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Largely, “coming out” has been a very good thing, both for us Americans without papers and for those who support and malign us. We are forcing the issue to the fore. We are putting faces, names and stories to an issue that’s been mostly framed in abstract numbers. I only say “largely” because, whenever someone “comes out” — may it be in a YouTube video (as Julian Gomez, a member of the Harry Potter Alliance just did) or a Facebook status update, or joining one of the many student-led immigrant rights groups across the country, or while riding the UndocuBus — there still exists a very real and tangible possibility of being detained and deported. After all, more than a month after the White House issued a historic directive halting the deportation of Dream Act-eligible young Americans who meet certain criteria, the United States continues to apprehend immigrants who aspire to be citizens.
I have “come out” twice in my life. Six months after Matthew Shepard’s body was found in Wyoming, I raised my hand during my U.S. history class and told my high school classmates that I am gay. Eleven years later, inspired by the activism of immigrant youth and frustrated by the political stalemate on immigration, I disclosed my status in the pages of The New York Times Magazine. In both instances, I came out not just to liberate myself from the closet in my mind and in my heart, but also for other people, to add my voice to the chorus demanding that we be seen as full human beings.
And that’s precisely what “coming out” accomplishes: it insists that we are, in fact, one of you."