Last week I read The Straight State in which historian Margot Canaday traces the history of homosexuality in the twentieth century through the lens of the state. Although in America there is currently an outlook that the issue of homosexuality has always been black and white, Canaday reveals this assumption to be false by showing how, through immigration, military, and welfare, the US government increasingly defined citizenship as white, middle class, male, and heterosexual.
In regards to the issue of immigration, Canaday found unbelievably amazing immigration records in which men and women were denied entry into the US due to their suspected “sexual perversions,” which could have been anything from having no facial hair (for men) to wearing pants (for women). Transgenders and homosexuals were repeatedly turned away because of their sexuality.
Alexandra Reyes’s case proves a remarkable turning point in America, as it shows that Americanism does not equate sexual or gender normalcy.
Here is an excerpt from Felisa Cardona’s Denver Post article. Read more here.
When Alexandra Reyes’ father caught her wearing her sister’s shoes and clothes, he tied her up and beat her with spiked pieces of a tree.
“It was so horrible, I would scream,” Reyes said in Spanish. “He told me he had a son, not a daughter, and he did not accept me.”
Last week, an immigration judge granted Reyes a form of asylum that allows her to stay in the U.S. based on the persecution she suffered as a transgender woman in Mexico.
The Board of Immigration Appeals withheld her removal from the U.S. after determining the Mexican government would not protect her from abuse if she was deported.
“It would be physically dangerous for her to walk down the street,” said her attorney, Bryon Large. “She could be sexually assaulted.”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services does not keep statistics on the numbers of transgender immigrants granted asylum. But Large said the relief Reyes got is rare for a Mexican national because some immigration judges think there is tolerance for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Mexico.
Same-sex marriage is allowed in Mexico City, and many gay tourists flock to beach resorts throughout the country, leading to the misconception that the country is welcoming, said
Large, who argues that pockets of intolerance abound in rural Mexico. In defending Reyes, one of the cases Large used to persuade the board was of a gay Mexican immigrant who fled to Canada but was denied asylum. After he was deported back to Mexico, he was killed.
Asylum is easier to obtain for immigrants from countries such as Jamaica, where gays are imprisoned, or Iran, where members of the LGBT community are executed, Large said…
She takes female hormones but has not yet had sexual reassignment surgery. She finds the American people accepting of her differences.
“What I have seen here is people are more open than people from my country,” she said. “Sometimes I miss Mexico, but I am scared to return.”