All posts by Debanuj Gupta

Facebooking with Pain!

18066_245702128035_520178035_3407579_3691383_n Often pain flows into my Facebook Page

Sometimes pain simply shows up at work unannounced!

Often he is wearing clothes of lovers buried long ago

Often he reminds me of the KS patches on my body

Often she reminds me of partying habits, hearts broken, lost
places, and towns

Often pain creeps into my sleep, gently he hugs me

Lost childhood pictures

Lost wages

Lost little Midwestern towns…


“A whole new life awaits you!”

My mother tells me over the phone

It is difficult to keep hope alive Mum! I say

For now, medical bills, attorney fees, broken hope adorns my
love chest!

On the eve of the National Equality March I demand JUSTICE!


I sit next to my attorney silently, facing the immigration judge. I am told
my case (aka my life, aspirations and my body) is under his jurisdiction. I am
dressed as professionally as possible to aptly represent my "Alien of
Extraordinary Ability" status. I nervously look around the room. My dark
eyes catch another attorney behind us signaling me to take off my hat. Promptly
I take off my favorite accessory (my only sign of faggotry) to show my
compliance with the US
judicial practices. The judge begins his inquiry, to which my attorney reveals
my HIV status, and my inability to adjust my status even though my petition for
permanent residency to the US
was granted  on the basis of my claim as an "Alien of Extaordinary
Ability" in February 2002.

The pain of hiding underground, days of unemployment, hunger, fear of
accessing treatment leading me to near death flashes across my mind. Where
would I turn for the wasted seven years of my life? Will this judge be able to
understand the lost wages, aspirations, depression and most of all the
psychological violence of being separated from my beloved parents? It is clear
my journey to justice is only beginning.

This blog post is my first public step in ending isolation, silence, fear
and their antecedent dysfunctions that the HIV ban on immigration and travel
has wrought upon my life. It has disrupted my educational, work and all major
life aspirations. I have silently watched my friends getting married, accessing
green card, completing their PhD's and accumulating life assets. I have very
vocally over the last six years worked with LGBT immigrants, helped them with
their asylum claims, and watch them move on with their lives. Whereas, I have
had to hide in fear, live on friends couches, clean apartments, meticulously plan
my travels within the US, face Kaposi Sarcoma, PCP
(all very avoidable if medications are accessed on time). Publicly my body is
mapped as that of an Immigration and Education Policy Expert, whereas privately
I have been intimately aware  that any inkling of my health status would
have me labeled "diseased, public burden." Yet I know that my life
and story is not the only one, there are several HIV positive immigrants
silently waiting for some form of relief, as they continue to work hard, and
pay taxes.

United States
has denied the entry of HIV+ people for both short term travel and immigration
since 1987. This exclusionary practice follows a long history of excluding
immigrants into the United States
on public health grounds. Since the 1890’s the US Congress empowered the federal government to turn
back those with loathsome or dangerous contagious diseases. The rational for
such exclusions ostensibly being two folds; i) protecting the public health of
US citizenry and ii) Reducing the burden on health care
of the US government.  The intersections of racism,
xenophobia and public health becomes evident when these bans are contextualized
within the demographic profiles of generations of incoming immigrants and those
who are excluded.

 In the early 1990’s during the Haitian
Refugee crisis, all Haitian detainees at  Guantanamo
were forcibly tested for HIV, and those found
positive were detained in Guantanamo under
un-hygienic conditions. The Haitian Centers Council successfully fought a case
for the release of the terminally ill detainees. The entire situation created a
renewed fear of “diseased foreigners”, and prompted Congress to consider
legislation that legally deemed HIV+ persons as “inadmissible”.  Review of
the congressional hearing proceedings reveals deployment of xenophobic, HIV
phobic and homophobic remarks by those in support of the ban. A large coalition
of medical, legal and LGBT rights organizations opposed the ban, but in wake of
virulent AIDS phobia and stigma of the early
1990’s, and fear of a flurry of HIV+ immigrants driving up health care costs in the US, the ban was adopted. 
The ban has disproportionately impacted immigrants of color, since majority of
recent immigrants to the US
are from Latin America, Caribbeans, Asia and Africa. It can
also be argued that the ban like other bans in the past is deeply rooted in
scientific racism, xenophobia and homophobia.


