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RUNNING HEAD: Intersectionality of Being

Intersectionality of Being Undocumented and Queer

Jazmin Ramirez
LGBT Issues in Student Affairs
Dr. Steven Oliver
Salem State University
RUNNING HEAD: Intersectionality of Being

The undocumented queer population has their own special set of challenges and

obstacles they face on an everyday basis, including higher education when considering

students who identify as undocumented and part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Undocumented individuals experience a number of challenges as a result of their

immigration status. Individuals within the LGBTQ+ also experience a number of

challenges as a result of their sexual orientation. This research paper will focus on the

intersectionality of challenges lived by the undocumented population who also identify as

queer. This research paper will also include the process of undocumented queer

individuals having to come out twice, once as undocumented and twice as queer to their

family, friends, and the greater community. First, I will focus on the undocumented

population in the United States, then I will shift my focus to the LGBTQ+ population,

and then I will combine both experiences and elaborate on the undocumented queer


Undocumented students are present in the United States through a couple of

avenues: 1. They were brought to the United States by their parents by entering without

inspection, 2. They entered the United States with a visa, but once the visa expired, they

overstayed their visa and did not go back to their country of birth, or 3. They entered the

United States with fraudulent documents (Gonzales et al., 2014). For the majority of

undocumented youth, the number one reason of currently residing in the United States is

a result of their parents bringing them at a young age. Undocumented youth migrating to

the United States at such a young age has led this population to assimilate and/or

integrate themselves into the American culture. Many, if not all, they have learned the

English language; self identify and consider themselves as Americans. Many

RUNNING HEAD: Intersectionality of Being

undocumented youth are more integrated in the American culture than in the culture that

is connected to their origin of birth (Gonzales, 2008). Needless to say the undocumented

youth have lived the majority of their lives in the United States, and it becomes

challenging when individuals in the community are not welcoming or opened to the idea

that yes, the undocumented population can be and are in fact American too.

Undocumented students usually find out about their immigration status when they try to

apply for a driver’s license in the Department of Motor Vehicles or when they start the

college application process.

In 1982, there was a Supreme Court Plyler vs. Doe case that occurred as a result

of the state of Texas withholding state funds when educating undocumented students

(Contreras 2009). This specific case allowed for students to attend public education from

kindergarten to 12th grade. Public schools are not required to ask students for

documentation of their immigration status. Therefore, giving undocumented students the

ability to attend public education. However, the Supreme Court Plyler vs. Doe ruling did

not specify on being able to obtain an education post high school. In other words, access

to higher education becomes a challenge for undocumented students when they are

expected to provide a social security number and immigration status when applying to

higher education institutions. Having to provide a social security number creates more

challenges for undocumented students because this makes them ineligible for Free

Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

I definitely want to include a disclaimer: by all means, not every single

undocumented student experiences the same challenges and to the same degree as

everyone within the same population. Every student has their own unique story and their
RUNNING HEAD: Intersectionality of Being

own unique challenges. This is overview of the different experiences I learned through

my research. Undocumented students in college go through a number of challenges and

have their own unique experiences compared to their documented counterparts. As

mentioned above undocumented students experience financial barriers as a result of not

being eligible for FAFSA. However, they also experience financial barriers in social

settings when peers are inviting undocumented students to social gathers or social

opportunities that require monetary funds. Many times institutions offer the opportunity

for students to go on trips off campus like to the museum, an amusement park, a sports

game, a play, etc. at a small fee, and many times undocumented are unable to participate

in those opportunities. As a result of having financial barriers, many times undocumented

students are working multiple jobs while still taking care of family obligations, such as

taking care of younger siblings, doing chores in the house, and doing everything that

cannot be done because the parents are always working to make ends meet.

Other challenges also include insufficient parental support. Most times the parents

of undocumented students did not finish high school or graduate high school, but did not

attend college. Therefore, parents are unaware of the college process and the overall

college experience. Undocumented students are left to figure it out on their own, with the

help of a mentor or an advisor. The help of a mentor or of an advisor is only feasible if

the student is opened to the idea of getting help because they are also experiencing lost

fear. They experience fear of being “found out”, of being outted and of being deported.

Undocumented students are also experiencing feelings of fear and worry, because not

only do they need to protect their status, they feel the need to protect the status of their
RUNNING HEAD: Intersectionality of Being

parents. There is always that possibility of a family member and/or themselves being


In order to have a better understanding of the intersectionality between

individuals who identify as being part of the undocumented population and the LGBTQ+

community, I must now elaborate on the sole lived experiences of individuals within the

LGBTQ+ community. Similar with the disclaimer provided for undocumented students, I

am taking the same approach when elaborating on the experiences of the LGBTQ+

community. Not every single individual has had the same experience and challenges.

Once again, this is an overview of what I found in my research. The LGBTQ+ population

experience high levels of discrimination at school. If a person is out, or if the greater

population believes an individual to be part of the LGBTQ+ community there is constant

discrimination. Many times the discrimination results in bullying, verbal harassment, and

the feeling of being unwelcomed, and unsafe on college campuses. There was a large

survey conducted on campus sexual assault among college students. This survey was by

the Association of American Universities. One of the survey’s findings included “LBGT

students last school year experienced significantly higher rates of sexual assault and

harassment, as well as violence from intimate partner” compared to their heterosexual

counterparts (Green & Wong, 2015). Not only are they experiencing discrimination and

sexual assault from their peers, they are also experiencing it from their intimate partners

at a higher rate.

