National Coming Out of the Shadows Week is around the corner and this week the Windy City times, a Chicago a Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication, featured Jorge Mena, a queer undocumented organizer with the Immigrant Youth Justice League ( IYJL ). Jorge shares his story and reflects on the importance of coming out of the shadows as an undocumented queer living Chicago.
As I stood on stage in downtown Chicago—about to come out as undocumented, unafraid, unapologetic—my body felt heavy. I had practiced what I would say but the fear that rushed back into me for a second was something I could not have dealt with beforehand. I suddenly realized that I was about to come out to an immense crowd.
That day—March 10, 2011—I was anxious of who would actually see me on the news and how I would be judged. I remember thinking, “What if my manager at work sees this?” I was afraid of losing my measly café job for coming out and talking about my identity.
I also remember thinking, “I need this. I’m going insane.” I was about to graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and felt the same feelings that came forth when I was graduating high school. Feelings of frustration, fear, loneliness and anger at not knowing where my life was headed due to closed doors and no opportunities regardless of my hard work and education. It was overwhelming. I needed to come out and speak aloud to know that I would live past all this and that being undocumented was not something I would have to deal with alone.