Efforts to remove the HIV ban have largely been organized by
HIV/AIDS, LGBT rights and some immigrant rights organizations. In 1990, several
medical, Gay and Lesbian and Immigrant organizations such as Gay Men’s Health
Crisis, the American Medical Association lobbied the Health and Human Services
(HHS) to remove HIV from its list of 
inadmissible diseases. As the HHS was preparing
recommendations, the then Republican dominated Congress pushed through a bill
that eventually made it a law to ban HIV+ individuals from entering the
country. Since then, extensive on the ground organizing has been conducted by
grass-roots immigrant organizations, who worked to push policy organizations to
bring the removal of the ban back as an agenda item, to their work. In May of
2006 the “Lift the Bar Coalition” was formed, lead by Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Queers
for Economic Justice, The Audre Lorde Project, Immigration Equality,
HIV/AIDS organizations such as African AIDS Services and AIDS Action along with
immigrant rights organizations such as the National Immigrant Justice Center. As the New Voices fellow I was one of the lead community organizers around the initiatives
to "Lift the Ban”. I recall organizing community forums, wanted to
announce loudly my own health status, and the ways I have had to hide in fear.

On July 2008, after years of
significant on the ground organizing, and lobbying “Lift the Bar Coalition” was
successful in removing the HIV ban language from the “Immigration and
Nationality Act”. The coalition met with offices of Senator John Kerry and
Representative Barbara Lee to tag the removal of the ban along with the “President’s
Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief” (PEPFAR).HIV still remains on the list
“inadmissible diseases” with the
HHS. The HHS has recently released renewed guidelines indicating a
possible laxer standard, we are yet to see these being finalized.


As I continue to wait to adjust my status, I have begun my own
journey to health and justice. Justice for me would be the very undoing of
stigma in legal and societal practices for people living with HIV and AIDS,
 people from disability communities, and many other folks who are labeled
diseased and marginalized. On the eve of the National Equality March, I
challenge all of us to go beyond notions of equality under the law, and invite
us to re imagine the basic foundation of our LGBT movement as
"transformative justice". While cost-benefit analysis along
with equality as a rhetoric helped us push the lifting of the HIV Ban with
lawmakers on
H street, the struggle is yet to be over. Justice will be served to me
when I can visit my beloved parents after being separated from them for
13years. I will see justice when every immigrant is imagined as a human being
with dreams, aspirations and emotions. Justice will shine when all LGBT people
will be able to live life free of shame and fear, and for each of these to
happen we need to go beyond our focus on public policies, we need to expand our
work to incorporate strategies that fundamentally alter power relations in


As I get ready to hit the "publish" button on my
laptop, I fear of what may come from being public through this blog while
my case is still pending. At the same time I am letting go of pain, fear and
silence that almost drove me to near death. Finally, I have to admit I am
planning on "getting on the bus" for National Equality March, however
mine is a bus for justice, peace, redistribution of economic resources, labor
and human rights, all intrinsically related to the liberation of LGBT people.
Find me marching with friends and long time allies at the National Gay Lesbian
Taskforce. The Taskforce over the years has shown me they
are reflexive about their mistakes, build on victories and have historically
fought for policy changes along with building a movement for social justice.
Whom ever you march with, party with or end up hooking up with at the after
march revels; ensure to spread the passion for liberation and justice.


Note: this post is dedicated to my beloved mother, father, my friends
and allies; Myna Mukherjee, Raili Roy, Sougato Kerr, Nancy Ordover, Carl
Utt, Navid Alam, Amar Puri, Maria Nakae, Ken Williams, Prantik Saha, David
Fuentes, Shweta Malhotra, Marian Thambynayagam,  Angela Mooney D'Arcy, Mia
Mingus, Sonali Sadiquee, Kerry Lobel, Beth Zemsky, Amber Hollibaugh, Abbie
Boggs, Suzanne Pharr,Joo Hyan Kang, Trishala Deb, Mimi Jefferson, Debra
East, Leslie Van Barselaar, Jo Anne Demark, Monami Maulik,  Bo Young,
Joey Cain, Lisa  Thomas Adeyemo, Sue Hyde, Lisa Weiner Mahfuz, Rodrigo
Brandao, Michelle Lopez,  Susan Misra, Ruso Panduro, and all the
hot leather daddies who have helped me rediscover my body and ability to
experience pleasure.


