Day 20: In Jail in Drag
Today is Day 20 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to investigate what the immigration detention system looks like in your area. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
In November 2011, I was driving home after an HIV benefit, when I was pulled over for not having a license plate light. I was dressed in drag, wearing jeans, high heels, a wig, and a cute shirt. The police officer gave me a sobriety test, which I passed, with heels on and everything. But I had been drinking a little that night, although he was going to let me go, a second officer pulled up, and they decided to take me in.
I was thrown into the jail, in drag. The people who were detained were playful, whistled, and even friendly, but the harshest looks I got were from the police officers. Early the next morning, around 4:00 AM, I was taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center. My mother was trying to help me, and had sent money to a friend for my bond, but they told her I had an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold. This meant that they had identified me as undocumented, and they would not let me out. I spent the next 120 days in jail.
In detention, there is little privacy. I was paid only $1 for an 8 hour work day and some of the guards were racist and homophobic. Despite all of this, the hardest thing was not being able to see my family.
Although I will never forget how hard it was to be in detention, I am happy that I was able to be out as a queer person. I feel like it gave courage to other people who were also LGBTQ. We would get together, and would talk back to those who were harassing us. It taught me to stand up for my dignity, and to support fellow LGBTQ people in detention.
Thinking about the stories that I heard in detention always make me cry, which is why I try not to talk about it, or think about it. I remember the pain, the isolation, the separation from my family. I continue to organize because I remember all the people that were in there, how much my family suffered, how badly we got treated, and because I have lost so many friends. This is a fight for all of us. The strength that my family showed me and the stories of those still in the detention center are what gives me the will to face my fears.
Angel Alvarez is 23 years old, a self-identified undocu-queer, and currently lives in Phoenix, AZ. He has been in the United States since he was one year old. He has been involved in his community and in the migrant justice movement for many years.