Queens Pride House immigration forum testimony (1.10.13)

Pauline Park
President of the Board of Directors
& Acting Executive Director
Queens Pride House

testimony on behalf of Queens Pride House
at a community forum on immigration issues
co-sponsored by Queens Pride House
at Community United Methodist Church
Jackson Heights
10 January 2013

Queens Pride House is the only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community center in the borough of Queens and at least half of our clients are immigrants, predominantly from Latin America and Asia. We have immigrants on both our board of directors and our staff.

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Dr. René Vázquez del Valle (director of programs & services) tabling with Carlos Cubas in June 2013

Carlos M. Cubas came to the United States from Peru at the age of nine. As health educator and outreach coordinator at Queens Pride House, his job is to provide information on immigration, legal rights, social services, health and HIV/AIDS to Spanish-speaking immigrants.

Kleber Jalon is an immigrant from Ecuador who co-founded Latitud Zero, an Ecuadorean LGBT group in New York City. He returned to the board of directors of Queens Pride House in October 2011, where he now serves as chair of the board’s fiscal & audit committee.

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Kleber Jalon, an immigrant from Ecuador and a member of the board of directors of Queens Pride House

Of our four social work interns, two are immigrants: one is a Greek American who came from Greece at the age of seven and the other is a young woman from Sri Lanka who came to New York as a teenager. I myself was born in Korea and am the only Asian-born or Asian American executive director of any LGBT community center in the city or the state of New York as well as the only openly transgendered executive director of any LGBT community center in the city or the state.

Our members and clients face many challenges related both to their immigration status and their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression. Queens Pride House is a vital resource for LGBT immigrants, who are often reluctant to go to mainstream (non-LGBT-specific) organizations and institutions serving immigrants for fear of discrimination. One of our members is an immigrant who came to Queens from Poland as an adult but who does not feel accepted within the Polish immigrant community as an openly gay man. One of our clients is a young undocumented immigrant from India who will not go to social service providers that serve the South Asian community because of fear of discrimination based on his sexual orientation and gender expression. Another client, a transgendered woman of Bangladeshi origin, has faced discrimination and harassment in her community of origin and has come to the transgender support group at Queens Pride House for assistance and support. Our Grupo Latino is a support group for Spanish-speaking gay men, almost all of whom are foreign-born recent immigrants from Latin America; they value Pride House because it is the only LGBT community center in the borough and offers them a safe space where they can talk about issues related to sexuality in Spanish in an LGBT-affirming environment. We also host a support group for transgendered Latinas who face significant police harassment as well as hostility from their fellow Latinos and Latinas within the Latino community in Queens.

Our ability to serve this diverse but significantly marginalized community of LGBT immigrants depends on funding and the reality is that Queens Pride House is currently underfunded and understaffed. At present, we receive no funding from the City of New York and no discretionary funding from any member of the City Council or the state legislature. Greater support from elected officials in the borough would enhance our ability to serve LGBT immigrants in Queens.

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Queens Pride House president & executive director Pauline Park with Rev. Charles McCarron at the Queens Pride House 15th anniversary celebration on Sept. 27.