Of Shifting Electorates and Failed Strategies for LGBT Equality; the dissonance between People (both queer and straight) of Color communities and the Gay Marriage Movement!


I have been watching the responses to the passage of Proposition 8 in California, Prop. 102 in Arizona, Prop. 2 in Florida and the Arkansas ballot initiative restricting the rights of unmarried couples to adopt children. I see a range of reactions and strategies emerging.

It seems Prop. 8 has become the rallying call for nationwide protest marches, leaving the ballots in Arkansas, Florida and Arizona to fall through the cracks.

More disturbing to me, as an immigrant of color, is an emerging set of responses that blame people of color communities (most often Black and Latino voters) for why these propositions passed and, more importantly, the failures of the organizers and their tactics.

While I can empathize with the pain that rises from losing [badly] in an election year that, in the same moment, ushered in a progressive sounding, bi-racial man to the first office of this nation, I cringe at the inability of the planners and the funders of the "Gay Marriage" movement to help mobilize their base to a broader understanding of their losses.

The unabated rise in racist rhetoric that I have been reading endlessly on blog posts of many (mostly Gay White male) bloggers, and Facebook notes and posts, thoroughly disturbs me. It serves to reiterate how the designers and the organizers of the "Gay Marriage" movement failed to understand the complex ways in which electoral politics in the US has been shifting, responding to large changes in the demographics of the US. States such as California, Florida and Arizona, that have seen a massive increase in the immigrant and people of color populations.

According to the U.S. Census, in 2006 about 35% of the California population were reported to be persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, 12.4% of Asian origin, 6.7% reported to be of black or African origin and 2.4% reported be of two or more races. This is a seismic shift from the late eighties and early 90's. A report from the California Governor's Office indicates increases in every ethnic group between 1990 and 2000, except a  sharp 9% drop in the White Non-Hispanic population.

In Arizona the Hispanic population grew by a whopping 80% between 1990 and 2000 and now accounts for fully one quarter of Arizona's 5.1 million people. While in Florida, the Hispanic population went from 12.8% in 1990 to an estimated 20.8% in 2008, and the Black population from 13.7% to that of an estimated 16.6% for the same time period. These shifts in racial and ethnic make-up of these key states have produced very different kinds of voters over a period of time. A larger number of naturalized citizens and children of immigrants, and a more organized Black/African-American voters are now up for grabs by both the conservative and liberal parties and issues.

The "Conservative Evangelical Right", has historically deployed a range of  "wedge issues" such as restricting women's access to birth control mechanisms, restricting the ability of undocumented immigrants to access health care and Gay marriage, to build a diverse popular base. In the late 80's and early 90's, responding to the fear of the "browning of the U.S.," several nativist groups, funded by large right-wing foundations like the Olin Foundation, launched several anti-immigrant ballots. Prominent among them was the passage of Proposition 187 in California (which was ultimately nullified by the California Supreme Court), and paved the way for Republicans to introduce a range of odious bills in the U.S. Congress that sought to restrict the rights of immigrants (both documented and undocumented) to access public benefits. The majority of these bills were lumped into the Welfare Reform and Immigration Reform Bills and passed.

The Right Wing, having built its base began to realize that with shifting demographics of key states like California, Florida and Arizona (the laboratory of border wars), they needed to build a base in the growing ethnic/immigrant community organizations and places of worship. The funders of Right Wing strategies sought out local outfits of the Conservative Family Research Council to mobilize ethnic organizations and churches along the lines of "traditional family values," something they knew would float well among communities ravaged by economic and educational disparities, desperately trying to hold on to their families of origin as their sole source of comfort.

The strategy paid off on two levels: 1.) it helped them to mask the economic agenda of their funders, which includes privatization of essential services and reduction of the care-giving functions of the state, and 2.) it helped to keep ethnic and immigrant communities fighting with communities fighting on other progressive issues such as pro-choice and sexual freedom. All tolled, the Right Wing gained from maintaining its hold over U.S. citizen populations (largely white and African-American) by pandering to their "nativist" sentiment, and taking a marked leap over its appeal to newly emerging ethnic/ immigrant communities.

