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    From a Tweet to the Streets: Staying Woke on Immigration & LGBT People

    By Andrea Shorter

    (Editor’s Note: The popular meme “stay woke” refers to a continuing awareness of issues concerning social justice. For example, many have used #StayWoke at Twitter.)

    At the first posting of this column highlighting the need to protect the voter rights of transgender people, our nation’s Commander-In-Chief launched another misguided, wee hours of the morning ‘twee-dict’ (coined term for policy by tweet) proposing to ban transgender people from military service. Rightfully, the announcement was met with fury, outrage, and protest. If this were a video commentary, this is where we might cue in on-point footage of U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, imparting a fierce shade-throwing eye roll.

    As we rallied resistance, it was also made clear that even the Pentagon was reportedly caught off guard by POTUS’ essentially rogue missile directed at thousands of transgender persons serving in the armed services. These servicemembers dutifully and honorably protect our national interests, and all while not incurring the break-the-bank costs for gender-affirming medical care that POTUS claimed as the basis for his pronouncement.

    Whether POTUS launched this anti-trans bomb as a preface to some sort of White House budget horse trade to bolster the chances of building his great wall, which Mexico is not going to pay for; to further distract against ‘too close to the red line’ developments concerning the multiple investigations into his financial, campaign, and political dealings with a foreign adversary;  or just to throw some transphobic red meat to keep his ‘base’ happy, it’s just wrong, and is yet another horrific, batty signal requiring alert.

    Regarding the ongoing drive to fashion some semblance of still-unseemly immigration policy to clearly discriminate against people of particular religious and regional affiliations, we must stay ‘woke’ to the implications of religious, racial, and regional discrimination afoot. We should also keep an eye on the implications for LGBT persons seeking asylum, sanctuary, and freedom from grave to life-threatening oppression beyond our borders.

    Immigrants have sought, and continue to seek, entry into the United States and citizenship for all sorts of good reasons. For most, the possibility of creating better lives for themselves and their families remains the greater cause for leaving behind their homeland to seek the aspirations, opportunity, equality, safety and freedom to pursue happiness in the ideal of American promise and progress.

    While the current immigration debate does not call for discrimination against those identifying as LGBT, we cannot rest assured that the bold discriminatory postures presented thus far would not extend to create barriers to LGBT people seeking asylum from targeted regions that either do not recognize the existence of our community, or outwardly persecute and oppress LGBT people.

    Personally, I think about the numerous friends I have made in the Bay Area over the years who left everything and everyone they knew behind them—family, friends, businesses, careers—and immigrated to America in either political exile or just to experience personal relief from countries, regimes, and cultures that are clearly LGBT oppressive. They came to America because they were LGBT. Some identified as Muslim. Some were refugees from war-torn regions, or were in the throes, or aftermath, of dictatorial regimes.

    As they and we know, however, life in America for LGBT individuals comes with major challenges, given that true equality has yet to be achieved here. As the liberation movement progresses, LGBT immigrants wholeheartedly cherish their right to join the fight for all of our rights to live out loud, proud, and authentically. I cannot imagine our community, or America, without them.

    While a ‘no-LGBT’ immigration policy is not on the table now, I remain concerned, given the near-daily rapid-fire assaults on the senses and sensibilities visited upon us by the temperamental flitters and fits of the Leader of the Free World. With blunder, offense, distraction, blame, whining, and tantrums, he erratically moves from one issue to the next, attempting to appease his alt-right, red meat-hungry base.

    It therefore seems perilous not to consider the implications for all newcomers seeking a safer and better life on our shores. Under the circumstances, who knows when your race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or any other spectrum of humanity in which you live and take pride in, will be up for grabs to be used as a device for division, distraction, or discrimination by tweet.

    Stay woke.

    Andrea Shorter is President of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. She is a longtime advocate for criminal and juvenile justice reform, voter rights, and marriage equality. A co-founder of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, she was a 2009 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.