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As a Gay American and Son of Immigrants so Much of Who I am Is at Stake in 2024

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June is always a really special time for me. In addition to marking Pride Month, June is also Immigrant Heritage Month. Both of these celebrations represent so much of who I am and the values I choose to hold close and guide me. 

I am the son of immigrants who arrived in this country more than four decades ago and eventually gained permanent legal status, giving our family a chance to thrive here. I believe that all immigrant families today are deserving of these same hopes and opportunities. I am also an openly gay American and believe that all individuals are entitled to the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness promised by our nation’s founding documents.

But the past several weeks’ celebrations have come during an incredibly stressful time, because so much of who I am – and who we are as a nation – is at stake. 

Right now, convicted felon Donald Trump poses an existential threat to immigrant families just like mine. He’s openly running on a platform of sending deputized police and National Guard troops to blue states to round up millions of long-settled immigrants from their workplaces, schools, homes and communities and throw them into mass detention camps. This is not hyperbole, as my colleagues Yuna Oh and Joe Sudbay have noted. “Unlike last time, there is a plan, a will to carry it out, and little in the way of impediments if given the opportunity.”

“Recession, inflation, and massive job loss will hit the kitchen table hard for working families all across the country,” they continued. “But there would be a stark hole in the homes of those immigrants who are taken away. There will be empty seats at kitchen tables. There will be a loss of paychecks. There will be a loss of family. Kids will come from school to homes without their parents. Businesses would lose workers, some would just shutter. Crops would rot in the fields.”

Trump knows he can’t win the debate by talking about deporting American families and Dreamers and essential workers who feed us, build and repair our bridges and roads, and contribute billions to our economy annually. That’s why the anti-immigrant rhetoric he’s regularly espoused since he descended the escalator of Trump Tower in June 2015 to call Mexicans criminals and “rapists” now shockingly echoes that of Adolf Hitler.

But when Trump talks about immigrants as “not human beings,” “animals,” and “poisoning the blood,” he’s talking about people like my mom. She worked hard for more than 20 years as a domestic worker, cleaning homes and cooking in kitchens to support our family. Even though she never made it past grade school, she always stressed the importance of our education. So when I walked across the stage to accept my college diploma, it was for the both of us. My mom isn’t “poisoning the blood” of America. She is the American story.

Under instruction by the Heritage Foundation and its extreme Project 2025 agenda, a second Trump administration would also take a sledgehammer to the rights of millions of LGBTQ Americans like myself.  Trump has promisedto begin dismantling our rights “on Day One” and continue the reversal of progress that he fervently began in 2017.

That included revoking guidance protecting trans students in federally funded public schools, banning trans Americans from serving their nation in the military, attacking unhoused LGBTQ people in the midst of a pandemic, attacking Obamacare’s LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, and appointing unqualified federal judges that will stomp on our rights and freedoms for decades to come. 

That record is why we shouldn’t be fooled by his campaign’s “outreach” to LGBTQ voters, including a recent fundraiser for the Log Cabin Republicans group. What a joke.

“There’s nothing the group is even remotely doing to help transgender people—nor gay, lesbian, or bisexual people, for that matter, supporting a candidate who was the most anti-LGBTQ president in history and even recently backing ‘don’t say gay’ laws,” journalist and activist Michelangelo Signorile wrote in April. “And Trump’s plans, through his embrace of Project 2025, make clear how devastating another Trump presidency would be for LGBTQ people and for transgender people in particular.”

I’m not gonna lie or sugarcoat it: I’m nervous. The polls are much too close for comfort, and while our democracy held together following Trump’s attempted coup on January 6, 2021, we also understood that freedom can be fragile. Right now, Trump is stoking fears about widespread noncitizen voting (something that isn’t happening) and other anti-immigrant conspiracies in order to justify more real-world violence and another attempt on American democracy if he again loses at the ballot box.

So much of my American story is possible because of those who came before, struggling and fighting to make this nation live up to its ideals. The MAGA movement Trump is leading to the ballot box this November threatens to erase those ideals from the American promise, but their success is not yet determined. 

But I believe in us. Look at how we came together in 2020 – in the midst of a global pandemic – to defeat a sitting president. I also remember that when I vote, I’m not just voting for myself. I’m voting for those who can’t. I’m voting to protect my Dreamer friends in the immigration movement. I’m voting to protect the undocumented farmworkers who sustain our nation’s food supply. I’m voting for my mom and all the loving parents who left everything behind in order to give their families a chance.