Given the complex electoral strategy of the Right Wing, those of us who find ourselves on the left-progressive side of issues, ranging from health-care-taxes and state control over people's bodies, need to develop a sharper, more broader base, along with a newer array of organizing strategies. As a Queer, South-Asian, immigrant my destiny lies in the betterment of these communities. I cannot afford the luxury of heaping racist comments on my fellow people of color and immigrants, when they have been historically fucked over by largely White power-holding communities. Neither can I afford to separate myself from my Queer community (no matter how angry I get with them). My organizing is, therefore, complex, nuanced and sometimes at the messy crossroads that many communication strategies of national LGBT organizations do not address.

In my opinion the "Gay Marriage" movement, by choosing to locate its rhetoric and organizing within the individual's Right to Marry, has failed to mobilize a larger base, especially within people of color and ethnic/immigrant communities. The history of liberation and achievement of rights by people of color and the continuing struggles of immigrants, is a story of communal liberation. We did not struggle on the basis of individual rights; we struggled for and continue to fight for community rights. One might say that "Gay Marriage" is also about the rights of the Gay and Lesbian community, to which I assert, is still ideologically rooted in notions of "individualism." It is a notion deeply rooted in neo-liberal ideologies. A neo-liberal social ideology converts every individual into their own actualizing project, almost to the point of separating individuals from their communities. Under this regime, individuals, by becoming efficient risk managers of their own life, can take charge of their life, and live happily in a privatized, nuclear family. This privatized, nuclear family performs the essential care-giving functions of the state, and absorbs the financial and emotional losses.

Such notions of privatizing state's care giving functions and isolating the individual to become a self actualizing project is something I see a lot in the rhetoric of the "Gay Marriage" movement. Their appeal is to protect a very individualized Queer love. Quite frankly, it does nothing to question the location of the dividing line for deserving state's attention between the married vs un-married. I would bet you, if we broadened our debate to the rights of diverse kinds of families (e.g. extended families, adult siblings sharing a household, aging seniors sharing a household, multi-generational households) to access state benefits and protections, that would fly very well with immigrant and people of color communities. And our communities are filled with such families! We would also be able to move away from framing the debate as "sanctity of marriage" (a Right Wing dream come true!) to a more broader economic argument of reinstating and broadening the care-giving functions of the state.

Much of my post might seem to be the rantings of an armchair graduate student! But it is largely based on over 10 years of organizing within domestic violence movements, HIV/AIDS, immigrant rights, Queer people of color and mainstream LGBT movements.

As an immigrant rights organizer, when I sought out the solidarity of LGBT National and State Level organizations, the response I received was nothing short of pitiful! My numerous presentations on the issues of LGBT immigrants, the growth of immigrant populations in many states, and the subsequent need to work with LGBT immigrants at the state level, fell FLAT! The only issue related to immigration that got some attention was the rights of LGBT U.S. citizens to sponsor their immigrant romantic partners. As if, the rights of all the other immigrants could just fall off the road to liberation.

I worked to put together a national coalition of LGBT immigrant rights organizers that put out the first national Queer and Trans-gender Vision Statement on Comprehensive Immigration Reform. As LGBT immigrants, we boldly proclaimed our interconnections with the larger immigrant rights movement and challenged both the immigrant rights and the LGBT rights movement to extend their agendas. We received immense amount of supports from both national and local immigrant rights organizations and formations, while most of the national LGBT organizations did not sign on to the statement. They claimed that our principles were too broad and not solely focused on "Gay issues".

Instead of heaping allegations of "nativism and xenophobia" on them, I chose to look for the few, possible allies; interestingly they all came from LGBT anti-violence programs, Trans-gender and LGBT labor organizations and most equivocally from LGBT of color organizations. Signalling to me the sheer lack of imagination within the LGBT mainstream national organizations, that were and still are so busy with their narrow "Gay Marriage" agenda.

I have news for these  national organizations! As long as you keep trekking this narrow, individualist road you will continue to be defeated!

