Coming out of the Shadows â€“ A How To Guide
Easy to Medium to Very Difficult
10 minutes-2 hours
â€œBrothers and Sisters, you must come out! come out to your parents, come out to your friends, if indeed they are your friends, come out to your neighbors, come out to your fellow workers. Once and for all, let’s break down the myth and destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake, for their sake. For the sake of all the youngsters who’ve been scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene. On the Statue of Liberty it says ‘ Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.’ In the Declaration of Independence it is written, ‘All men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights.’ For Mr. Briggs and Mrs. Bryant and all the bigots out there, no matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words from the Declaration of Independence! No matter how hard you try you can never chip those words from the base of the Statue of Liberty! That is where America is!â€
Congratulations! You have decided to come out of the shadows about your undocumented status. Perhaps you have finally decided to tell your friends why you haven’t signed up for your driversâ€™ ed. class or why you still don’t drive to school. Maybe, you will come out to your guidance counselor, who has asked you repeatedly to turn in your college application, but you were too afraid to tell him/her that you donâ€™t have a social security number and that you still donâ€™t know how you will pay for college without financial aid.
Please remember you are not alone. You are part of a large community of courageous undocumented youth who have decided to come out of the shadows about our immigration status.Â We live every day in fear and we are tired of it. We want to be able to talk about our lives and our stories without fearing persecution or deportation. We are not free to travel, go to school, work, live, but we refuse to be helpless. In the same way the LGBTQ community has historically come out, undocumented youth, some of whom are also part of the LGBTQ community, have decided to speak openly about their status. Your courage will open the way to having even more conversations about your immigration status. Sharing your stories will allow Â us, as a movement of undocumented youth, to grow, as we continue to learn to accept ourselves. By being more open we will begin replacing fear with courage and, ultimately, be united in our demands for change. You will be surprised how little other people know about the realities of being undocumented. People who know someone who is gay or lesbian are more likely to support equal rights for all gay and lesbian people- the same follows for people who know someone who is undocumented. Â Also note, if you must also confront intersecting oppressions (i.e. Gender, Race, Class, Sexual orientation), coming out about your status is one of the many hurdles for liberation.
National Coming Out Day
March 10th is National Coming Out Day. In Chicago, the Immigrant Youth Justice League will be holding a rally and a march to launch a week-long â€œcoming outâ€ of undocumented youth across the country. In other cities and towns, students are coming out to their friends on a much smaller scale. Whether big or small, consider participating in the National Coming Out Day and weeks by coming out!
Before you get started:
If you are nervous about coming out:
- Practice, Practice, Practice!: In front of a mirror or with someone with whom you’ve Â Â Â Â already come out to
- Breathe: Breathing is a good thing. When we are nervous, we tend to withhold our breath or breathe heavily. Take a break and be conscious of your breathing. Breathe in and out until you can hear your heart beat normally. This is good for centering yourself and your thoughts.
- Protect Yourself
- Use only your first name, a nickname or your middle name
- Limit the amount of identifying information in your story of self.Â For example, instead of saying â€œI live on Elm Streetâ€ you say â€œI live in St. Paul, MN.â€
- Write your story and have a friend or family member read it.
- Know Your Rights
How to Participate in the Coming Out Week:
Look at the list below and determine your level of participation.Â Every bit helps moves us closer to passing the DREAM Act!
â€œI am a Dreamerâ€
Share your story with anyone (friends, family that do not know, a teacher, etc.) and get at least 10 petition signatures
â€œShout It Outâ€
Get 25 petition signatures (or text) & share you story with us (written or video)
â€œWe Are Here, Get Used to Itâ€
Get 50 petition signatures (or text) & share you story with us (written or video) & hold a coming out party
â€œLoud and Proudâ€
Get 75 petition signatures (or text) & share you story with us (written or video) & hold a coming out event w/ press coverage
“Out of the Closets and into the Streets”
Get 100 petition signatures (or text) & get 5 people to share their story with us (written or video) & hold a coming out event w/ press coverage
Coming out is a very important and empowering time in a persons life. By coming out of the shadows you’re finally shedding some light on this issue that has been affecting others for years. Remember that there’s other youth out there, like yourself, that are too scared to come out. By taking the first step many more will find the courage they need to speak out as well!
Whatever you decide to do….Be creative and Be Brave!