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Happy Pride Month from America’s Voice

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Pride Month is an important time to remember that many of our fellow Americans enriching and bettering our nation with their hopes, skills, and dreams are LGBTQ immigrants. In just one example, two beneficiaries of the DACA program made pop culture herstory this year as the first Dreamers to compete on the Emmy-winning series RuPaul’s Drag Race. “We represent the American dream, we are proof that hard work pays off,” competitor Geneva Karr told Rolling Stone in January.

And despite a disturbing rise in anti-LGBTQ proposals and rhetoric from bigoted lawmakers and their allies around the U.S., polling reveals that the vast majority of everyday Americans believe that LGBTQ people are deserving of dignity and respect. “Strong majorities of Americans — including most people of faith — support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals,” PRRI said in March. 

We have seen that welcoming on the ground. Welcome Corps has previously highlighted the stories of recent LGBTQ migrants building new and exciting lives here – and the communities that have eagerly embraced them.

In Massachusetts this past January, transgender asylee Rebeca was welcomed by a group of local community members that had banded together to form Uhuru, a private sponsorship group. “When she arrived, she was celebrated with a birthday cake and welcomed as her true self by a group of sponsors who genuinely understood her struggle,” Welcome Corps said. Years of bullying and discrimination in El Salvador had made her cautious. Now in the U.S., her new community has encouraged her to live as her authentic self. “They have all been very kind to me, and it’s really amazing,” she said. 

Uhuru’s co-founder, John Abdallah Wambere, is himself an LGBTQ asylee, having fled Uganda’s draconian anti-gay legislation in 2014. He said he’s used his experiences “to support newcomers coming into the U.S. because walking through that system has been very helpful for me to know what are the basic needs when you arrive here. I had the experience as an activist and the reality of life of an LGBTQ person being discriminated against.”

Johanna and Luz, a couple from Venezuela, arrived through a second affirmative immigration policy allowing everyday Americans to financially sponsor refugees and were welcomed by another LGBTQ couple in Nevada last year.  “This journey is not easy, and we don’t do it because we simply feel like it,” Luz said in a video shared by Welcome.US. “We do it because we really have the need, and we want to search for a better quality of life.”

Denise and Laura, the Nevada couple that welcomed Johanna and Luz to the U.S., have helped the couple further stabilize their new lives in the U.S., including finding jobs, enrolling in English classes, and finding new friendships within the area’s LGBTQ community. Laura said that while she knew that she wanted to help migrants seeking new lives, she never realized that she would gain something important from this experience too. “People are people, and they’re hardworking, loving, and funny people,” she said. “And it’s just been so much fun.” 

In Colorado, Amarilis and Mariangy Delgado Gutierrez’s first Pride Month in the U.S. marks an exciting new chapter in more ways than one. The Venezuelan couple wanted to get married but felt the marriage license fee was too restrictive. Their priority was making sure their two children remained fed. That’s when their local Denver community stepped up for them. Dork Dancing, a mental health advocacy nonprofit in the area, learned about the couple from an article about migrant vendors and after meeting them volunteered to host their wedding, local outlet Westword reported.

“They didn’t have the $30 because they felt bad spending it when they didn’t have their children’s food,” Executive Director Susan Law said. “The day I met them, I told them I would throw them a wedding. The ceremony was great. It was a wedding on the fly, no rehearsals. We were planning it as the wedding was going on, but I appreciate the community showing up last minute.” 

Westword reported that Amarilis and Mariangy are now focused on gaining work permits in order to support their daughters and move ahead. “Although the newlyweds still face challenges, Amarilis encourages other LGBTQ migrants not to give up on their love,” Westwood reported. “’Keep moving forward and never give up,’ she says. ‘There’s no place where life is going to be completely easy.’”

“Overall, there are an estimated 1,274,500 LGBT foreign-born adults in the U.S., including 289,700 (22.7%) who are undocumented and 984,800 (77.3%) who are documented,” the UCLA’s Williams Institute said in a 2021 report. Pro-asylum policies are lifesaving for LGBTQ migrants in particular. “Consensual same-sex conduct remains criminalized in 69 countries, and as many as 11 countries could impose the death penalty if convicted,” the UCLA’s Williams Institute continued. 

Dmitrii Tur said he “considers himself lucky” after fleeing Russia, which has labeled LGBTQ people as “extremists,” the Los Angeles Daily News reports. Now in L.A., he’s excited about Pride Month as he and a group of friends are “forming a nonprofit to help Russian-speaking LGBTQ immigrants fleeing violence in their home country,” the report continued.

“I’m ready to share my experience with others,” he said. “Many people arrive with limited English proficiency, no money or knowledge of the local immigration system.”