(Image from Amigas Latinas, in Chicago)

National Latina/o AIDS Awareness Day

Aids_latino_awareness Today the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) honors National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD). Held annually on October 15, the final day of Hispanic Heritage Month, NLAAD helps raise awareness about the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS in Latino communities throughout the United States and its territories. “The importance of National Latino AIDS Awareness Day cannot be overstated,” says NMAC Executive Director, Paul Kawata. “Like all minority communities, Latinos have experienced increases in HIV infections related to a myriad of social determinants, including lack of access to health care, education and housing.” Indeed, updated HIV incidence data released by the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in August revealed that Hispanics accounted for 17 percent of new infections in 2006, even though they represent only approximately 13% of the U.S. population.

NMAC’s encourages everyone to visit the NLAAD website to find out more about local events honoring the day. NMAC has assisted in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS in Latino communities in several ways. The opening plenary of the agency’s annual United States Conference on AIDS, held this past September 18-21 in Fort Lauderdale, FL, focused on the Latino AIDS crisis. Facilitated by Univision and the Kaiser Family Foundation, with support from the Latino Commission on AIDS, the plenary featured a special screening of the first HIV/AIDS-related Spanish language public service announcement (PSA) targeting Latinos called “Soy” ("I am"). The PSA will debut on Univision and its affiliatestoday. (For more information about Soy, go here.)

Aids_virus “We are dedicated to attaining better data to assess the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Latinos communities, particularly in Puerto Rico,” says Ravinia Hayes-Cozier, Director of NMAC’s Government Relations and Public Policy Division. “The revised CDC numbers are a great place to start in this discussion, but did not include Puerto Rico. This represented a rather major elision, in light of the 11,000 people known to be living with HIV/AIDS on the island. NMAC was further disheartened to learn that the CDC recently announced that it will not be funding Puerto Rico to use the new HIV tracking technology that generated the updated data in the first place.”

To ensure that all Latino communities are included in future HIV incidence and prevalence reports, NMAC and its People of Color AIDS Partnership partners – including Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center, The Balm In Gilead, The Black AIDS Institute, BIENESTAR, National Association of People with AIDS, National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, and National Native American AIDS Prevention Center – are working on a paper about the AIDS epidemic in Puerto Rico for release in 2009.

For more information visit or click on any of the related links provided above.

In between immigrant monsters and Monstrous Goverments! Folksy People Listen Up!

Gd9075246democraticvicepresi1052 The news of last night’s Vice Presidential debate has fast faded into the oblivion. The House vote on the "rescue plan" for Wall Street and Man Street is today’s headline. While news of similar bank failures, and mergers all over Europe, and losses in the Asian market rage on cable news channels, it is important to contextualize the vice presidential debate.

First, both Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden proved that they are prolific speakers. One stoic statesman, once single father and a small town law professor and the other a designer Japanese eyeglass sporting, dashing, young mother of five and a self proclaimed "Folksy-hockey mom".

Folksy!! if you have not caught this term being thrown around in the media lately, let me tell you this is the latest term deployed while fetishizing poor and working class white people. Gov. Palin presented herself as a Washington outsider, with fresh bold ideas. Yet the ideas she espouses are reminiscent of classical neo-conservatism, with a dash of all kinds of schizophrenia’s!

She claims to represent the interests of the working people, and wants the government to stay by the side and not on top of day-to-day business. However, in her critique of Wall Street, she professes more government oversight and reform. What exactly are these reforms? Is she opining a complete government non-interference with Wall Street or more Washington supervision? The decision is not clear. The marketing of Sarah Palin is essentially a way of appealing to white, working class voters, sending them a message that you can be dumb, i.e. "folksy," in line with giving breaks to big corporations, and in return be rewarded with feeling like you do matter. When the truth is massive laxness in oversight on Wall Street (a by-product of the less government theory) that has lead to severe corrosion of the credit market, impacting the low income student in trade schools, small businesses and working families in the worst possible ways.

"Folksy" is truly yet another way of fetishizing white working class, largely suburban and rural people, and a shameful attempt to hide ways to consolidate white, upper class privilege in the name of "every other family".

