer undocumented individuals health care , but it is usually subsidized and does little to aid with cost.

Housing is also subsidized and variant by city, but a majority of the housing requires a SSN or some proof of income.

educators for fair consideration
Educators For Fair Consideration

Offers scholarships, legal services, career internships, and a peer network for undocumented students in the San Francisco Bay Area.

67 sue os dreams
67 Sueños (Dreams)

Whenever Americans are presented with an image of undocumented youth there are two black and white categories that we are most often pigeonholed into.

Those opposed to providing a path to legal status for undocumented youth are likely to promote images of undocumented people as “criminals.

On the other side of the spectrum liberals, democrats and even the immigrants rights movement is likely to offer a “sympathetic” counter narrative that highlights the most exceptional individuals in our community.

ab 131 california
AB 131 California

Gives undocumented students the opportunity to receive state financial aid, as long as they are:

Registered with the selective services.

Qualify for In state tuition under CA AB 540 Assembly bill.

Are or will be attending a University, Community college or Trade program in the state.