Bullying, verbal harassment, sexual harassment, sexual assault, homophobic

remarks, feeling unwelcomed, feeling unsafe and having a constant fear of rejection leads

many students to experience suicidal thoughts and some even lead to suicidal attempts
RUNNING HEAD: Intersectionality of Being

(Pizmony-Levy, O. & Kosciw, J. G., 2016). Students within the LGBTQ+ community

fear the possibility of being rejected by those that are closest to them, such as family, and

close friends. Many times familial relationships is a vital aspect and an influencer in the

overall readiness of a student to be open about their sexual orientation. For individuals

who are not developmentally ready or wanting to come out, feel a constant fear of being

outted or figured out. Not being able to come out makes individuals feel like they cannot

truly be themselves, or for those who are out in school but not out at home, they feel like

they are living a double life. Like mentioned previously family is a huge aspect when

coming out for many individuals.

Coming out to family creates a “potential loss of a major support system, with

limited opportunity to develop an alternate community in which they feel safe and

affirmed” (Goode-Cross & Good, 2009, p.103). Coming out to a family member can go

two ways: 1. Family is extremely supportive, or 2. Family is not supportive, many times

resulting in individual being kicked out of their own home with no place to go. When an

individual comes out to their family, and the family is not supportive, that experience

makes it that much more challenging to come out to peers and colleagues because it

creates the possibility of being rejected for a second time. In situations like this,

individuals opt to keep quiet after coming out so they avoid feeling reject again, or they

keep quiet as a coping mechanism to avoid any further feelings of trauma and

vulnerability (Cisneros, 2015). In many cases coming out also depends on where the

student is developmentally. D’Augelli (1994) developed a gay, lesbian and bisexual

identity process for college students. The model consisted of six different aspects of an

individual’s ability and readiness to come out: 1. Exiting a heterosexual identity, 2.

RUNNING HEAD: Intersectionality of Being

Developing a personal lesbian, gay or bisexual identity status, 3. Developing a lesbian,

gay or bisexual social identity, 4. Claiming an identity as a lesbian, gay or bisexual

offspring, 5. Developing a lesbian, gay or bisexual intimacy status, and 6. Entering a

lesbian, gay and bisexual community. The process D’Augelli (1994) created is in fact not

a stage model. This model was created and presented in a way that allows individuals to

experience the six processes at different times, and a number of times depending on the

individual and their own development.

The lived experiences of individuals who experience what it means to be

undocumented as a result of their immigration status and what it means to be part of the

LGBTQ+ community is where the term “Undocuqueer” originated. Intersectionality is

important to be aware of because every person carries a number of different identities.

Every identity comes with its own privileges and challenges, therefore making up every

single person and shaping every person’s life experience. Queer undocumented students

experiences the challenges that come with being undocumented, and the experiences that

come with their sexual orientation. Combining an undocumented immigration status and

a LGBTQ identity creates a more challenging experience when individuals go through

life. They become double the target for people, who discriminate against oppressed

groups, including institutionalized discrimination.

Queer undocumented students find themselves having to come out twice with

each identity being different. Being undocumented is an identity that is shared with

family members and not the public. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community is an identity

that is either never shared or shared with the public, but not with family members because

of the fear of rejection. Carrying these two identities often leave students experiencing
RUNNING HEAD: Intersectionality of Being

pain from family, friends, and peers. Although, the term “Undocuqueer” only focuses on

two identities, it is a term that is nationally used when referring to individuals that hold

both identities. It is a term used to sometime come out all at once. Instead of having to

state that one is undocumented and queer, one can simply say I am Undocuqueer.

However, there are some individuals who are against the term “Undocuqueer” for that

very reason, the fact that the term is not inclusive to all the other identities that a person


As student affairs professionals it is important to always look at the

intersectionality of identities that every student carries because those identities is what

has helped shaped the experiences of each student. Although every identity carries an

overview of experiences, it is also important to understand that not everyone who carries

the same identity has had the same exact or similar experience. Researching on the queer

undocumented student population has amplified the importance of being aware of all

possibly identities; in order to best shape our own practice. The more knowledge one has,

the more support we can provide while remaining aware of all the diversity that this

world holds. Therefore, making us culturally competent and skilled to work with a

diverse student population on college campuses. By educating myself on the experiences

of undocumented and queer students, I will be better equipped to work and support this

population in the future.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to research a topic I am extremely passionate

RUNNING HEAD: Intersectionality of Being


Cisneros, J. (2015). Undocuqueer: interacting and working within the intersection of

lgbtq and undocumented. Arizona State University.
7.pdf Retrieved on January 25, 2018.

Contreras, F. (2009). Sin papeles y rompiendo barreras: Latino students and the
challenges of persisting in college. Harvard Educational Review, 79(4), 610-631.

D’Augelli, A. (1994). Homosexual lifespan development model.

Goode-Cross, D. T. & Good, G. E. (2009). Managing multiple minority identities.

African American men have sex with men at predominately white universities.
Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 2, 103-112.

Gonzales, R. G., Terriquez V., & Ruszczyk, S. P. (2014). Becoming DACAmented:

Assessing the short-term benefits of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
(DACA). American Behavioral Scientist. 58(14), 1852-1872.

Gonzales, R.G., (2008). Left out but not shut down: Political activism and the
undocumented student movement. Northwestern Journal of Law & Social Policy,
3(2). 220-239.

Green, A. & Wong, A. (2015) LGBT students and campus sexual assault. The Atlantic.
lgbt-students/406684/ Retrieved on January 25, 2018.

Pizmony-Levy, O. & Kosciw, J. G. (2016). School climate and experience of lgbt

students: A comparison of the united states and israel. Journal of LGBT Youth,
13:1-2, 26-66.