Joe Biden, on the other hand, had his facts, figures and personal life stories at the tip of his fingers. Though presenting a much saner version of future US foreign policies towards the middle-east and South Asia, he never really answered why he voted for the Iraq war in 2003. His appeal as a single father, statesman, champion of women’s rights and issues of concern in Africa and Eastern Europe was well-rounded and deserved. When asked about what kinds of rights should same sex partners be eligible for, he answered with similar rights as heterosexual couples, and made a distinction between faith-based marriage and civil/domestic partnerships.

Gov. Palin to the contrary of Biden claims she would not support any such arrangement if they seem to lead us on the track of Gay marriage! But was prompt to add a long diatribe about her "tolerance" for diversity, and that something as basic as hospital visitations and private contracts between individuals would never be curtailed. Here again the conservative schizophrenia around government institution to protect one kind of familial arrangement on one hand, and bestowing upon them the often shrinking economic privileges vs naming other arrangements as private and beyond the scope of government supported rights and benefits is so obvious.

Needless to say, as the debate was happening, a chain of emails regarding an HIV+ Trinidadian immigrant woman being detained at JFK airport flooded my inbox. It reminded me, while the humanity of US citizen LGBT folks were being debated on national television, a whole new class of in-humans (immigrants) has been created in the US, upon whose existence definitions of "legal" and "illegal" is being predicated.

Will Barack Obama and Joe Biden (if elected) remain committed to the "fairness" that Biden espoused last night? Will the hundreds and thousands of hard working, tax paying immigrants (painted as illegal monsters!), who have been detained and deported see justice? Will LGBT and HIV+ immigrants finally be able to legally adjust their status in this country? and most importantly will the kind of reckless financial dealings that we have seen in the last few years, be checked?

I challenge us all to ask these questions to both the campaigns, before hitting the polling booth on Nov4th!

Till then, gosh! darn! you betcha "folksy" is not cool!

Image from

This Body Bears History! Notes on Surviving 9/11

Sf_pride I had almost forgotten that today is the seventh anniversary of 9/11. I generally tend to make time to watch the morning news, before I get lost in the world of queer and migration theory. Somehow this morning my body was just not up for watching the news! It was like subconsciously, I did not want to remind myself of those dark days after 9/11. As a brown, materially challenged, Queer, immigrant building a household with another brown-poor-Queer immigrant, surviving the days after 9/11 was nothing short than an act of tremendous of courage, and building collective resistance against an increasingly securitized state.

"Debanuj, wake up! the twin towers have fallen!" David’s voice yelled on the answering machine. Tired from a long night of canvassing in suburban Long Island, I lazily answered the phone, in complete disbelief. "How could it happen? We just saw them last night?" I cried. The first thing that flashed across my mind was "My green-card application is fucked!". Frantically I dialed work, asking how much was in my paycheck for the last two weeks. Because there was no way in hell, as a brown fag, I would canvass in Long Island after the forced castration of collective US consciousness. Only a few months ago several day-laborers were brutally bashed by racist white men in Long Island.

The days that followed were days of intense pain, confusion and desperation. Several of our Pakistani friends were attacked on the streets, about eight Queer and trans-gender South-Asian’s (including myself) were beaten up in New York City. Our household, went from a being a dual income household to a single income household. We ate one heavy meal a day, sometimes we would cook community meals in our house, and silently eat, with fear imprinted on our foreheads. Very soon these community gatherings became rife, places to exchange survival tips, notes on what to do if the FBI came knocking on your door, and, most of all, festive with cheap liquor, Salsa and Bhangra music. As we drank, and danced away our fears and pain, in our small but firm ways we announced to each other our zeal to fight and survive!

Several stories have been told about the brave firefighters, our nation’s heroes, and even of the domestic partners of gay bankers who died in the twin towers. Yet, very little is talked about the undocumented Bangladeshi cooks of Windows to the World, or the Mexican women janitors, whose babies were found by their neighbors days after 9/11 lying alone in their Queen’s apartment. Very, little is talked about a neurotic, diseased, intellectual and his sexy, smart Queer friend, who in spite of the fear, anger, pain and bitterness continued their attempts of community building with their meager income, at their uptown Manhattan residence.

Our bodies do not fit the defined parameters of nation-citizenship-sacrifice and war!

Our bodies cross gender, class and national boundaries.

Our bodies lie at the intersections of poverty, queerness, shades of brown, black and yellow in this "land of the free and mighty".

Our bodies inhabit spaces that fall through the cracks of security-states and biometric regimes.

Inherent in our bodies, lie the strong, silent current that disrupts tropes of domination ever day!

Our Bodies, this body of mine bears history!

Notes on Sarah Palin’s speech.

Ph2008090304282 Sarah Palin, a self proclaimed hockey mom, gave a fierce speech to a raving crowd at the Republican convention tonight. I might not agree with her, but this gal is a tough cookie.

In her speech she compared the job of a community organizer with that of a mayor of a small town (making an obvious dig at Barack Obama), and reminded us that the difference lay in the fact that, the job of a mayor had responsibilities. As a long time community organizer across two continents,I beg to differ Sarah! Community organizers carry the responsibilities of saving the lives and jobs of their communities, which are ravaged by neo-liberal regimes. The basic principles of which she laid out in her speech. She framed the act of governmental disinvestment in social services as the brave act of shrinking "Big Government", but as an anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-science, anti-environment candidate, has no qualms over  government legislating rules of the very terms of family law, procreation and a woman’s right to choose what’s best for her.

Palin would have us believe that her family is just like every other family, and sometimes beyond the scrutiny of the media and the public when it comes to her pregnant teen daughter. In fact the face of families across the US and the world has always been changing! there has never been "one kind of family". According to latest US Census statistics, single parent families, mixed immigration status families, mixed generation families are on the rise currently. While Republicans call the job of providing needy families, much needed relief as "welfare dole," they have no shame in doling out millions of dollars in "corporate subsidies." Some family value that is!

In reference to the face of an ever-changing global geo-politics, Palin called upon American citizens to rally behind Jon McCain’s anti-Russia, anti-China lopsided rhetoric reminiscent of the Cold-War era. Unfortunately, with unprecedented global flows of capital, goods and labor across boundaries, that rhetoric of nation-state and war, falls short in today’s realities.

Finally, her continuous reference to "small town USA" vs the "cosmopolitan urban USA" is a way of pandering to the conservative white small town and suburban US. Recent statistics and images of immigrants marching down the Market Streets of small town America, indicate larger percentages of labor migration to small farming towns and industrial suburbs. As Latino immigrants, and Queers move out of big cities and begin to change the face of small town US, the last bastion of "pure white Americana" is trembling with fear. Thus we see myriad, local zoning codes and tenancy laws, immigration raids, policing of public parks, as an attempt to regain control over what was otherwise "pure, straight, white-American territory." If any attempt to critique her can be leveled as "sexist", then how is separating immigrant mothers from their children during inhumane immigration raids and denying us the tools to protect our own bodies "sound public policies"?

Conservative, white, America constructs poor-brown-immigrant-Queers as the "other." They fail to recognize that, within the context of the fast gloablizing village we live in, they are the "other." A very racist, imperialist, profoundly anti-humane other. The fear of the crumbling prowess of the US empire is being marketed to us as the "brave act of war, privatization, security culture and tax cuts for the wealthy." Truly brave acts are being committed everyday, by people who cross hazardous, impervious, national borders, to flee from poverty, persecution and war.

Truly brave acts are being committed every day by largely Latino farm workers across the US, who continue to grow the crops we eat, and get paid in pennies.

Truly brave acts are being committed every day by Queer school teachers, who are daring to challenge homophobia and the meltdown of the public school system.

Truly brave acts are being committed every day by poor transgender and homeless people of color, who in spite of their daily hardships, are organizing to have access to jobs and shelter.

In the end all I have to say to you Sarah Palin, "You might be a tough, white, middle class, heteronormative hockey mom, but I am a hell of a bitchy ass, brown Queen!"


(photo from Getty Images and The Washington Post)

Notes on Barack Obama’s speech.

Feature570 Barack Obama spoke to a crowd of 85,000 at the Invesco Stadium, and millions more watched him intently on TV tonight. The two of us (Carl and I) sat glued to the TV, carefully listening to every word that this brilliant man uttered.

I come from a long history of skepticism towards party politics, especially as an immigrant who is unable to vote, I exert my cultural citizenship by choosing to invigorate social justice movements. Carl, a mid thirties white banker, has grown to become an independent. Yet both of us absolutely liked his speech. We are waiting to see if he will prove his words by following up with solid action!

As a Queer immigrant, I was touched when he spoke about the right of our loved ones to visit us in hospitals. He said separating mothers from their children (an obvious reference to ICE raids) is unacceptable and in-humane. He talked about reducing un-wanted pregnancies. Most of all as he fiercely reminded us the indomitable spirit of the American society for ingenuity and creativity, I was reminded as to why twelve years ago I packed my bags and escaped to the US seeking freedom and better economic opportunities.

However, we live in very difficult times inside the US and globally. Globalization and neo-liberalism has fundamentally altered the economic landscapes of nation-states. The income gap between the rich and poor is at its highest, infant mortality rates in inner-city USA is higher than developing nations, farmworkers across the globe are steeped in debt, and developing nations are ever more so in debt to the World Bank.

At the heart of neo-liberal social ethics is the principle of "personal responsibility", that even the Democratic Party embraces, and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama every so often refer to in their speech. I am not opposed to the idea of responsibility. What I am opposed to is the government shrugging its responsibility towards the most vulnerable communities in our societies. While Barack very aptly referred to the dialectics between collective and individual responsibility, time will only show us if him and the Democrats will put up a good fight to save and fix social safety nets for all citizens and immigrants.

In conclusion I would like us to remember that under Obama and Biden (if elected)  we will live in  a softer imperialist-core. Our task as gender,sexuality, social justice and human rights activist is to continually hold all politicians, no matter how inspiring their speeches are, to be accountable to our needs. By needs I mean not just recognition of our diverse identities and relationships, but an actual redistribution of resources in a way, that enables all of us to achieve our best. That’s the social contract we agree upon when we call ourselves a "civil society".

Tonight, I will sleep ever more inspired to continue fighting for comprehensive immigration reform, universal access to health-care in the US, a science based HIV prevention plan in the US and globally, and for debts of developing countries to be forgiven. And most of all to hold our elected officials accountable, if needed to be challenged on issues that are dear to me.

Gay Day Laborers.

61u7ku11jdl__ss500__2 Logo just aired the movie "The Day Laborers" by director Lane Shefter Bishop. Made in 2003, this movie is poignant tale of three brothers who cross across the borders from Mexico to West Hollywood in search of job and dignity. They live under one roof with their aging uncle, and show up every morning on a street side, in hopes of being picked up for cash jobs. The film depicts the day to day on site hazards that day laborers face. One falls in love with a girl, the other finds his way into drug dealing, and the third embarks on a journey to discover his desire for men, when he meets a Gay artist.

The film albeit a Hollywood version of the lives of day laborers, does a good job of humanizing the lives of men and women who endure extreme hardships to make a decent living, whose labor is constantly exploited by the rich and the wealthy in this country. Most importantly the film deals with the intersections of sexuality and labor in a way that I have not seen most of the LGBT and Immigrant rights organizations talk about. All three of the brothers are hard working hunky studs. while one of them gets picked up by the wife of a rich client for sex on the side, the other falls in love with a white Gay man. The family struggles with paying their rent, and their brother’s "Queer relationship" at the same time.

As I sat glued to the TV watching the hunky brothers fight for their labor and sexual rights, I was reminded of the many men and women who came up to me at immigration rallies, to discuss how they have to hide their true identities at their work places. Yes my dear friends day laborers are LGBTQ too, while you might not find them on the cover feature of Genre or the Advocate, they are brave people who are silenced not just by homophobia, but also by xenophobia and labor exploitation.

The Dysfunctional Immigrant

Amader Janye Chinta Korona! Thakur Tomar bhalo Karun.

Do not worry about us! May God bless you.

She writes everytimeImages

It’s almost a routine now; "This card delivers 100% of time if used at one time"

23 years of love and nurturing reduced to long distance phone calls and emails written in perfect Benglish.

Delicious home cooked curries now reduced to boxed meals

Freedom from dust, heat and silent cruising ventures; reduced to counting change and dialing for the cheapest immigration attorney!

A nation of immigrants and a nation of xenophobes

Passports, embassies and bio-security

All tightly box this once towering ego

Internet porn and quick hookups

Chemical induced fantasies

The witch of Tideland

Is all that makes up a "Dysfunctional Immigrant"